Dr. Iris Ofelia López is currently a Professor of Sociology and the Co-Director of the Program in Latin American and Latino Studies, a newly expanded area of study at the City College of New York (CUNY). Dr. López is the author of Matters of Choice: Puerto Rican Women’s Struggle for Reproductive Freedom, and represents the interpretation of this issue through an anthropological lens.
- B.A. in Spanish literature from NYU in 1975
- M.A. (1980) and Ph.D. (1985) in anthropology from Columbia University
An oft-described feminist anthropologist, Dr. López has combined her interests in women’s issues with topics of ethnicity and Latin American identity. Her own areas of study are extensive and varied, ranging from survey of Puerto Ricans in the United States (including matters of poverty, family ties, community support systems, and youth education) to wide analysis of gender issues, specifically reproductive rights, pre-natal care, and sterilization abuse. Many of her works include aspects of both, focusing on interactions between history, socioeconomic class, ethnicity, community, and reproductive choice.
“I became an anthropologist primarily because I wanted to write about the Puerto Rican experience as I knew it, not how it had been portrayed by others.” -Iris López
Dr. López is active in the American Anthropological Association; she appears on the Society for Medical Anthropology’s website as an academic resource in applied and urban anthropology. Furthermore, she has reviewed several books on topics within her area of expertise in the AAA publications Medical Anthropology Quarterly and American Anthropologist. She has lectured at many universities and institutions on reproductive freedom and feminist anthropology, and has received highly positive reviews from her current and former students regarding her teaching and career.
Fieldwork in Brooklyn, New York
Dr. López’s primary ethnography, Matters of Choice, was published in 2008. The work is based on twenty-five years of research within several Puerto Rican families now living in Brooklyn, New York. By highlighting the experiences up to four generations of women within the same family, Dr. López manages to draw crucial connections between a past rooted in Puerto Rican history and a distinct Puerto Rican-American experience within New York. The focus on multi-generational life histories shapes her book and her discussions of agency and the meaning of choice. Dr. López has published additional work in several series and anthropological collections focused on experiences of Latin Americans, especially those of Latina women and their reproductive choices.
“Matters of Choice is that rare work of scholarship whose ideas and rich findings are central to the literatures on social movements and gender studies. López explodes the usual binary of victim vs. free agent and helps us to imagine what real reproductive justice might look like.” -Rosalind Petchesky, CCUNY
- Lasting remnants of racist and classist policies within United States healthcare systems work to constrain Puerto Rican women’s fertility choices, within a mix of other social, economic, and historical impacts. (López 2008)
- Binary constructs of agent and victim cannot accurately convey the intricately and individually complex influences on women’s reproductive decisions. (López 2008)
- Optimal reproductive freedom can only occur within a gender-equitable and aware society, supported by freedom within other social, cultural, and personal facets of life. (López 2008: 154)
Why Iris López?
We selected Dr. Iris López as our anthropologist based on her intensive research and expertise on the topic of reproductive constraint among a specific population of women. We were intrigued by her interpretations of what “choice” and “freedom” truly mean, the historical components of her research methods, and her discussions of how larger structures contribute to fertility decisions made by Latina women.