Jocelyn Viterna is Associate Professor of Sociology and Co-director of the Transnational Studies Initiative at Harvard University. Her areas of interest include social movements, development, civil society, transnational politics, political violence, sexuality, and gender. Her region of emphasis is Latin America.
Viterna received a B.A. in Sociology and Latin American Studies from Kansas State University (1995), and an M.A. (2000) and Ph.D. (2003) in Sociology from Indiana University-Bloomington. Prior to joining the Harvard Sociology department in 2007, she was an assistant professor in Sociology and Latin American Studies at Tulane University (2003-2007).
Viterna’s research examines how gender shapes the evolving relationship between the state and civil society, especially in countries transitioning to democracy. Her recent projects have investigated the gendered causes and consequences of guerrilla participation in El Salvador, variations in states’ genders with democratic transitions, and the role of NGOs in both hampering and enhancing grassroots political participation in new democracies. Viterna’s current research examines recent transformations in the rights of the fetus, and in women’s reproductive rights, across Latin America.
In each project, Viterna begins with the premise that gender is a central locus for contesting and defining new political processes during periods of state transition. She then explores how the strategic and gendered actions taken by men, women, and organizations during these transitional moments may affect the formation of new state structures, and create new gendered identities, interests and opportunities for citizens. In this way, Viterna works to build theoretical models—about gender, politics, and micro-level mobilization processes—that have applications to many political situations.
Viterna’s book, Women in War: The Micro-processes of Mobilization in El Salvador, (2013, Oxford University Press) won the 2014 Distinguished Book Award from the ASA Section on Sex and Gender and the 2014 Distinguished Book Award from the ASA Section on Political Sociology. It also received an honorable mention for the 2014 Distinguished Book Award from the ASA Section on the Sociology of Development.