Professor of Anthropology and Asian Studies, Dean of the School of Critical Social Inquiry
Her research, based on extensive fieldwork in Thailand, examines the work of Buddhist monks engaged in rural development, environmental conservation and other forms of social activism. The broader questions she addresses in her research and teaching include understanding the changing social, political, and historical contexts of religion, environmentalism and human rights, and the creative use of ritual for social change.
She also teaches about socially engaged Buddhism, religious movements, and Southeast Asian studies. She is actively involved in the struggle for human rights in Burma.
Rivers are sites of contention surrounding how they can best serve the people living along them and the nations through which they flow. For some, they provide cultural meanings and livelihoods; for others, they represent progress in how they are developed and used. We will critically examine several case studies to unpack the cultural, environmental, economic, and identity conflicts that arise worldwide as people's concepts of rivers collide. Issues explored will include colonization and trade, indigenous histories and rights, economic development and dams, water rights, environmental debates, and transnationalism. Rivers we will look at include the Connecticut, the Mekong, the Amazon, the Yamuna, and the Nile, each holding different stories of meaning, conflict, development, and environmentalism. Students will research a river of their choice throughout the semester. Theories from anthropology, history, human rights and agrarian studies will inform our explorations of these rivers and their controversies.