Sarah J. Mahler

Sarah J. Mahler

Associate Professor of Anthropology


BA, Amherst College, 1982
PhD, Columbia University, 1992


Office: Modesto A. Maidique Campus, SIPA 307 Tel: 305.348.2995 |

For some time my research and publications have focused primarily on Latin American and Caribbean migration to the United States and the development of transnational ties between migrants and their home communities, particularly how transnational ties inflect gender identities and relations. I have also researched faith and religious ties among immigrants and transnationally, resulting in my newest book (co-edited with colleague Alex Stepick) Churches and Charity in the Immigrant City published by Rutgers University Press in 2009. And I am co-editing a special volume of American Behavioral Scientist on immigrants and politics in comparative Canadian - U.S. perspective. My research and program grants have been funded by the European Union Commission, the U.S. Departments of Education and Health & Human Services, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Canadian Embassy. Currently, my passion is a book I am finishing which seeks to explain culture to non-academics (more below).

I believe that with a sound footing in research methods and theory students can study any social phenomenon effectively. Consequently, I teach fundamental courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels more than I teach content classes. Among those courses I typically teach are research and data analysis methods at multiple levels, proposal writing (academic writing), and the undergraduate Capstone course. Additionally, I teach courses related to migration and transnational processes. Starting in 2010 I will be team-teaching a new undergraduate core course in Global Learning called “Loosening Cultural Comforts, Gaining Global Perspectives.” My favorite course to teach, however, is Introduction to Anthropology. Why? That course opens more worlds to more people than any other I have taught.

From 2005-8 I served as director of the Center for Transnational and Comparative Studies at FIU where I was in charge of European Studies, Migration Studies, Judaic Studies, FIU’s Spirituality Center, and also formed and funded Middle Eastern Studies. Prior to my directorship, I served as Graduate Program Director in our department.

I am finishing a book that I hope will usher in a major shift in how we understand the overused and slippery concept of culture. The book, tentatively entitled We Were Not Born to Be Random: The Many Things You Know (But Ought to Realize) about Culture, approaches culture from how we acquire cultural abilities as babies. Drawing on research from psychology, economics, history, and daily life experience as well as anthropology, this book explains how people are born infinitely flexible, become quite culturally adept yet rigid by kindergarten, and live our lives seeking cultural comfort zones when we grow the most when we feel discomfort.

Representative Publications:


Culture as Comfort 2013 Mahler, Sarah J.(2013). Culture as Comfort. Many Things You Know About Culture (But Might Not Realize). Pearson Education, Inc. 2013. "In life we all spend more time 'gaining' culture than 'losing' culture. We can continue to learn to relate to new people and contexts all of our lives; we just tend to avoid exercising our cultural muscles. Indeed, we are already multicultural; we are already able to learn to comfortably manage ourselves in new cultural environments. To do so we merely need to see culture for what it truly is—learning to relate to other people—something we’ve been doing since birth. Culture as Comfort explains how and why you, your family, immigrants and any organizations can adapt successfully to new people and change—if only you embrace your cultural discomforts as well as your comforts". Sarah, J. Mahler

Fall 2012 Courses (see Home page Courses & Syllabi)

  • Research Methods (SYA 3300-RVC)

Curriculum Vitae