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Frédérique Apffel-Marglin earned her B.A. and Ph.D. from Brandeis University. She was first a student of Indian Classical Dance (Orissi style) and later did her first field research among the temple dancers of Jagannath Temple in Orissa in the mid 1970s. Her later field research was among agricultural communities in coastal Orissa. Since 1994 she had engaged in collaborative work with non-governmental organizations in Peru and Bolivia . She taught in graduate courses that those organizations offered from 1994 to 2005. She was the coordinator of 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, she had 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.
In the spring of 2009, she founded the non-profit organization Center Sachamama in the Peruvian High Amazon dedicated to the regeneration of both the local ecology and local indigenous culture. Center Sachamama 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 Stephen A. Marglin formed an interdisciplinary and international collaborative team that has produced three books on critical approaches to development and globalization.
She currently directs a six week summer program that includes an intensive language program in the Peruvian High Amazon, "Ecology, Community and Indigenous Spirituality in the High Amazon." This course is administered by the nonprofit organization Living Routes.
Apffel-Marglin is the author of five books, the editor or co-editor of an additional seven books and the author of more than fifty articles and book chapters. 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. Her latest book is titled: "Subversive Spiritualities: How Rituals Enact the World;" in press, Oxford University Press, New York.