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.
Spring semester of this yearlong course will be a project-based semester with students working in collaborative interdisciplinary teams (with the fall course as a prerequisite) to develop research-based design proposals across multiple scales. The projects will include developing a land use plan / master plan, developing building designs that seem most relevant to the local people, and possibly developing smaller-scale design projects as needed - all of these projects will be informed by and integrate research related to the cultural, social, and/or ecological issues from Nan Province, Thailand. At the end of the semester, each project team will produce a series of drawings as well as a project research paper that presents the design projects within the context of the research questions most pressing to each team. It is expected that students will represent their disciplines of study as "experts" within each team and that teams will share information and research. Class time will be spent discussing the larger contexts of the projects with both student and faculty presentations and in-studio working sessions with critiques, pin-ups and reviews of the design proposals and reports.