Daniel Suslak

Daniel Suslak

Associate Professor, Anthropology

Adjunct Professor, Latino Studies

Associate Faculty, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Director, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies


  • Ph.D., Anthropology and Linguistics, University of Chicago, 2005
  • M.A., Anthropology, University of Chicago, 1996
  • B.A., Reed College, 1993

Geographical Areas of Specialization
Mexico; Mesoamerica

Research Interests
linguistic anthropology; semiotic anthropology; verbal art; youth and adolescence; Mesoamerican languages and cultures

About Daniel Suslak

My research has developed along three interrelated lines of inquiry. First is my long-term and ongoing work to document Mixe-Zoquean languages (southern Mexico) and the traditions and histories of their speakers. I have been doing field research on these languages for nearly twenty years. Second is my investigation into the changing lives of indigenous youth and the often-underestimated role they have played in the social and cultural changes that are transforming their communities. As a linguistic anthropologist I am particularly interested in what they are doing with language and how language figures into intergenerational debates. Finally, I am interested in verbal art and poetics–the aesthetic dimensions of language use–and how people shape their speech and play with words to accomplish various sorts of social business, from the transmission of traditional values to the sly critique of political corruption. All three of these lines of investigation contribute to a broader research program focusing on grammatical and sociolinguistic change (including dramatic changes such as “language death”) and how these processes both reflect and play an active role in larger social changes. In my work, I have documented and analyzed how language serves as a medium that local people use to grapple with the impact of economic development and globalization on their lives, and how it becomes valued as a symbolic resource that social actors struggle to control and pass on to future generations. I am interested in the nature of linguistic inequalities both as a theoretical matter and because I see this as a key component of any politically engaged linguistic anthropology that seeks to understand the workings of injustice and point to avenues of redress. I have taught and lectured on these themes in both English and Spanish, for audiences of specialists, native speakers, and interested lay people.


  • Anth E212 “The Anthropology of Youth & Adolescence”
  • Anth E321 “Peoples of Mexico”
  • Anth A200 “Bad Language”
  • Anth L200 “Language & Culture”
  • Anth L500 “Proseminar on Language & Culture”
  • Anth L600 “Ethnography of Communication”

Selected Publications

2014 Who can save Ayapaneco? Schwa Fire Season 1, Issue 2.

2013 Using bad language in the classroom. Teaching Anthropology: SACC Notes 19(1-2):8-13.

2011 Ayapan echoes: Linguistic persistence and loss in Tabasco, Mexico. American Anthropologist 133(4):569-81.

2010 Battered Spanish, eloquent Mixe: form and function of Mixe difrasismos. Anthropological Linguistics 52(1):80-103.

2009 The Sociolinguistic Problem of Generations. Language & Communication 29 (3):199-209.