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Ellen Carmen Gordon

Ellen Carmen Gordon

Human Geographer studying the state, public sector employment, and street-level bureaucracy in Ecuador.

Soy una geógrafa interesada en el estado y la ciudadanía en América Latina. Mi tesis de doctorado estudia el empleo en el sector publico y la burocracia a nivel de calle en el Ecuador.



  • Supervisor for 1A Human Geography course: Geopolitics and Political Geography.
  • Internship at Cambridge City Council. Quantitative Data Analysis for project: Assessing child poverty associated with energy efficiency and child health in Cambridge, UK. July-October 2020.
  • MPhil Latin American Studies at the University of Cambridge. Dissertation: Rethinking Project Reconciliation in Colombia: Practices, Strategies and Effects in Bogotá. Graduated June 2018.
  • Assistant Language Teacher at Universidad Santo Tomás, Bogotá, 2016-2017.
  • Adjudicator at the Financial Ombudsman Service, London. 2015-2016.
  • (BA) Hispanic Studies from King's College London: First with Distinction. Graduated 2015.


  • ESRC Knowledge Exchange PhD studentship (2018-2021)
  • Cambridge University Fieldwork Fund
  • Simón Bolívar Award, Centre for Latin American Studies, University of Cambridge


Ellen Carmen Gordon is a human geographer working on the state in Latin America. Her research focuses on the training, experiences, and representations of public sector workers in the post-2008 plurinational state of Ecuador. Specifically she focuses on the construction of the state through public servants' everyday work, their interaction with citizens, and the value attached to their work in order to break-down and interrogate assumptions about the state and civil servants both in and beyond the Ecuadorian context. During the second year of the PhD Ellen was based at the Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales (IAEN) in Quito, where she carried out 8 months of qualitative fieldwork.

Current work in progress includes a discourse analysis of the representations of civil servants and public sector work based on mainstream media narratives and interviews with public sector employees in Ecuador. This work will demonstrate how stereotypes of bureaucrats are used to blame public servants for systemic state failures. Such stereotypes are also used to universalise public servants' working experiences, reinforcing a particular model of state-civil society relationship which contradicts recent attempts to transform the state in Ecuador.

Key areas of interest: Geography and Anthropology of the state, Legal Geographies, Decolonial Geographies, Geographies of Citizenship, Latin American Studies.


Seminars and conference presentations

  • Presented: "La utilidad del trabajo de Max Weber para los estudios contemporáneos sobre el estado" at the Jornada de Reflexión: Los aportes de Max Weber a los estudios del estado moderno, la administración pública y la burocracia: 100 años de su muerte. Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales, Quito. October 2020.
  • Presented: "Transition, Rupture and Repeat: How does the work of civil servants in Ecuador shape recent attempts to transform the state-civil society relationship?" at the Bureaucracies in Transition workshop, Queen's University, Belfast. December 2019.
  • Presented: "Affect and emotion for the study of a postcolonial bureaucracy" at the Latin America PhD Research Conference, Centre of Latin American Studies, University of Cambridge. May 2019.
  • Convened graduate seminar for International Visiting Scholar to the Geography department, Professor James C. Scott. May 2019.
  • Presented: "Project(s) of Reconciliation in Colombia: Practices, strategies and effects" at Robinson College Graduate Research conference, May 2018.


  • Member of Decolonial Research Lab, University of Cambridge.
  • Member of Latin American Geographies UK Research Network.
  • Volunteer for IWGB Trade Union (2015-2016 and 2020).