Hello, I’m Debra Lattanzi Shutika, a mystery writer and folklorist. For the 2022-23 academic year, I will be a Fulbright Scholar in Ireland, teaching in Galway at Atlantic Technical University‘s Heritage Studies Program and conducting research in County Mayo in three Gaeltacht communities: Achill, Crossmolina, and Erris. I’ll be detailing my research and adventures through my newsletter: The Buzz.

About my fiction: my short story, “Mala Suerte” appeared in Diamonds, Denim and Death, the 2019 Bouchercon Anthology and “Frozen Iguana” was published in the 2018 Bouchercon anthology Florida Happens.  “Mirrors” appeared in Richard Peabody’s Abundant Grace: The Seventh Collection of Fiction by D.C. Area Women.  I’m revising a novel, The Other, a mystery about postmodern changelings.

I am also author of Beyond the Borderlands: Migration and Belonging in the United States and Mexico (2011, University of California Press), an ethnography that explores the lives of Mexican immigrants and their American neighbors in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania and the transformation of their home community in Mexico.  Beyond the Borderlands is the winner of the 2012 Chicago Folklore Prize.

I direct the Field School for Cultural Documentation, a collaborative project with the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.  Our next field school is scheduled in Washington DC summer 2023 where we’ll be working on community gardens in National Parks.  \We have completed ten community-based documentation projects, including the occupational culture of Arlington National Cemetery, two years in the Columbia Pike neighborhood in Arlington, VA (2011-12) the Alexandria Waterfront (2014), Arlington County Community Gardens in 2016 & 2017. We have also held two residential field schools in West Virginia. One in Morgan County in 2012 and the West Virginia Coalfields in 2018. In January 2020 the field school was conducted on Achill Island, County Mayo, Ireland.

My current academic projects include a book-length ethnography about the National Park Service on the 50th Anniversary of Summers in the Parks.

I teach Folklore, digital storytelling, ethnographic writing and ethnographic research methods at George Mason University.

Email:  DebraLattanzi96 AT gmail DOT com
Blog: Living Ethnography
Twitter: @DebraLattanzi


Beyond the Borderlands: Migration and Belonging in the United States and MexicoBeyond the Borderlands: Migration and Belonging in the United States and Mexico (2011) University of California Press.

Winner of the 2012 Chicago Folklore Prize

Since the 1990s, migration from Mexico to the United States has moved beyond the borderlands to diverse communities across the country, with the most striking transformations in American suburbs and small towns. This study explores the challenges encountered by Mexican families as they endeavor to find their place in the U.S. by focusing on Kennett Square, a small farming village in Pennsylvania known as the “Mushroom Capital of the World.” In a highly readable account based on extensive fieldwork among Mexican migrants and their American neighbors, Debra Lattanzi Shutika explores the issues of belonging and displacement that are central concerns for residents in communities that have become new destinations for Mexican settlement. Beyond the Borderlands also completes the circle of migration by following migrant families as they return to their hometown in Mexico, providing an illuminating perspective of the tenuous lives of Mexicans residing in, but not fully part of, two worlds.

You can also read the first chapter here.

Beyond the Borderlands is available for purchase here.

Praise for Beyond the Borderlands

Beyond the Borderlands is a valuable addition to the growing literature on America’s new immigrant destinations. Full of wonderful descriptions and insightful observations, this detailed study shows how Mexicans are making a place for themselves in one Pennsylvania town and reshaping the community in complex and unexpected ways.” -Nancy Foner, author of In a New Land: A Comparative View of Immigration

“Debra Lattanzi Shutika offers a penetrating analysis. Her sensitive and insightful examination sheds bright light on the meaning of place, identity, and belonging in the United States today and constitutes essential reading for anyone seeking to comprehend the changing character of American society.” -Douglas S. Massey, Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, Princeton University

“In the early twenty-first century, scholars continue to expand the boundaries of our field in creative and provocative ways. This year’s recipient of the Chicago Folklore Prize for the best scholarly monograph in folklore does exactly that. Debra Lattanzi Shutika’s Beyond the Borderlands: Migration and Belonging in the United States and Mexico, published by the University of California Press in 2011, is an exemplary work of folkloristic ethnography. It greatly enriches our appreciation and understanding of how migrants from Mexico continually negotiate and renegotiate their binational sense of place and sense of belonging in two closely connected communities—one in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, and one 2,300 miles away in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, the self-proclaimed “mushroom capital of the world.”
-Chicago Folklore Prize Selection Committee

My most recent article, “Place and the Politics of Belonging in American Suburbia,” appears in the edited volume The Role of Place Identity in the Perception, Understanding, and Design of Built Environments (Hernan Casakan and Fátima Bernardo, eds.) is available for download here.


My short story “Mirrors” was published in Abundant Grace: The Seventh Collection of Fiction by D.C. Area Women (edited by Richard Peabody).

