Carlos Martínez-Cano

Assistant Professor

I am a native of the U.S./México Borderlands and an anthropologist specializing in ethnographic investigations of non-dominant youth populations and their STEAM-related learning practices. As an educator, I have spent time over the past twenty years as a literacy volunteer, English instructor at language institutes overseas, a K-12 bilingual and ESL classroom teacher, higher education lecturer, teaching assistant, and researcher.

My research intersects with many fields and disciplines, including but not limited to literacy, science, psychology, sociolinguistics, and ethnic studies. Throughout, the broadly conceived questions remain, “How are young people from marginalized communities learning together in ways that positively shape their identities? How are they utilizing and creating technologies that demonstrate their agency across multiple contexts? And, how can researchers support the informal learning practices of youth based on the cultural values of their home communities?”

Curiously, these questions first germinated in a high school English-as-a-Second-Language course I taught. Watching small groups read and discuss works like Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street I was struck by how their dialogic interactions connected the words on the page to the world around them. Further, they began to recognize similarities among the power dynamics in the stories and the inequities in their own lived experiences. This led me to recognize how these adolescents, who are often considered to have learning deficits, are critical thinkers and engaged knowledge producers.

More recently, I completed a long-term ethnographic project with a group of middle school boys from Mexican-origin families. Therein, I document how the boys came to understand themselves and each other as emergent technology experts through self-directed informal learning centered around coding, 3-D drafting, and graphic design projects. Moving forward I am eager to learn from and with the youth of the Seattle area and the state of Washington as I formulate projects that center social justice and equity in informal STEAM learning spaces.

I have contributed to such publications as Anthropology News and Cultural Anthropologist and I am an active member of the American Anthropological Association and the American Educational Research Association, regularly presenting research at the annual meetings.

I am also gaining direct full-time experience in the field of human development as the proud father to two toddler girls. My partner Jennie and I are eager to introduce them and our very spoiled Labrador to the natural wonders of our new home in the Pacific Northwest.

Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, 2019
M.A. The University of Texas at Austin
B.S. Texas A&M University, College Station

New features

As an educator and anthropologist, Carlos Martínez-Cano is interested in the ways our social learning practices and cultural backgrounds interact in educational contexts.