At its core, Eleanor's research is about the co-constitution of individual behavior and social structure. She first studied how people’s actions, specifically their religious actions, shape their reputations and relationships, moving from the individual level to emergent properties at the societal level. Increasingly, she is interested in the reverse: how people’s reputations and relationships, embodied for example in the social networks of which they are a part, shape the very actions they undertake, and so too the responses they generate.
This cycle of action building reputation shaping action may lock in otherwise similar people to vastly differing life outcomes. In particular, for the less well off the cycle may be vicious, perpetuating and exacerbating existing inequalities through its cumulative effects. Ultimately, then, her work is aimed at understanding the complex dynamics of social and economic inequality.
Her research is primarily based around the ethnographic study of two villages in Tamil Nadu, India, where she has been working for over a decade. And, she is currently helping to lead a large collaborative effort to study these dynamics in cross-cultural perspective: the "ENDOW" project. This effort builds on earlier SFI-based collaborations and is funded by the US National Science Foundation.
Eleanor is an assistant professor in the Department of Methodology at the London School of Economics & Political Science. Prior to that, she was an Omidyar Fellow here at the Santa Fe Institute. Her PhD is from Stanford University, MSc from University College London, and BA from Brown University.