Faculty Appointments

Fall 2008 



Manduhai Buyandelger Anthropology

Manduhai Buyandelger joined the MIT Anthropology faculty this fall as an assistant professor. Manduhai studies how people deal with drastic social transformations that have occurred after the collapse of socialism, particularly in Mongolia. She is completing a book about the resurgence of previously suppressed shamanic practices during Mongolia's shift from socialism to neoliberal capitalism. Tragic Spirits: Shamanism, Socialism, and Neoliberal Capitalism in Mongolia will be published by the University of Chicago Press. Her current research explores the new post-socialist state formation through the lens of recent parliamentary elections and transformation of gender relations in urban and nomadic Mongolia. It has been supported by the National Science Foundation and Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. At MIT she is offering courses on cultural memory, gender and women in Asia, and anthropological approaches to religious beliefs.

Manduhai earned her BA and MA from the National University of Mongolia majoring on Literature and Folklore. In 1995 she received Fulbright scholarship to do her Ph.D at Harvard Anthropology. Prior to joining MIT Manduhai was a Fellow at Harvard Society of Fellows.


Fotini Christia Department of Political Science

Fotini Christia joined the MIT faculty this fall as Assistant Professor in Political Science. She recently completed her PhD in Public Policy at Harvard University, where she was a recipient of research fellowships from the Weaterhead Cente for International Affairs, and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Her research interests deal with issues of ethnic conflict and civil wars and her dissertation addresses the question of civil war alliances.

Fotini has published work on the role of local elites in civil wars in Comparative Politics, and is presently working on two field projects of an experimental design, one in Afghanistan and one in Bosnia, that address the effects of institutions of cooperation in post-conflict, multi-ethnic societies.Fotini has also worked in the Middle East and Central Asia and has written opinion pieces on her experiences from Afghanistan, Iran, the West Bank and Gaza and Uzbekistan for the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. She graduated magna cum laude with a joint BA in Economics-Operations Research from Columbia College and a Masters in International Affairs from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. In fall 2008 she will be teaching a class on undergraduate methods in political science and a graduate seminar on Civil Wars.

Arnaud Costinot Department of Economics

Arnaud Costinot joined the MIT faculty this fall as Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics. He specializes in International Trade. In 2000 he earned BS in applied mathematics and economics from Ecole Polytechnique in France. He also received a MA in economics from Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in 2001 and a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University in 2005.

Prior to coming to MIT, he was an assistant professor in the department of economics at the university of California, San Diego from 2005-2008 and a Peter B. Kenen research fellow at Princeton University from 2007-2008. He is currently a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Arnaud Costinot's previous research in international trade includes work on the determinants of comparative advantage across countries and industries, the analysis of trade agreements on product standards, and the relationship between protectionism and unemployment. He currently works on the impact of trade on inequality.


Michael Cuthbert Music and Theater Arts

Michael Scott Cuthbert joined the MIT faculty as Assistant Professor of Music in the Music and Theater Arts section. Cuthbert received his A.B. summa cum laude, A.M. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University, A Rome Prize winner in Medieval Studies, Cuthbert spent 2004-05 at the American Academy in Rome. Cuthbert spent the last two years as Visiting Assistant Professor at MIT. Prior to coming to MIT, Cuthbert was Visiting Assistant Professor on the facul-ties of Smith and Mount Holyoke Colleges.

Cuthbert is a musicologist who has worked extensively on fourteenth-century music and music of the past forty years, particularly minimalism. He has published on fragments and palimpsests of the late Middle Ages, set analysis of Sub-Saharan African Rhythm, and the music of John Zorn. Cuthbert's current project is a book on sacred and secular music in the Italian Trecento. He has also founded a software lab creating new tools for computer-aided music analysis and generative music composition. At MIT he has offered, and will continue to offer, courses on early music, music of the last century, and music theory.


Clapperton Mavhunga Program in Science, Technology, and Society

Clapperton Mavhunga, a Zimbabwean national, is Assistant Professor of Science, Technology and Society (STS). Clapperton researches and teaches courses on the interaction between people, science, technology, and nature/environment in Africa. His ambition is to theorize the scientific and technological basis for indigenous African knowledge and its trajectory before, during and after the European colonial moment.

He completed his PhD in History at the University of Michigan and is a masters graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. His doctoral thesis, entitled The Mobile Workshop: Mobility, Technology, and Human-Animal Interaction in Gonarezhou (National Park), 1850-Present, examines the role mobility (of people, technology, and nature) plays in the production of historical events. His has commenced a joint Earthwatch project entitled Traditional Knowledge of African villagers with Simon Kang'a, a geneticist from Kenya. The project, in collaboration with local communities, seeks to establish an indigenous technology museum, village-based tourism, and centers of indigenous knowledge-based innovations producing cost-efficient, culturally grounded solutions to the twin problem of negative climate change and poverty in the transLimpopo basin.

Clapperton is the author of several articles and book chapters on indigenous knowledge, current conservation practice, and conservation science and technology policy in Southern and East Africa. These include: "Even the Rider and a Horse are a Partnership: A Reply to Vermeulen and Sheil", Oryx 41, 4 (Oct 2007); "Firearms Diffusion, Exotic and Indigenous Knowledge ystems in the Lowveld Frontier, South Eastern Zimbabwe, 1870-1920", Comparative Technology Transfer and Society 1, 2 (2003); (with Wolfram Dressler), "New Architecture, Old Agendas: "Perspectives on Social Research in Rural Communities Neighbouring the Kruger National Park", Conservation and Society 5, 1 (2007). He is currently writing two book projects, one on the AK-47 in Africa, another on "The Mobile Workshop."


