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Department of Social Anthropology





I am a political anthropologist who studies labour politics and social movements. My research focuses on collective politics in two quite different contexts: trade unions in Buenos Aires, Argentina and collective mobilisations of various kinds in El Alto, an indigenous and mixed-ethnicity city in the Bolivian Andes. I have worked on how ethics, politics and kinship come together in collective politics of these kinds, but also have interests in citizenship, social movements, and the anthropology of Latin America more generally. I am currently writing a book on labour politics, which takes a global and comparative perspective and explores labour agency in different sectors of the economy.


The focus of my research is collective politics in two quite different contexts: Buenos Aires, Argentina, and El Alto, an indigenous and mixed-ethnicity city in the Bolivian Andes. 

My most recent research has been an exploration of labour movement activism, with a focus on Argentina. I take an ethnographic approach to show how labour politics is embedded in daily life and personal experience. That has resulted in a book, called The Social Life of Politics: Ethics, Kinship and Union Activism in Argentina, published in June 2017 by Stanford University Press. The book is an exploration of the themes of subjectivity, kinship, class, morality and economy. I examine the lives of unionists in two public sector trade unions, focusing on the ways that they become activists, how that activism becomes a part of their personality and values, and how it is transmitted across generations. The second part of the book outlines the collective ways that the union delegations come into being, care for their members, enact their political projects, solve problems, and negotiate or mobilise for better working conditions. All this social, ethical and political action takes place within a particular contemporary political-economic context and a history of labour mobilisation, informed by Peronism and anarchosyndicalism. 

The emphasis on labour politics has been important for my consideration of social movements and citizenship action more broadly. I have edited a book which explores the role of workers in moments of mass social upheaval in the Arab Spring of the Middle East and North Africa, in European anti-austerity movements, and in the ‘turn to the left’ in Latin America. The book is called Where are the Unions? Workers and Social Movements in Latin America, the Middle East, and Europe, published by Zed Books. This collection resulted from a conference I co-organised in 2014, called Bread, Freedom and Social Justice: Workers and Mass Mobilization in the Middle East, Latin America and Europe.  Participants included anthropologists, sociologists, activists, literary scholars, journalists, historians, and the edited collection maintains this interdisciplinary focus.

Another workshop on Labour Politics in an Age of Precarity, in April 2017, explored labour politics from a different perspective. Contributors discussed case studies of how labour is organised in different contexts across Africa, Latin America, North America, Asia and Europe, and what effects such organization has on labour relations in conditions of economic precarity. The workshop examined precarity as a condition of life and one of the bases for a collective politics of labour, but without prejudging how that politics might look. This speaks to debates about the continuing relevance of labour-based mobilisation for economic justice, rights and well-being in a contemporary political context that often overlooks its very real impact across the globe.

My previous work was an ethnography of citizenship in El Alto. In the early 2000s, El Alto became one of the most important centres of political radicalism in Bolivia. In 2003-5, street protests concentrated in El Alto forced two of Bolivia’s presidents to resign, and in December 2005 Bolivians elected their first indigenous president, Evo Morales.  I researched the processes and conflicts that lie behind this political power at the local level, considering in particular everyday practices and experiences of citizenship that structure the relationships between residents of El Alto and the Bolivian state. This resulted in a book: El Alto, Rebel City: Self and Citizenship in Andean Bolivia, published by Duke University Press, which combines anthropological methods and theories with political philosophy.

Research Interests

Latin America (specifically Argentina and Bolivia); social movements, especially labour movements; ethnography of the state, democracy and citizenship; gender; the city; and the anthropology of politics and development.




  • Lazar, S., 2023. How We Struggle. A Political Anthropology of Labour
  • 2017

  • Lazar, S., 2017. The Social Life of Politics Ethics, Kinship, and Union Activism in Argentina
  • 2017. Where Are The Unions? Workers and Social Movements in Latin America, the Middle East and Europe
  • 2013

  • Lazar, S., 2013. Reader in the Anthropology of Citizenship
  • 2008

  • Lazar, S., 2008. El Alto, rebel city
  • Journal articles


  • Lazar, S., 2022. Anthropology and the politics of alterity: A Latin American dialectic and its relevance for ontological anthropologies Anthropological Theory, v. 22
  • 2021

  • Lazar, S., 2021. Vocation and political activism: sacrifice, stigma, love, utopia? Social Anthropology, v. 29
  • Lazar, S., 2021. Vocation and political activism: sacrifice, stigma, love, utopia? SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY, v. 29
    Doi: 10.1111/1469-8676.1.2980
  • 2019

  • Lazar, S. and Sanchez, A., 2019. Understanding labour politics in an age of precarity Dialectical Anthropology, v. 43
    Doi: 10.1007/s10624-019-09544-7
  • 2018

  • Venkatesan, S., Bear, L., Harvey, P., Lazar, S., Rival, L. and Simone, A., 2018. Attention to infrastructure offers a welcome reconfiguration of anthropological approaches to the political Critique of Anthropology, v. 38
    Doi: 10.1177/0308275X16683023
  • Lazar, S., 2018. A ‘kinship anthropology of politics’? Interest, the collective self, and kinship in Argentine unions★ Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, v. 24
    Doi: 10.1111/1467-9655.12809
  • 2016

