Jen K. Hughes

Visiting Instructor in Anthropology



Pettengill Hall, Room 157


Jen K. Hughes (she/they) is a Visiting Instructor in the Anthropology Department and Ph.D Candidate in sociocultural and linguistic anthropology at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (graduating early 2022). Hughes conducted fieldwork in Iceland in 2013, 2015-2016, and 2021 on the production of whiteness and the role of storytelling in political and economic crises. Hughes continues to collaborate on projects with her interlocutors on documenting local economic knowledge, social mobilization and constitutional reform, and eco-critical and environmental humanities approaches to climate change. Hughes’s previous research examined language, history, economy and “kinship” in lesbian bar culture and among queer youth experiencing homelessness in Portland, Oregon. 


Hughes graduated cum laude with a B.A. in both Anthropology and Gender Studies from Mount Holyoke College in 2010 after almost a decade working at Powell’s Books in Portland, OR. They have also studied Icelandic language and folklore at the University of Iceland (Háskoli Íslands, Reykjavík, Iceland) and was a Visiting Scholar there in 2015-2016.  Before coming to Bates, Hughes served as Research Fellow and Program Coordinator for the Center for Race, Indigeneity, Disability, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (RIDGS) at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities supporting scholars doing work related to ethnic, Black, Indigenous, gender, women, and sexuality studies. 


Research and Teaching

At Bates, thanks to generous Bates Faculty Development Funds, Hughes is focused on editing and post-production their documentary film and book project, Viking Futures, advising anthropology student theses, and teaching interdisciplinary courses in anthropology, economics, Medieval studies, environmental studies, and gender, queer, and women’s studies. Their courses include: Cultural Anthropology, Culture and Interpretation, Money and Magic, Economic Ecologies (Humans and Non-Humans), and Queering Capitalism.


Hughes is also conducting research for an article on intersections between white identity, masculinity, and queerness in alternative investing communities and an article on cultural appropriations of indigeneity and Viking identity in white supremacist movements. Their next book project is on the queer and indigenous human and non-human entanglements and racial and gendered imaginaries that characterize future-oriented social projects including political movements, human spaceflight futures, and global film and TV production in Iceland’s storied ‘North’. Hughes begins research on that project in the Icelandic highlands in Summer 2022.


Research Interests: 

  • Settler Colonialism, Whiteness, Decolonization, Race and Inequality
  • Lesbian and LGTBQ ethnography, film and history
  • Storytelling, Narrative, and Film
  • Iceland, Northern Europe and North Atlantic
  • Feminist, Indigenous and Queer Theory and Methods; Critical Theory
  • Time, Language, Sovereignty, Translation, Humans/Non-Humans, Ontology and Cosmology
  • Capitalism, Economic Crisis, Utopia and Economy as concept


Film and Media Work

Hughes is a professional video and web producer, financial researcher, museum and archives specialist, and ethnographic filmmaker. They were a contributing editor for Cultural Anthropology’s Visual and New Media Review section from 2016-2020 and have been writing, directing, shooting, and producing a variety of shorts, narrative, and experimental documentary films since 1996. Their previous research, digital media, exhibit and video project clients include: the Discovery Channel’s Curiosity Project (now CuriosityStream), The Smithsonian, The Walker Art Center, Minnesota Opera, Bloomberg, and Al Jazeera Plus (among others).


Personal Notes

Hughes’s scholarship and teaching on economy, history, and identity emerges from their own identifications. Hughes is a white nonbinary queer woman with Mexican and Indigenous heritage. Their settler ancestors migrated to the Pacific Northwest of the United States in the 20th Century where their family remains today. Others, like their grandfather’s Mexican, Yakama, and Walla Walla kin were forcibly removed, moved, and assimilated through settler-colonial projects that continue at present. Little of their family history is known beyond just a few generations which propels their desire to understand the power of stories and of their silences and erasures – and the force of chosen and made kin.