University of Vermont

The College of Arts and Sciences

Professors Borchert and Vivanco Awarded Fulbrights

Professors Thomas Brochert (left) and Luis Vivanco

Thomas Borchert, Associate Professor of Religion, and Luis Vivanco, Associate Professor of Anthropology, have recently been awarded Fulbright Scholars research grants.  The Fulbright Program, the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

Borchert’s Fulbright is for Thailand, where he will be doing research on a project called "Monastic Citizens: Examining the Relationship of Religious and Political Identity of Thai and Chinese Buddhist Monks."  Briefly, monks are almost always citizens of specific nation-states, and they are subject to the legal governance regimes of these nation-states.  In some cases, such as Thailand, monks do not have the same rights and responsibilities that other citizens have.  They cannot vote, their passports go through a different process from that for ordinary citizens (and they receive less time), and they are subject to a unique regime of governance that is only partially religious.  At the same time, they are required to register for the Thai military draft, though they are always given an exemption.   While scholars of Buddhism and Thailand have spent a significant amount of time studying the relationship of Buddhism and politics, they have not actually paid much attention to the attitudes that monks have about the matter. 

Borchert adds, “Over the course of six months, I plan to interview monks in Bangkok (particularly at the Buddhist universities) about how they understand who they are as citizens and as monks; whether and how these two different positions work together or are in conflict with one another.  In the second half of the academic year, I hope to do the same research in Shanghai and Kunming in China.“

Associate Professor Borchert specializes in the religions of East and Southeast Asia. His area of research includes Theravada Buddhist traditions of mainland Southeast Asia and the minorities of China. He received a Ph.D. (2006) in the History of Religions from the University of Chicago and a B.A. (1992) from Swarthmore College.

Luis Vivanco is a Cultural Anthropologist, Director of UVM’s Global and Regional Studies Program, and Founding Director of UVM’s Global Studies Program. He holds an A.B. in Religion from Dartmouth College (1991), and M.A. (1995) and Ph.D. (1999) degrees in Cultural Anthropology from Princeton University. He came to UVM in 1997 as a New England Board of Higher Education Dissertation Write-up Fellow, and began as Assistant Professor in 1999. In 2005, he was awarded tenure and promoted to Associate Professor.

This is going to be Vivanco’s second Fulbright Award as a UVM faculty member. (His first was in 2004, in Costa Rica.)  He will be in Bogotá, Colombia on a "Teaching/Research" Fulbright Award giving a graduate course in Anthropology on "Culture and Mobility" at the Universidad Nacional, which is Colombia's premier public university. For the research component, he will be conducting ethnographic research on the meanings, social relations, and political organizing around bicycle transportation and sustainability politics.  “I plan to conduct interviews and participant-observation research among city officials involved in promoting bicycle transportation; bicycle advocacy groups; and among everyday cyclists getting around the city by bike,” says Vivanco.

Bogotá has been undergoing a major transformation during the past decade and a half in which bicycles have gained a high profile as a sustainable and accessible form of transportation for many people.   “My interest in Bogotá is one piece of a new research agenda I have been developing as an environmental anthropologist, which is to understand the specific socio-cultural and political-economic conditions under which cities can redevelop transportation systems around principles of equity and sustainability.”

Vivanco’s new book Reconsidering the Bicycle: An Anthropological Perspective on a New (Old) Thing just came out this past week, and examines similar issues. See it here: While in Bogotá he plans to conduct the bicycle research in collaboration with colleagues and graduate students involved in two research groups within the Universidad Nacional’s Department of Anthropology: the Program in Historical Ecology and Human Mobility and the Social Conflict and Violence group.