What I do

Through research, teaching, and community-engaged work, I draw on interdisciplinary approaches to enhance the public good and contribute to studies of social inequality in Latin America and the US. I engage students directly in research inside and outside of the classroom to prepare students to become active, critical, and reflective agents of social change around the world.

Professional Biography

I am an anthropologist who studies the intersections of globalization, illicit markets, migration, security, and labor in Mexico, Central America, and the U.S.
I teach graduate and undergraduate courses on Qualitative Research Methodologies, Cultures of Development, Migration, and Illicit Markets.


  • Ph.D., Anthropology, Brown University, 2009
  • MA, Anthropology, Brown University, 2005
  • BA, Latin America, Latino, and Caribbean Studies, Dartmouth College, 2003

Professional Affiliations

  • American Anthropological Association
  • Latin American Studies Association
  • International Studies Association
  • Guatemala Scholars Network
  • Society for Applied Anthropology
  • Society for Economic Anthropology

Media Sources


My first book, Contraband Corridor: Making a Living at the Mexico-Guatemala Border (Stanford Press 2017) examines how free trade and border security policies constrain and criminalize local livelihoods, as well as how ordinary people transform relations between borders, the state, and transnational commerce.
My second book, Laboring for Justice: The Fight Against Wage Theft in an American City (Stanford Press 2023) depicts an ongoing community-engaged project to document and address wage theft and advance immigrant and workers' rights through research, policy advocacy, and activism alongside workers, students, and community partners. Nearly 100 students have worked on the project since 2013. You can learn about the project and students' collaborations on the DU Just Wages site: https://dujustwagesproject.wordpress.com/
For my work on the DU Just Wages project, I received the 2018 Public Good Faculty of the Year award from the University of Denver. For the DU Just Wages Project, I was also awarded the 2022 Setha M. Low Award for Engaged Anthropology from the American Anthropological Association and the 2023 Kate Browne Creativity in Research Award from the Society for Economic Anthropology. My book was also awarded the 2023 Society for the Anthropology of Work Book Prize.

At DU, I also co-direct the new Center for Immigration Policy & Research,

Areas of Research


Featured Publications


Galemba, R., & Bleifuss-Prados, D. (2023). Laboring for Justice Art Exhibit. Denver, Colorado: DU Museum of Anthropology.


Galemba, R. (2022). Roundtable panelist: Unsettling Good Intentions. American Anthropological Association . American Anthropological Association Meeting. Seattle, WA: American Anthropological Association .
Galemba, R., Garcia, B., Lyles, E., Newell, K., & Creal, D. Z. (2023). "The Dedicated Docket as Legal Impossibility: Reflections from Courtwatch on Denver's Dedicated Docket." . Society for Applied Anthropology Meeting. Cincinnati, Ohio: Society for Applied Anthropology .
Galemba, R. (2022). Should I Stay or Should I Go?. Invited visiting professor lecture at EHESS Paris. Paris, France: EHESS Paris.
Galemba, R. (2019). Contraband Corridor: Making a Living at the Mexico-Guatemala Border. Grupo Binacional de Estudios de la Frontera Mexico-Guatemala. San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico: CIESAS Sureste, CIMSUR UNAM, CEPHIS-UNAM, and USAC y Rafael Landívar Universities.
Galemba, R. (2022). Ethical Considerations for Conducting Research with Communities Affected by Displacement . International Studies Association. virtual: International Studies Association.


  • Public Good Faculty of the Year Award, CCESL and Pioneer Awards
  • Kate Browne Creativity in Research Award, Society for Economic Anthropology
  • Setha M. Low Engaged Anthropology Award, American Anthropological Association
  • Knowledge Bridge Grant, University of Denver