Benjamin Olken Department of Economics

Benjamin Olken joined the MIT faculty this fall as Associate Professor in the Department of Economics. Olken completed his Ph.D. in Economics at Harvard in 2004. He spent the 2004-2005 year as a post-doctoral fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and from 2005-2008 was a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows. At MIT he is also a member of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab.

Olken's research focuses on empirical political economy questions in developing countries, with a particular emphasis on corruption. Most of his field work takes place in Indonesia, where he first lived in 1997-1998 as a Henry Luce Scholar. His research in Indonesia includes several randomized field experiments and extensive data collection, ranging from digging up roads in to uncover corruption in rural Java to tracing the bribes paid by truck drivers in Sumatra. Current research projects include the economic impacts of climate change, the relationship between political decentralization and illegal logging in Indonesia, and a randomized field experiment that examines whether developing country governments can use community-based mechanisms to improve targeting of aid programs to the poor.


Parag Pathak Department of Economics

Assistant Professor of Economics Parag Pathak joined the MIT faculty this fall. Pathak received an A.B./S.M. in Applied Mathematics in 2002 and a Ph.D. in Business Economics in 2007 all from Harvard University, and won the Herrnstein Prize for Best Dissertation in the Social Sciences. During the 2007-08 school year, he was a Junior Fellow at Harvard's Society of Fellows.

Pathak's work in economics focuses on market-mechanism design. His dissertation studied the properties of procedures used to assign students to public school seats in centralized admissions schemes. He has been involved in implementing new assignment mechanisms in both Boston and New York City. He is presently studying the theoretical properties of different allocation mechanisms and understanding their empirical effects.


Hanna Rose Shell Program in Science, Technology, and Society

Hanna Rose Shell, a historian and media artist, joined the MIT faculty this fall as Assistant Professor in the Program on Science, Technology and Society. Shell received an M.A. in American Studies from Yale University in 2002, and a Ph.D. in the History of Science from Harvard in 2007. For her Ph.D., she focused on the history of camouflage in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, at the intersection of the histories of biology, military strategy, technology and film media practice. She was elected as a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows in 2007, where she is in residence in 2008-2009.

Shell's book Hide and Seek: Camouflage and the Media of Reconnaissance will appear from Zone Books in Spring 2010. Shell edited a reprint of W.T. Hornaday's Extermination of the American Bison (Smithsonian Press, 2002 [1889]), and has published widely on natural history preservation and display practices, the history of ecology, experimental film history, and renaissance history of geology and art. Her recent films include Locomotion in Water (2005), about the history of chronophotographic practice in science, and Secondhand [Pepe] (2007), an exploration of textile recycling, diaspora cultures and cross-cultural history. Shell's multimedia installations, based on her camouflage work, have been exhibited in Boston and Los Angeles.


Robert M. Townsend Department of Economics

Robert M. Townsend joined the MIT faculty this fall as the Elizabeth & James Killian Professor of Economics. Most recently he was the Charles E. Merriam Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Economics at University of Chicago. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Duke University, and received his PhD from the University of Minnesota.

His contributions in theory include the revelation principle, costly state verification, optimal multiperiod contracts, decentralization with private information, money with spatially separated agents, financial structure and growth, and forecasting the forecasts of others. His contributions in econometrics include the study of risk and insurance in developing countries, and his work on village India was awarded the Frisch Medal in 1998.

Townsend also has expertise in finance and micro credit around the world. He is active as an advisor and consultant for international institutions and government agencies including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and is a founding member of BREAD.

A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Econometric Society, Townsend was the 2005 keynote speaker for the Simon Kuznets Memorial Lecture Series at Yale University, and presented the Jacob Marschak Memorial Lecture at LACEA-LAMES 2007 in Bogota, Colombia.

Recently, Townsend founded and became principal investigator for The Enterprise Initiative, a research consortium funded by the John Templeton Foundation between senior researchers at the University of Chicago and faculty from the Poverty Action Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Economic Growth Center at Yale University. The Enterprise Initiative seeks to explore and explain the mechanisms of wealth creation, and what is working and why in enterprise-based solutions to poverty.


Craig Wilder History

Craig Steven Wilder studies United States urban history, with a particular focus on race, religion, and culture.

Professor Wilder is the author of A Covenant with Color: Race and Social Power in Brooklyn (Columbia: 2000/2001) and In the Company of Black Men: The African Influence on African American Culture in New York City (NYU: 2001/2004). In 2004, Columbia University awarded him the University Medal of Excellence during its 250th Anniversary Commencement.

Professor Wilder began his career as a community organizer in the South Bronx, and he continues to balance teaching, scholarship, and community work. For two decades, he has consulted on curricular and professional development with public school teachers in low-income areas of New York City. He has led seminars and workshops on urban affairs and race relations for community organizations in the inner city. He has also been pursuing interests in mental illness and the urban poor.

Professor Wilder has advised and appeared in numerous historical documentaries, most recently the History Channel's "F.D.R.: A Presidency Revealed" and Ric Burns' award-winning PBS series, "New York: Documentary History." He has directed or advised exhibits at regional and national museums, including the Brooklyn Historical Society, the New-York Historical Society, the Chicago History Museum, and the New York State Museum. He was one of the founding historians of the Museum of Sex in New York City, and he maintains an active public history program with many smaller local museums and cultural societies.

His current research project reexamines the history of the American academy. He is also writing a history of school segregation in New York City.

Soundings, Fall 2008