Office Hours (fall 2023)
1230-130pm Tuesday, and by appointment
Born and raised in Marin County, California, I moved to Denver in 2008. My mom is from Chicago with roots in German/Irish culture and my father is from the Sierra region in Ecuador. I’m a first-generation college graduate. In 1991-1993, I lived and studied in Nigeria where I received a master’s degree in political science from the University of Ibadan. To continue my global education, I earned a second master’s degree with a specialization in labor and employment studies at the Institute for Social Studies in Den Haag, The Netherlands in 1995. For my doctoral work in anthropology at the University of California Irvine I focused on the livelihoods of tobacco farmers and farm workers, labor union struggles and corporate accountability issues in Malawi’s tobacco growing sector. Currently, I am the Chair and Associate Professor in the Anthropology Department, University of Colorado Denver.
Recent publications include "Cannabis Workers' Counterstories and Stigma Reduction in Colorado," Voices in Mexico (2023), the chapter co-authored with David Vergara, “Cannabis Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives: A Critical Approach to Research and Practice,” in The Routledge Handbook of Interdisciplinary Cannabis Research (2021, PDF); “A Labor Studies Approach to Cannabis,” in The Routledge Handbook of Interdisciplinary Cannabis Research (2021, PDF), and the manuscript co-authored with Jassy Grewal, “Health and Safety in the Legal Cannabis Industry Before and During COVID-19, New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy (2020, PDF).
In 2023, my colleague Dr. Aaraón Díaz Mendiburo, Centro de Investigaciones sobre América del Norte, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and I will be releasing a co-edited book with four volumes focused on an arts-based approach to cannabis research and anti-drug stigma reduction.
Natalie Underberg-Goode, Professor in the University of Central Florida, and I are co-editing the book Exploring Digital Ethnography: From Principles to Practice, Routledge, planned for 2025.
I’m a filmmaker and produce the web-based television show called Getting High on Anthropology: A Story-Based Approach to Cannabis Research, Education and Funding. Filmmaking is integrated in my research and creative projects at CU Denver. In 2022, I administered digital storytelling projects about experiences of university students, staff and faculty members who self-identify as Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). Also, I am analyzing 76 short videos about opioid overdose reversals and naloxone to promote harm reduction and reduce stigma against drug users. Funds for the project received from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ‘Overdose Data to Action’ grant. For additional details visit the project webpage Naloxone Champions.
In 2023, I am conducting interviews with people of color about their experiences and concerns related to psilcobyin ("magic mushrooms") as part of the study "Psilocybin Use Among BIPOC Community Members in Colorado" (COMIRB #22-1797). Additional details are on the project web page.
Through a Community Grant Program Award from the Source Research Foundation in 2023, I am organizing a psychedelic-related speaker series with 10 people of color in Colorado focused on topics such as decolonizing psychedelics, indigenous rights, structural racism, white supremacy, medicalization and corporations. Goals of the project are to increase community awareness of BIPOC-related issues and concerns in psychedelic spaces in colorado, and provide educational material to policy makers.
My free time is spent with my wife Michelle and two teenage boys. Hobbies include bicycling, hiking, traveling and making videos.
