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Richard Kernaghan, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Honors Program Liaison
Office: Grinter Hall, Room 335
Phone: (352) 294-7585


  • Ph.D. Columbia University
  • M.A. Columbia University
  • B.A. University of Texas at Austin

Research Interests

Ethnographic writing, aesthetics, visuality; law, violence, and illicit worlds; Latin America, Peru, Amazonia; political and legal time; memory/forgetting, divination and presentiment; state margins and settler frontiers; the social lives of rivers and rural roads.

Personal Statement

I am an ethnographer of political-legal communities and events. My research examines aftermaths of war and the everyday experience of law in state frontiers where (counter)insurgency and illicit economies overlap. My first book Coca’s Gone (Stanford, 2009) is an ethnography of a post-cocaine boom in a region of Central Peru known as the Upper Huallaga Valley; it reflects on how local narratives of a violent past bear the traces of law-making processes at the margins of the state. It also explores the potential of ethnographic writing to convey the visceral ambience of threat-laden worlds. Currently, I am working on a second, companion monograph—titled Semblance in Terrain: legal topographies and aftermaths of war—which draws on oral histories, photographs, video, storytelling as well as fieldwork encounters to document shifting patterns of rural mobility following the defeat of the Maoist Shining Path. Rural landscapes of the Upper Huallaga have been materially refigured but also affectively transformed in the wake of war. This project asks how the transition to that postwar era can be grasped aesthetically through the subtle but deliberate ways people mark off territory as they craft everyday itineraries between town and country.

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Select Publications

Kernaghan, R. 2009. Coca’s Gone: of Might and Right in the Huallaga Post-Boom, Stanford University Press.

Kernaghan, R. 2012. “Furrows and Walls, or the Legal Topography of a Frontier Road in Peru.” Mobilities 7(4): 501-520.

Kernaghan, R. 2013. “Readings of Time: of Coca, Presentiment and Illicit Passage in Peru” In Times of Security: Ethnographies of Fear, Protest and the Future, edited by Martin Holbraad and Morten Axel Pedersen. Routledge, 118-156.

Kernaghan, R. 2014. “Time as Weather. Corpse-work in the Prehistory of Political Boundaries.” In Governing the Dead: Sovereignty and the Politics of Dead Bodies, edited by Finn Stepputat, Manchester University Press, 179-202.

Kernaghan, R. 2015. “Cocaine’s Minor Destinies—Ephemerality and legal threat on the margins of the Peruvian state.” American Ethnologist. 42(4): 658–672.

More Publications Available on Google Scholar

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