Dr. Alberto Morales earned his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California, Irvine where he was a Newkirk Center for Science and Society fellow. Alberto is experienced in qualitative methods and research design, with a specialization in both multimodal and multi-species ethnography. His research and teaching examine the politics of absence, hope, and precarious finance in biomedical knowledge production across transnational epistemic communities.
For his dissertation, he carried out ethnographic research with biotech laboratory scientists, science advocates, and government policy officials in Panamá, where investments in science, technology, and innovation are invoked as sustainable forms of national development and global health governance. His research has been funded by the Social Science Research Council, the National Science Foundation, and the School of Social Science Associate Dean's Office at UC Irvine.
Current Research Projects:
Microbes, Biomedicine, Global Health,
Bioeconomy, Capacity Building,
Chicanx/Latinx Critical Pedagogies,
Multimodality, Sound Studies
Alberto's research interests lie at the intersections of bioeconomy, biotech sciences, global health equity, and the geopolitics of knowledge production. He has developed ethnographic work on biotech/biomedical laboratories, social movements of science, and technocratic practices of repurposing international science, technology, and innovation policy experiments. His regional interests include Central America, the Caribbean, and the United States.
Alberto has an ongoing project about Latinas/os/x students in STEM and higher education in the USA. Drawing from the work of critical, transformative, and caring pedagogies, Alberto examines how scholars and educators continue to build spaces of hope, healing, affirmation, and social change for Chicanx/Latinx students.
Dissertation Project: Unfinished Prospects: Microbes and Collaborative Networks in Panamá's City of Knowledge
My dissertation is a multi-sited ethnographic study of interspecies relations and scientific knowledge production among “natural products” researchers in Panamá and San Diego. Natural-products scientists are interdisciplinary researchers who study the chemical properties of naturally occurring compounds in biodiversity-rich regions of the world for potential industrial applications in pharmaceutical science, food production, chemical engineering, and other biotechnological fields. Through an examination of the politics of ecological ruination, speculative biomedical commitments, and precarious financial mechanisms, I argue that emerging forms of mutualism and interspecies care are emblematic of current planetary health concerns, not just for people, but also for other living beings. I am currently working on transforming my dissertation into a book and a series of articles.
Next Project: Designs on Natureculture: Emigration, Esperanza, and Global Health Politics
In my book project, I draw on my interdisciplinary background in Chicano/Latino Studies, Latin American Studies, and Medicine, Science, and Technology Studies. Theoretically, my manuscript is concerned with figurations of life and esperanza (not quite hope, not quite an aspiration, something more akin to an imaginative expectation or foresight, and the accompanying political and affective attachments) that oscillate between the molecular, the microbiotic, the species, the nation-state, and the global scales. Ethnographically, I focus on Latin American emigrants and new Latinos in the making embedded in Silicon Beach, or throughout scientific communities in Southern California. In this project, I examine ideas of brain drain, brain circulation, human capital flight, and knowledge leaks by analyzing the circular emigration of experts, their curative visions shaping biomedical innovation, as well as their successes and failures to integrate and participate in biotech economies of global health.
I am currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Chicano/Latino Studies and the Program for Medical Education in the Latino Community at the School of Medicine at UC Irvine. At UC Irvine, I have taught classes on medical anthropology, global health, research methods and design, race and technoscience, and Latinx and Latin American identities, policy, and social justice movements. I am a multiple recipient of the Outstanding Teaching Award from the School of Social Sciences.
My commitment to transformative pedagogies, critical race theory, and decolonial science methodologies shape my research, teaching, and mentoring. During the 2019-2020 academic year, I was a recipient of a University of California-wide award to participate in the year-long, cross-disciplinary workshop titled Humanities Careers in Science History, Policy, and Communication, where I gained training in digital programming and public pedagogy.
"Throughout this quarter you have been so compassionate in understanding the stressful situation we are all under. I have already filled out the evaluation forms, but I wanted to personally email you and thank you for this amazing course. You have gotten me to think completely differently than I've would before and in this time of injustice, I thank you. Your teachings will definitely live through me!"
"I thank you for teaching all of us. I think it is very important for the Latinx community to learn our own history especially during this time when these protests for our black brothers and sisters are happening. I’ve been sharing what I’ve learned from your class with my own immigrant parents and grandparents to enrich their knowledge and help them better understand why younger generations are so passionate and driven to make change for people of color. Thank you."
"I just wanted to express my gratitude for this course and you as a professor. I am half Mexican and half Korean and I tend to feel like I get overlooked as being Mexican or I feel as if people don't view me as Mexican enough. With your help, I was able to take more pride and be less afraid of people assuming my ethnic/racial background. I am proud to be both Mexican and Korean and even more proud to show it."
I have been experimenting with multi-modal ethnographic work to push the possibilities of transmedia and epistemic modes of engagement. While doing fieldwork, I became involved in Ciencia en Panama, an advocacy and activist organization that describes themselves as “friends of science.” At the height of the global march for science, I produced a photo-essay about this organization and its work to promote this movement and science policy in Panama. This photo-essay, published on the Platform for Ethnographic and Collaborative Ethnography, feeds into my research on analyzing socio-material assemblages, human capacity building, and the trafficking of ideas and values of technoscience. In more recent multimodal work, I explore sound, sympoeisis, and multispecies attunements in scientific knowledge production.
Papers & Talks (Selected)
Professional Papers and Activities
2019. “The Economization of Panama’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Ecology,” Paper presented at the Changing Political Economy of Research and Innovation (CPERI) 7th Annual International Workshop, New Orleans, Louisiana.
2019. “Innovative Academic Infrastructures: Digitalization, Collaboration, and Experimentation,” Chair and Co-organizer for the Society for the Social Studies of Science Annual Meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana.
2019. “Financing Research in the City of Knowledge,” Paper presented at the Cultures and Spaces of Debt and Finance Conference, Tucson, Tohono O’odhon Lands, Arizona.
2018. “Bioprospecting Networks and Biotech Knowledge Economies,” Paper presented at the Society for the Social Studies of Science, Sydney, Australia.
2017. “Re-materializing Life: Scales and Becomings of Tropical Biodiversity,” Paper presented at The Value of Life Conference. Wageningen University, The Netherlands.
2015. “Matters of Biodiversity,” Paper presented to the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) Conference Denver, Colorado.
2019. “Towards the Knowledge Economy: Politics of Science, Technology, and Innovation,” Keynote panelist at the History of Science and Education Colloquium of Historiographers, Tlalpujahua, Michoacán, Mexico
2019. “The Politics of Central American Migration and Movement,” Panel moderator and Discussant at the XXV Congreso Annual de Mexicanistas Juan Bruce-Novoa, Irvine, California.
2018. “Scientific Mobility in Knowledge Economies: China and Panama,” Paper presented at the 17th National Congress of Science and Technology, Panamà City, Panamà.
2017. “Latinx/Chicanx/Hispanic Identities: Who am I? What’s in a Label?” Panelist for the Department of Chicano/Latino Studies, Undergraduate Certificate Program. University of California, Irvine.
2016. “Neoliberalism and the Turn to Indigenous Economic Alternatives,” Discussant for the Latin American Studies Center Multi-disciplinary Seminar, School of Humanities, University of California, Irvine.