Ernesto Javier Benitez

Assistant Professor
Ernesto J. Benitez

A sociocultural anthropologist, Ernesto Javier Benitez specializes in the intersections of Indigeneity, race, gender and development. His long-term research is grounded in a decade-long ethnographic engagement with the Amazonian Kichwa (also spelled Quichua) people of Ecuador’s Napo province. He has paid particular attention to the ecotourism boom that occurred in Ecuador’s Upper Amazon in the early 1990s and the impact it has had on the livelihoods and identities of Kichwa people, many of whom have gradually shifted from agricultural and subsistence-based activities to service-based work in ecotourism. His dissertation offers an ethnographic account of how Kichwa tour guides in Napo — the vast majority of whom are young men — negotiate the demands and expectations of the ecotourism industry and how, in the process, they produce and enact new understandings of their ethnic, gendered and sexual identities. His current research project is concerned with the opportunities and challenges facing Indigenous Kichwa women who decide to run for political office in their territories.

Benitez holds a Ph.D. in global and sociocultural studies with a concentration in sociocultural anthropology from Florida International University (2021). In 2021, Benitez was awarded a two-year Rising Scholars Postdoctoral Fellowship at UVA, after which he was invited to join the Department of Anthropology as an assistant professor where he has taught undergraduate courses in anthropology such as “Contemporary Indigenous Peoples in Latin America (ANTH2590)” and “Topics on the Anthropology of Tourism (ANTH3590)”.