Frédérique Apffel-Marglin

Professor Emerita of Anthropology

Contact & Office Hours


Gables 002



Ph.D., B.A., Brandeis University


Frédérique Apffel-Marglin was first a student of Indian classical dance (Orissi style) and did field research among the temple dancers of Jagannath Temple in Odisha in Eastern India in the mid-1970s. Her later field research was among agricultural communities in coastal Odisha. In 1994, she began collaborative work with nongovernmental organizations in Peru and Bolivia and taught in graduate courses that those organizations offered from 1994 to 2004. She was the coordinator of the Centers for Mutual Learning in Peru and Bolivia during that period. This project was funded by a MacArthur grant until 1999. With the Peruvian NGO PRATEC, Apffel-Marglin created a research and community center in the Peruvian High Amazon, where she directed a program in biocultural diversity for U.S. undergraduates from 2001 to 2004. From 2004 to 2009 she collaborated with a local Fair Trade Coffee cooperative in the Peruvian High Amazon offering study abroad courses there.

In the summer of 2009, Apffel-Marglin founded the nonprofit organization Sachamama Center for Biocultural Regeneration, dedicated to the regeneration of both the local forest and of indigenous agriculture and culture in the Peruvian High Amazon while addressing the climate crisis by regenerating a type of Amazonian pre-Columbian anthropogenic soil that acts as a sink for greenhouse gases. The center is an educational organization that aims to integrate theory, research, activism and spirituality.

Apffel-Marglin was a research adviser at the World Institute for Development Economics Research (WIDER) in Helsinki, an affiliate of the United Nations University, from 1985 to 1991. As part of that endeavor, she and the Harvard economist Stephen Marglin formed an interdisciplinary and international collaborative team that produced three books on critical approaches to development and globalization. She currently directs a six-week summer learning internship, Sustainability Through Indigenous Permaculture While Addressing the Climate Crisis, at her center in Peru, which includes the opportunity to learn Quechua. The internship is part of Smith's PRAXIS program.

Apffel-Marglin is the author of five books, the editor or co-editor of an additional eight books and the author of more than 60 articles and book chapters. Her newest book, co-authored with Robert Tindall and David Shearer, is titled Sacred Soil: Biochar and the Regeneration of the Earth, and will be published by North Atlantic Books in 2017. Her interests cover ritual, gender, political ecology, critiques of development, science studies and Andean-Amazonian shamanism. Her areas of specialization are South Asia and the Amazonian Andes.

She currently resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as well as in Lamas, San Martin, Peru where her nonprofit organization is located.

Selected Publications

Subversive Spiritualities: How Rituals Enact the World. Oxford University Press, 2012.Rhythms of Life: Enacting the World with the Goddesses of Orissa. Oxford University Press, New Delhi, New York, Oxford, 2008.

Interrogating Development: Insights from the Margins, ed. with Sanjay Kumar. Oxford University Press, Delhi, India, 2010.

The Spirit of Regeneration: Andean Culture Confronting Western Notions of Development with an introduction by Frédérique Apffel-Marglin; edited with PRATEC. Zed Books, London and New York, and St. Martin’s Press, New York. 1998.

Decolonizing Knowledge: From Development to Dialogue edited with S.A. Marglin. Oxford University Press, Clarendon, 1996.

Who Will Save the Forests? Knowledge, Resistance, and Environmental Degradation, edited with Tariq Banuri. Zed Books, London, 1993.

Dominating Knowledge: Development, Culture & Resistance, edited with S.A. Marglin. Oxford University Press, Clarendon 1990.

Wives of the God-King: The Rituals of the Devadasis of Puri. Oxford University Press, New Delhi, New York, Oxford, 1985 (reprint 1989).

Purity and Auspiciousness in Indian Society, edited with John Carman. Brill Leiden, 1985.