Alex E. Chávez

Assistant Professor

B.A., University of Texas at Austin, 2004
M.A., ibid, 2006
Ph.D., ibid, 2010

Aec Rome2

As a Cultural Anthropologist trained in Linguistic Anthropology, Ethnomusicology, and Folklore, Chávez is committed to an integrative Anthropology that applies the tools of these sub-disciplinary fields to the realm of Latino Studies. His research explores Latino expressive culture in everyday life as manifested through language, expressive culture, and sound. The primary questions that inform his work are: How do expressive negotiations participate in place-making and community-binding across both the material and cultural divides represented by the U.S.-Mexico border? How do Latino communities leverage these forms of expression—as aesthetic and communicative resources—to comment upon and negotiate the social structures they emerge out of? His work also bridges scholarship and creative expression as a means to explore how performance intersects with larger cultural concerns surrounding illegality, mobility, racialized personhood, and the intimacies that bind everyday life across physical and cultural borders.

He has published in the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, Latino Studies, Latin American Music Review, Southern Cultures, Música Oral del Sur, and has contributed to Celebrating Latino Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Cultural Traditions (2012), Iconic Mexico (2015), Latino, American, Dream (2016 Texas A&M Press), Making Sense of Language: Readings in Culture and Communication (2016 Oxford University Press), in addition to Con La Música a Otra Parte: Migración e Identidad en La Lírica Queretana (2010) published with the support of the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y Las Artes in Mexico.

His most recent research project explored the performance of huapango arribeño—a musical form that hails from north-central Mexico—among undocumented Mexican migrants in the United States. Supported by the National Science Foundation and the Ford Foundation, this work resulted in his doctoral dissertation and forms the basis of his book, Sounds of Crossing: Music, Migration, and the Aural Poetics of Huapango Arribeño (Duke University Press 2017). This book represents the first extended study of huapango arribeño and offers a fine-tuned ethnographic analysis of how Mexican migrants construct meaningful communities amidst the contemporary politics of immigration in the United States. He explores how “Mexican sounds”—as a locus of aesthetic behaviors, performative acts, and signifying practices—resonate across physical, aural, and cultural borders and what they reveal about transnational migrant lives lived across them.

He has significantly extended the reach of this research through collaboration with the Smithsonian Institute. He is lead producer of a Smithsonian Folkways recording of huapango arribeño entitled Serrano de Corazón ​featuring Guillermo Velázquez y Los Leones de la Sierra da Xichú for inclusion in the world-renowned Tradiciones music series. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, the national museum of the United States, and is dedicated to supporting cultural diversity and increased awareness of peoples from around the world through the documentation and dissemination of sound recordings. This first-ever recording of its kind by an esteemed cultural institution of this caliber highlights the tradition at its finest and makes anthropological knowledge of this music-culture accessible to a global audience.

Read both what the Notre Dame College of Arts and Letters has to say about Chávez's teaching and research and a feature on his work on transnational migration in Notre Dame News.


Curriculum Vitae


234 Corbett Family Hall
(574) 631-1361