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Mary Pena

Lecturer in Anthropology

Smith College Mary Pena


Dewey 214


Mary Pena holds a PhD in Anthropology with a graduate certificate in Museum Studies from the University of Michigan. Her work explores intersections of race and gender, visual and material culture, urban ecology, embodiment, and Afro-diaspora in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Pena's current book project analyzes the politics and aesthetics of state-led tourism and urban renewal in the Atlantic port city of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. The project traces how officials promote an idealized image of the city’s architectural past and the ways Afro-Dominican women engage with the changing built environment to mobilize acts of repair, storytelling, and alternative kinship. She also has a strong interest in multimodal scholarship, curation, and critical digital humanities.

Her publications have appeared in Fieldsights on Cultural Anthropology, entanglements, Open Cultural Studies, Absinthe Journal, and the edited volume Gender: Space. Her work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and the Society of Visual Anthropology. She was a 2022-2023 Princeton Mellon Fellow in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities, a recipient of the Louise Ann Williams Distinguished Dissertation Award, a co-founder of the Making Sensory Ethnography working group, and has served as a community programming organizer at Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, NY.

At Smith College, Pena will center her cultural anthropology courses around pedagogical approaches that emphasize sensory and digital technologies as a recipient of the 2023 Digital Pedagogy Fellowship. Her courses include Ethnographic Mapping: Place, Body, and Landscape, Space, Materiality, and Power, Sensory Anthropology, and the departmental course Introduction to Cultural Anthropology. In many of her courses, students produce public-facing scholarship, including public forms of writing, multimedia works, and digital mapping projects that reimagine physical spaces.

Office Hours

Thursday, 12:30-2:30 p.m. and by appointment


Ph.D., University of Michigan
B.A., Queens College-CUNY