Omidyar Postdoctoral Fellow

Eleanor Power is an anthropologist interested in how religious belief, practice, and identity interact with and shape interpersonal relationships. She studies how people work to discern something of the character, moral being, and intentions of their peers through their actions – particularly their religious action. And, she looks at how people strive to communicate something of themselves to others, both in dramatic and in subtle ways. Eleanor investigates how such actions and reactions form the basis not only of people’s perceptions of one another, but also form the substance of their relationships and the emergent structure of their social world. When such bonds are crucial to our ability to navigate and get by in the world, this ultimately is an investigation into how people’s religious lives shape their social and economic lives as well.

Eleanor does this with a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, primary among which is social network analysis. Her work is informed by signaling theory and the wider scholarship of human behavioral ecology. She is interested in the dynamics of social networks, especially relative to the factors that influence cooperation, competition, trust, and prestige. More generally, Eleanor is interested in investigating questions regarding: the role of religion in society, the interaction between costly signaling and cooperation, gender differences in prestige and social status, and the dynamics of gossip and social censure.