STEM Shoutout: Dr. Catherine R. Rhodes

New UNM assistant professor studies how contemporary Yucatec Maya speakers are using their language to study linguistics


UNM Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology, Dr. Catherine R. Rhodes, is studying the relationships between language and processes of social identification, working specifically with Yucatec Maya speakers in Mexico.


“In Mexico, the Yucatec Maya language has historically been studied through Spanish. Thus, my work on how Yucatec Maya speakers are using the Yucatec Maya language to do linguistics examines the idea of whether doing the science of linguistics in one language—Maya—versus another—Spanish—has any influence on what the scientific process and products look like,” Rhodes said.


Because language is always shifting and changing, it is important to understand how this process changes how people come to understand themselves and others in the world. By focusing on Yucatec Maya linguistics, Rhodes’ research documents how Yucatec Maya speakers, of whom there are approximately 800,000 in Mexico, are creating new ways of being Maya in the world.


“My work contributes to showing how ideas about ‘identity’ or ‘ethnicity’ are deeply ideological, social constructs, and that these are related to our ideas about what it means to do ‘science’,” Rhodes said.