Robert Desjarlais Wins Guggenheim Fellowship

Robert Desjarlais, faculty member in anthropology at Sarah Lawrence College, has won a 2000 Guggenheim Fellowship, a prestigious award given by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to artists, scholars and scientists. This year’s 182 winners were selected from 2900 applicants.

Desjarlais’ award is based on his on-going work, which will be published in a scholarly volume entitled Sensory Biographies: Voices and Visions among Nepal’s Yolmo Buddhists. The completed study will “offer a fresh take on the cultural patterning of personal experience and psychological processes in non-western societies. It will also help us to understand how diverse cultural forces work to shape the makings of subjective experience,” said Desjarlais.

“The study will add to our knowledge of life among Tibetan Buddhist peoples in the Nepal Himalayas,” he continued. “Research of this sort is particularly timely among Yolmo people for many are finding that their society has undergone dramatic changes in the past few years due to numerous relocations of families and youths outside of the Yolmo region.” Desjarlais has strong support from the people he is studying because “they sense in my work an opportunity to establish a detailed record of Yolmo lives and histories before their world changes irrevocably.”

The Guggenheim Fellowship enables Desjarlais to take a year’s sabbatical leave beginning in July to complete his field research and write the book. He will travel to Nepal twice in the course of the year. Desjarlais holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles and held an NIMH post-doctoral fellowship in clinically relevant anthropology at Harvard Medical School. He has taught at Sarah Lawrence College since 1994.