Santa Fe Institute


Research Themes

Research Projects

Interest Areas

  • Cognitive anthropology, methodology (integration of qualitative and quantitative methods), political culture, democracy, public anthropology, Mongolia, Latin America, USA

Paula L.W. Sabloff

External Professor, Santa Fe Institute

Curriculum Vitae


Click HERE to download maps from my book, 'Mapping Mongolia: Situating Mongolia in the World from Geologic Time to the Present'.

Paula Sabloff, Professor, holds a B.A. from Vassar and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Brandeis University, with a year at the University of Pennsylvania in-between. A political anthropologist, her master’s and doctorate were conducted in Mexico. After several years in higher education administration (including Executive Director of the Governor’s Commission on Higher Education in New Mexico [1983], Academic Planner for the State of New Mexico [1984], Coordinator of Strategic Planning for UNM [1984-85] and Coordinator of Strategic Planning for the University of Pittsburgh), she returned to anthropological research, this time in Mongolia.

Her research focuses on Mongolians’ changing ideas of democracy and capitalism as they leave behind socialism and adapt to democracy and capitalism. In that pursuit, she has conducted fieldwork and interviews in the summers of 1996-2003. She curated an exhibition, “Modern Mongolia: Reclaiming Genghis Khan,” which spent five months at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian) in 2002 among other venues. An edited volume by that name is still selling on Amazon. She recently organized a four-day symposium on Mongolia with the idea of challenging the area studies concept in academia and the State Department; that volume, Mapping Mongolia: From Geologic Time to the Present, is published by the University of Pennsylvania Press (2011). She contributed a think piece to a new Chinese news agency, Caixin. Her article, "Risk and Democracy in Post-socialist Mongolia," was accepted for publication September 2011. She is currently working on an undergraduate ethnography on Mongolia. Its underlying theme is to ask whether democracy is a universal desire or a conceit of US policy.

When I went into cultural anthropology, I found myself drawn to the basic question: are underdogs really at the mercy of those in power? So my work on Cozumel was how the locals kept the national government at bay for 116 years, defining land tenure as they saw fit despite government edicts. This segued into work on patron-client relations in the US and then Mongolia. Of course the best description of patron-client relations is found in the Godfather movies. Now the question was, do clients have any influence on their patrons? Why these questions? I guess I was working out my own demons. As the only person in my immediate family who was not the oldest child, I wanted to feel that I had some power--if only over myself. I think the strongest social science research comes from questions/issues that are deeply personal.