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About Winifred L. Tate

I am a political anthropologist examining struggles for democracy, citizenship and political change in the wake of the more than a century of prohibitionist drug policy regimes. I am currently the director of the Maine Drug Policy Lab at Colby College, which brings together policymakers, scholars and students, providing evidence-based analysis for addressing critical drug policy issues in our state and beyond, and conducts research on problematic drug use and access to treatment in Maine. Our research in Maine focuses on how drug use, addiction and recovery is imagined and experienced by community members, law enforcement and health care providers. My current project, "Women, Drug Use and Recovery in Maine," employs qualitative methods to center the experience of women, which has been largely neglected in both scholarship and policy debates. The focus on so-called deaths of despair among the white working class has primarily highlighted the increasing death rate of men, while neglecting the experience of the women caregivers they leave behind. The high rates of drug-affected babies, and the extremely high rates of child removal in Maine have generated significant social concern. In 2016, Maine was sixth in the nation for cases in which substance use was a contributing factor for children removal from their parents, a number which increased in 2017. Yet there is little data the specificities of how rural Maine women who use drugs are triply stigmatized as women, mothers and for their drug use, and the resulting social harms of stigma, child welfare policies and drug enforcement. A focus on women who use drugs is critical for understanding how to best address the needs of Maine women and families through gender-sensitive drug policy reform proposals.

My research in Latin America is focused on Colombian communities and entrenched paramilitary violence, human rights abuses and illicit economies. My scholarly commitments originate with my experiences as an activist and advocate focused on Colombia; I worked for three years as the Colombia policy expert at the Washington Office on Latin America before completing my doctorate at New York University. I am the author of two books, the award-winning Counting the Dead: The Culture and Politics of Human Rights Activism in Colombia (University of California Press 2007) andDrugs, Thugs, and Diplomats: U.S. Policymaking in Colombia (Stanford University Press, 2015), which was published in Spanish as Drogas, Bandidos y Diplomáticos (University of Rosario Press, 2015). My current book project, Paramilitary Politics, draws on research I have been conducting over the past decade on paramilitarism, globalization and community resistance, examining the forms, legacies, and deep histories of Colombian violence. I am particularly concerned with how this violence shapes the daily lives, practices and possibilities of residents in rural communities, the production of history about this violence, and its legacies in contemporary Colombian politics. I share photos and stories from my fieldwork in an ongoing instagram ethnography project, Imagining War & Peace in Colombia.


Present Associate Professor of Anthropology, Colby College Anthropology

Curriculum Vitae

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Honors and Awards

  • 2009 Bryce Wood Book Award from the Latin American Studies Association for outstanding work in the social sciences and the humanities on Latin America published in English
  • 2009 Sharon Stephens Book Prize from the American Ethnological Society
  • 2007 Michael Jiménez Prize for outstanding work in Colombian Studies, LASA

Contact Information

4701 Mayflower Hill
Waterville, Maine 04901-8847


Articles (5)

Books (2)

Recent Works (3)

Contributions to Books (4)

Presentations (4)

Other (1)