Devon Peña

Board Member | Professor of Anthropology, Ethnic Studies and Environmental Studies, University of Washington

Devon Peña is Professor of Anthropology, American Ethnic Studies, and Environmental Studies at the University of Washington since 1999. He is also Founder and President of The Acequia Institute, the nation’s first Chicana/o nonprofit foundation dedicated to the protection of the “water democracy” of Colorado and New Mexico acequias (community irrigation associations) and grant maker to the environmental and food justice movements. Dr. Peña manages the Institute’s 181-acre historic acequia farm on the historic San Luis Peoples Ditch (est. 1852) which is home to a 30-year collection called the Acequia Three Sisters Seed Library. The farm is managed as an almunyah, a private non-profit agricultural extension service and research and farm school dedicated to supporting the acequia farmers of the Upper Rio Grande Bioregion. Working with the University of Washington, Peña hosts the annual Acequia Agroecology and Permaculture Field School in Colorado and New Mexico where students are mentored by Acequia elders and native ethnobotanists and curanderas (herbal healers).

Dr. Peña is a widely respected research scholar and author with several award winning books including a pioneering study of women workers’ struggles in Mexico’s maquiladora assembly line factories, The Terror of the Machine: Technology, Work, Gender and Ecology on the U.S.-Mexico Border (1997, Univ. of Texas Press). Other books include Chicano Culture, Ecology, Politics: Subversive Kin (1998, Univ. of Arizona Press), Mexican Americans and the Environment: Tierra y vida (2005, Univ. of Arizona Press), and the forthcoming anthology, Decolonial Food for Thought: Mexican-origin Food, Foodways, and Social Movements (2015, Univ. of Arkansas Press). He served as senior editor for entries related to science, technology, health, medicine, and the environment for the 4 volume Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States (2005, Oxford Univ. Press) and for the follow-up two volume companion, Oxford Encyclopedia of Latino and Latina Law, Politics, and Social Movements (in-press, Oxford Univ. Press).

Among his many distinguished awards and recognitions, in 2013, Dr. Peña was named the NACCS Scholar of the Year by the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies, in part because of his leading role in preparing the NACCS amicus brief in the lawsuit brought forth by students and teachers against the state of Arizona for its law banning the teaching of ethnic studies in public schools.

He is currently completing work on a 30-year ethnographic study of Colorado acequia farmers for a monograph entitled, The Last Common: Endangered Lands and Disappeared People in the Politics of Place (forthcoming, Univ. of Arizona Press). He is also completing work on the anthology, Voices of Water: Cultural and Environmental Histories of the Rio Arriba Acequias, 1598-2008, a result of an interdisciplinary study led by farmers that was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Ford Foundation (forthcoming 2015 from Univ. of Arizona Press).

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