Postdoctoral Training Fellowship, University of Colorado Denver Education, Training and Career Development Core of the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, Subject: Digital Storytelling and Health Equity in Colorado, 2008-2010
American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco, Subject: Health Policy and Global Tobacco Control, 2006-2008
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco, Subject: Health Policy and Global Tobacco Control, 2004-2006
Ph.D. Anthropology Department, University of California, Irvine, Subject: Cultural Anthropology, Dissertation: "Thank You for Smoking': Corporate Power and Tobacco Worker Struggles in Malawi, 1996-2004
M.A. Institute of Social Studies, Netherlands, Subject: Employment and Labor Studies, Thesis: 'Labor and Democratization in Malawi,' 1994-1995
M.S. Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, Subject: Political Science; Thesis: 'The Political Economy of State Creation in Nigeria, 1992-1993
B.S. College of Business, San Francisco State University, California, Subject: Business Administration, 1987-1989
Underberg-Goode N and Otañez M. Exploring Digital Ethnography: From Principles to Practice, Routledge (in production)
Mendiburo AD, and Otañez M. Art-Based Narratives as Resources to End Cannabis Stigmatization in North America [four volumes], Centro de Investigaciones sobre América del Norte, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (in press)
Otañez M, "Cannabis Workers' Counterstories and Stigma Reduction in Colorado," Voices in Mexico (2023)
Otañez M, Vergara D, “Cannabis Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives: A Critical Approach to Research and Practice,” J Meisel and D Corva, eds., The Routledge Handbook of Interdisciplinary Cannabis Research, 2021
Otañez M, Grewal J, “Health and Safety in the Legal Cannabis Industry Before and During COVID-19, New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy (Epub ahead of print 30 November), 1-13, 2020
Otañez M and Walsh J, ' Digital Storytelling and Organic Theater: Pedagogies in 21st Century Learning,' Arianne Rourke and Vaughan Rees, eds. Transformative Pedagogies in the Visual Domain, Common Ground Publishing, 2018
Otañez M, “Digital storytelling: Using first-person videos about food in research and advocacy,” John Brett and Janet Chrzan, eds., Research Methods for the Anthropological Study of Food and Nutrition, Berghahn, 2017
Otañez M, Lakota W, ‘Digital storytelling: Using videos to increase social wellness,’ in J Cohen and L Johnson, eds., Video filmmaking as psychotherapy: Research and practice, Routledge: New York, 2015
Otañez M, Guerrero A, ‘Digital storytelling and the viral hepatitis project,’ A Gubrium, K Harper and M Otañez, eds., Participatory visual and digital research in Action, Left Coast Press: California, 2015
Otañez M, Graen L, “‘Gentlemen, Why Not Suppress the Prices’: Global Leaf Companies Harm Rural Livelihoods in Malawi,” Wardie Lappan, Natacha Lecours, Daniel Buckles, eds., Tobacco Control and Tobacco Farming: Separating Myth from Reality, Anthem Press and International Development Research Centre: London and Ottowa, 2014
Otañez M, Glantz G, “Social Responsibility in Tobacco Production? Tobacco Companies Use of Green Supply Chains to Obscure the Real Costs of Tobacco Farming,” Tobacco Control (Epub ahead of print, 19 April), 2011
Otañez M, Glantz G, Mamudu H, “Tobacco Companies Use of Developing Countries’ Economic Reliance on Tobacco to Lobby Against Global Tobacco Control: The Case of Malawi,” American Journal of Public Health, 99 (10): 1759-71, 2009
Geist H, Otañez M, and Kapito J. "The tobacco industry in Malawi: a globalized driver of local land change." Land Change Modifications in the Developing World. Berlin, Germany: Springer (2008): 251-68
Otañez M. "The Smoking Wallet An Anthropologist Meets Transnational Tobacco Corporations in Malawi," Truitt A, Senders S, eds., Encounters with Money in the Field, Berg Publishers: Oxford, United Kingdom, 69-81, 2007
Otañez M, Muggli M, Hurt R, Glantz G, “Eliminating Child Labour in Malawi: A British American Tobacco Corporate Responsibility Project to Sidestep Tobacco Labor Exploitation,” Tobacco Control. 15: 224-30, 2006
Otañez M, “Economic Dependence and Democratization: The Case of the Tobacco Industry,” Immink B, Lembani S, Ott M, Peters-Berries C, eds., From Freedom to Empowerment: Ten Years of Democratization in Malawi, Lilongwe, Malawi: Forum for Dialogue and Peace, 120-9
Qualitative Research Design and Methods
Foundations in Social and Cultural Anthropology
Cultural Diversity in the Modern World
Culture and the Human Experience
Current Theory in Ethnography
Global Health and Nutrition in Malawi, Africa (study abroad course)
Industrial Hemp and Medicinal Cannabis in The Netherlands (study abroad course)