Readings & Events

At the Cornelia Street Cafe, NYC

Upcoming Readings & Events

American Folklore Society, October 2021, Harrisburg, PA

Past Readings:

Noir at the Bar. May 22, 2020. Crowdcast

“Full Disclosure: Revealing Academia’s Hidden Expectations” at the 2019 of the American Folklore Society meeting, Baltimore, Maryland

“Hands-on Appalachian Studies” at the 2019 meeting of the Appalachian Studies Association. Asheville, NC.

Florida Happens reading. November 2, 2018 at the Cornelia Street Cafe, NYC

Noir at the Bar. October 27, 2018 at the Wonderland Ballroom, Washington, DC

American Folklore Society Meeting, Buffalo, NY. October 2108

“Teaching Folklore in the Age of Trump.” The American Folklore Society Meeting, Minneapolis, MN. October 2017

“Summer in the Parks: the Legacy of NPS Community Development after the ’68 DC Riots.” American Anthropological Association aAnnnual meeting, December 2017

The Future of American Folkloristics, Bloomington, IN. “Leading Folklore.” June 2017.

“Greater West Virginia.”  Appalachian Studies Association Meeting, Blacksburg, VAMarch 2017

“Too True for Fiction: The Folklorist as a Fiction Writer.”The American Folklore Society Meeting, Miami, FL., October 2016

“Newcomers to an Old Town: The Legacy of the ‘Back to the Land’ Movement in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.”Appalachian Studies Association Meeting, Shephardstown, WV. March 2016

“Folklore Speaks to Science: Teaching Folk Medicine in the Applied Science Classroom.”The American Folklore Society Meeting, Long Beach, CA, October 2015

“The Field as Classroom: Undergraduate Instruction in the Practices of Ethnography.” American Anthropological Association annual meeting, Washington, DC.  December 2014

“A Needful Place: Immigrants, Suburbia, and the Multicultural Ideal,” and “Advanced in Folklore Scholarship: Diaspora and Belonging.”The American Folklore Society Meeting, Providence, RI, October 2013

The Cultures of Work at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday, June 19, 2013

AWP Panel: Research and Community Activism in Creative Writing: Spiral Paths. March 2013

“After the Ethnography.”  A reading for the installation of Beyond the Borderlands into the Well Library at the Mason Inn.

Reading and Discussion of Beyond the Borderlands: Migration and Belonging in the United States and Mexico.  Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland.  November 13, 2012

“Living Ethnography: Creating an Ethnographic Field School.”  American Folklore Society Annual Meeting.  New Orleans, LA  October 27, 2012

“Transnational Mexico.”  The University of Houston Mexican and Mexican American Cultural Studies Series.  Houston, TX.  March 30, 2012

“Mexicans, Migration and Mushrooms: the Kennett Square Case.”  University of Pennsylvania Urban Studies Colloquium.  Philadelphia, PA.  November 15, 2011.

“Writing the Sense of Place/Writing Non-Fiction.”  Pages and Places Book Festival.  Scranton, PA.  October 1, 2011

“Beyond the Borderlands: Migration and Belonging in the United States and Mexico.” Reading for Fall for the Book Festival, Fairfax, VA.  September 21, 2011

“Beyond the Borderlands: Migration and Belonging in American Migrations.  National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC.  September 14, 2011

“Anti-Immigrant Ordinances and the Latino Community.”  Panel: The Impact of Anti-Immigrant Ordinances on the Housing Rights of Everyone: Lessons from Manassas, Virginia. National Conference of La Raza (NCLR).  July 24, 2011

“Place and the Politics of Belonging.”   Botkin Lecture Series.  American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.  Washington, DC. August 12, 2010

Field School for Cultural Documentation

In 2010, I began a collaboration with the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress to create The Field School for Cultural Documentation through the Folklore Studies Program at George Mason University.  The Field School offers professional training for students, community members and others who want to learn how to develop community documentation projects from the ground up.  The field school emphasizes oral history collection, documentation of cultural artifacts and the establishment of archival collections as the foundation of our curriculum.

In 2011 and 2012, the Field School documented the neighborhoods of the Columbia Pike in Arlington, Virginia as part of our four-week summer program. The Field School has also documented Berkeley Springs and Morgan County, WV, in 2012 and a workplace documentary project at Arlington National Cemetery in 2013 and the Alexandria Waterfront in 2014.

The field school returned in Summer 2017 documenting Arlington Community Gardens In 2016, students documented community gardens along Four Mile Run and Ft. Barnard (in Douglas Park ). This summer we’re working with Lang Street gardeners in Arlington, Virginia.

In May 2018 the field school returned to West Virginia for a residential field school in collaboration with the West Virginia Folklife Program working with the state folklorist, Emily Hilliard.

In January 2020, the field school went abroad to Achill Island, County Mayo, Ireland. After a hiatus with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Field School will return in June 2023 to document community gardens in DC national parks.

Students pictured above are hiking the Paw Paw Tunnel as part of the West Virginia Field School in 2012.


You can follow my adventures in Ireland (2022-23) and the ethnographic work I do in the DMV by subscribing to my newsletter, The Buzz.