  • Lazar, S., 2016. Notions of Work, Patrimony, and Production in the Life of the Colón Opera House Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, v. 21
    Doi: 10.1111/jlca.12172
  • Lazar, S., 2016. VIII Conferencia Esther Hermitte, 2011: Lenguajes no-­verbales de la acción política y la movilización callejera / Non­verbal languages of street political action and mobilization – The 8th ‘Esther Hermitte’ Lecture, 2011 Estudios de antropología social, v. 1
  • 2015

  • Lazar, S., 2015. "This Is Not a Parade, It's a Protest March": Intertextuality, Citation, and Political Action on the Streets of Bolivia and Argentina American Anthropologist, v. 117
    Doi: 10.1111/aman.12227
  • Lazar, S., 2015. Of Autocracy and Democracy, Or Discipline and Anarchy: When Organizational Structure Meets Political Ideology in Argentine Public Sector Trade Unions PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review, v. 38
    Doi: 10.1111/plar.12111
  • 2014

  • Lazar, S., 2014. Historical narrative, mundane political time, and revolutionary moments: Coexisting temporalities in the lived experience of social movements Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, v. 20
    Doi: 10.1111/1467-9655.12095
  • 2013

  • Lazar, S., 2013. Citizenship, political agency and technologies of the self in Argentinean trade unions CRITIQUE OF ANTHROPOLOGY, v. 33
    Doi: 10.1177/0308275X12466678
  • Lazar, S. and Nuijten, M., 2013. Citizenship, the self, and political agency Critique of Anthropology, v. 33
    Doi: 10.1177/0308275X12466684
  • 2012

  • Lazar, S., 2012. A Desire to Formalize Work? Comparing Trade Union Strategies in Bolivia and Argentina Anthropology of Work Review, v. 33
    Doi: 10.1111/j.1548-1417.2012.01073.x
  • LAZAR, S., 2012. Disjunctive comparison: citizenship and trade unionism in Bolivia and Argentina Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, v. 18
    Doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9655.2012.01747.x
  • Lazar, S., 2012. Citizenship Quality: A New Agenda for Development? Journal of Civil Society, v. 8
    Doi: 10.1080/17448689.2012.738898
  • 2010

  • Lazar, S., 2010. Schooling and Critical Citizenship: Pedagogies of Political Agency in El Alto, Bolivia ANTHROPOL EDUC QUART, v. 41
    Doi: 10.1111/j.1548-1492.2010.01077.x
  • 2008

  • Lazar, S., 2008. Eso es luchar sindicalmente: Ciudadanía, el estado y los sindicatos en El Alto, Bolivia. Cuad. antropol. soc., v. 27
  • 2006

  • Lazar, S. and McNeish, JA., 2006. Introduction Bulletin of Latin American Research, v. 25
    Doi: 10.1111/j.0261-3050.2006.00157.x
  • Lazar, S., 2006. El alto, ciudad rebelde: Organisational bases for revolt Bulletin of Latin American Research, v. 25
    Doi: 10.1111/j.0261-3050.2006.00159.x
  • 2004

  • Lazar, S., 2004. Education for credit - Development as citizenship project in Bolivia CRIT ANTHROPOL, v. 24
    Doi: 10.1177/0308275X04045423
  • Lazar, S., 2004. Personalist politics, clientelism and citizenship: Local elections in El Alto, Bolivia Bulletin of Latin American Research, v. 23
    Doi: 10.1111/j.1470-9856.2004.00106.x
  • Book chapters


  • Lazar, S., 2018. Spontaneity, antagonism and the moral politics of outrage. Urban protest in Argentina since 2001.
  • 2016

  • Lazar, S., 2016. Citizenship quality: A new agenda for development?
    Doi: 10.4324/9781315738642
  • 2014

  • Lazar, S., 2014. Citizenship
  • 2012 (No publication date)

  • Lazar, S., 2012 (No publication date). Group belonging in trade unions: idioms of sociality in Bolivia and Argentina
  • 2012

  • Lazar, S., 2012. Group belonging in trade unions: idioms of sociality in Bolivia and Argentina
  • 2010

  • Lazar, S., 2010. Citizenship.
  • Lazar, S., 2010. Latin American Anthropology.
  • 2007

  • Lazar, S., 2007. "In-betweenness" on the margins: collective organisation,ethnicity and political agency among Bolivian street traders. in: Livelihoods at the margins
  • 2005

  • Lazar, S., 2005. Citizens despite the state: everyday corruption and local politics in El Alto, Bolivia. in: Corruption
  • Teaching and Supervisions

    Professor of Social Anthropology
    Head of the Department of Social Anthropology
    Fellow, Clare College
    Office hours: 11:30 - 12:30 Thursdays
    Dr Sian  Lazar

    Contact Details

    Takes PhD students