Eliot Circular

Professors Corner

Prof. Charlene Makley [anthro 2000–] won a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies for her project on Tibet.

Power and Politics in Tibet

Prof. Charlene Makley [anthro 2000–] received an American Council of Learned Societies fellowship for her project, “The Politics of Presence: State-Led Development, Personhood and Power among Tibetans in China.” 

Prof. Makley began working in Tibet in 1992, when a trip to Labrang sparked an interest in understanding how Tibetans were rebuilding their communities after the collective trauma of socialist transformation in the ’50s–’70s.

In 2008, Makley was conducting research in the region when the Chinese government declared a state of emergency over protests by Tibetans. Since then, more than 125 demonstrators have set themselves on fire to protest government policy in Tibet. Makley intends to write about her experience during this tumultuous period, the massive Sichuan earthquake, and the great spectacle of the Beijing Olympics, and would like her work to bring attention to the underlying causes of the ongoing protests and self-immolation.

Makley began working on the project in the early 2000s, just after China’s government launched the Great Western Development Campaign, which produced new dilemmas for Tibetans as the circulation of people, money, and information intensified in the frontier zone. Her primary fieldwork was conducted in 2007–08 in Rebgong, which is northwest of Labrang and the site of the famous Geluk-sect Buddhist monastery of Rongwo.

“I deepened my analysis of state-local relations in the frontier zone in the wake of the 2008 state of emergency,” says Makley, “by bringing linguistic anthropological approaches to personhood, governance, and authority into dialogue with recent interdisciplinary debates about the very nature of human subjectivity and relations with nonhuman others—including deities and material objects.”

Fighting HIV with Circumcision

Prof. Nicholas Wilson ’99 [econ 2013–] won a $74,000 grant from the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation to investigate “Advertising for Demand Creation for Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision.” Prof. Wilson will work in the Soweto district of Johannesburg, South Africa, in collaboration with Willa Friedman of the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C., and the Centre for HIV and AIDS Prevention Studies in Johannesburg. 

Results from recent medical trials in Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa indicate that voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) reduces HIV transmission by 51–76%. Based on this evidence, the World Health Organization has identified 13 countries with high prevalence of HIV and low prevalence of male circumcision to focus VMMC campaigns. Wilson and his collaborators are using a door-to-door postcard-based social marketing campaign to test the efficacy of various information messages, framing devices, and cost-subsidy in increasing adoption of this life-saving health technology. 

Wilson, whose research focuses on the economics of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, holds a BA from Reed, a PhD in economics from Brown and an MPA in International Development from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He has taught at Williams College, was a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley, previously worked at the World Bank, and has worked as a consultant for UNAIDS and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.