Skip to main content
Indiana University Bloomington
  • People

Department of Anthropology College of Arts and Sciences
One Discipline, Four Fields

Catherine M. Tucker


Associate Professor, Anthropology Department
Associate Faculty, Center for the Study of Institutions, Population and Environmental Change (CIPEC)
Affiliated Faculty, Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis
Adjunct Courtesy Professor, School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA)
Faculty Associate, Anthropological Center for Training and Research on Global Environmental Change (ACT)


Field Schools: Heritage and Cultural Diversity in Oaxaca, Mexico

(812) 855-2555 | Email | Office Hours

  • Ph.D. in Anthropology, University of Arizona, Tucson (1996)
  • M.A. in Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (1987)
  • B.A. in Interdisciplinary Major (Anthropology, Biology & Philosophy), Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota (1983)

Geographical Areas of Specialization: Honduras, eastern Guatemala, and Oaxaca, Mexico

Topical Interests: Ecological Anthropology, Political Ecology, Community Forestry, Collective Action, Common Property, Economic Development, Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change, Latin America


Understanding interrelationships between humans and the environment, and exploring possible paths toward greater social and environmental sustainability, constitute my central research interests. I am particularly interested in the relationships between people and forests, and the circumstances through which local populations may achieve sustainable natural resource management and improved livelihoods. A key component in my work is the study of the institutions (defined as the rules, norms and values) associated with community organization, development processes, and forest management. To assist with analyses of the relationships between forest change and people's experiences, I link ethnographic fieldwork with the techniques of remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and work across disciplinary boundaries. My work currently encompasses three interrelated research projects:

  1. Coffee farmers' adaptations to market volatility and environmental change in western Honduras : Export coffee production represents a major component in the Honduran economy, and influences forest transformation trends. Changes in world coffee markets and price volatility are posing a challenge for coffee growers' livelihoods. Moreover, coffee plantations are making incursions into important watersheds and high biodiversity forests. These processes occur in a context of climate change that is disrupting traditional expectations of weather patterns. The study aims to understand what adaptations appear to be most promising and sustainable for coffee producers and the natural environment.

  2. Community-based protected area management and water conservation: The potential for communities to create and manage strictly protected areas remains an understudied topic. I am examining the emergence and maintenance of the Montaña Campara Watershed Reserve in western Honduras. The reserve was created by three adjacent municipalities that share the mountain, without national government involvement. The municipalities and their populations created the reserve despite conditions considered unfavorable to collective action, including border disputes and ongoing tensions among the principal actors. The reserve has experienced reforestation since its creation, which involved the peaceful and voluntary relocation of a number of farmers who had occupied the mountain. Current work is evaluating the institutional, cultural, economic and political dimensions of the reserve's creation and the difficulties associated with its management.

  3. Communal forest management and economic development in western Honduras and Oaxaca, Mexico : Through longitudinal, comparative research in a Lenca community (Honduras) and a Zapotec community (Oaxaca), I am investigating the interrelationships among community institutions, national policies, market integration, and socioeconomic factors as they influence development processes and forest transformations.

These projects intersect with additional interests in Fair Trade and alternative trade strategies, and the roles of food production and consumption in shaping societal processes. Together these areas of research inform my broad theoretical and practical interests to identify contexts that may promote more sustainable and equitable choices among individuals and societies.

Selected Publications


2010 Coffee Culture: Local Experiences, Global Linkages. Anthropology of Stuff Series. New York: Routledge Press.

2008 Changing Forests: Collective Action, Common Property and Coffee in Honduras. New York: Springer Academic Press. Now available online at IUCAT

Selected Publications

2011 Tucker, C. M. “Forest Management Research, Institutional Analysis and Policy in Latin America.” Current Conservation 4(3): 16-20.

2010 Tucker, C. M. “Learning on Governance in Forest Ecosystems: Lessons from Recent Research.” International Journal of the Commons 4(2):687-706. URL:

2010 Tucker, C. M. “Private Goods and Common Property: Pottery Production in a Honduran Lenca Community.” Human Organization 69(1):43-53.

2009 Tucker, C. M., H. Eakin, E. Castellanos. “Perceptions of Risk and Adaptation: Coffee producers, market shocks and extreme weather in Central America and Mexico.” Global Environmental Change (2010) 20:23-32. Published online August 2009