Faculty Biography

Cynthia Caron - Clark University

Cynthia Caron, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of International Development and Social Change
Coordinator of the Undergraduate Program in International Development and Social Change
International Development and Social Change
Clark University
Worcester, MA 01610-1477

Email: ccaron@clarku.edu
Phone: (508) 793-8879

Curriculum Vitae

Professor Caron has worked and conducted research in South Asia for over 15 years primarily in India, Bhutan, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka and more recently in Rwanda and Ethiopia. Living in Sri Lanka at the time of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Professor Caron spent five years managing and implementing a variety of post-tsunami relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction projects. For the United Nations, she managed a joint monitoring system that kept track of shelter and shelter-site conditions in over 400 transitional shelter sites housing tsunami-displaced families. She was Rehabilitation and Resettlement Program Manager for Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB Germany) providing financial support, construction training, and engineering oversight to displaced communities so that they could construct new homes.

In 2008, Professor Caron founded the Applied Research Unit (ARU) for the United Nations Office for Project Services providing clients in Sri Lanka's humanitarian and donor community with project design and monitoring and evaluation services. She has worked with World Wildlife Fund-Bhutan, UNICEF, UNDP, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, CARE International, FAO, and the International Labor Organization (ILO). Most recently, she served as Land Tenure and Property Rights Specialist and Senior Research and Evaluation Manager on land rights programming with the Seattle-based non-profit, Landesa.

She previously taught at Cornell University and has delivered seminars and training programs in applied social science research in Rwanda, Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka. She has served on the boards of various Sri Lankan NGOs including the Energy Forum and a disability-mainstreaming organization, Equality-Based Community Support and Training (ECSAT). She speaks, to varying degrees, both Sinhala and Tamil and has published a Sinhala-to-English translation of a children's novel. She regularly peer review manuscripts for journals such Contemporary South Asia and International Forestry Review. Her book reviews have been published in Society and Natural Resources, Contemporary South Asia, and Conservation and Society.


Ph.D., Development Sociology, Cornell University, 2003

Master of Forest Science (MFS), Yale University, 1993

B.A., Government and International Development (cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa), Clark University, 1990

Research Interests

I specialize in political and environmental sociology.My research focuses on social inequality, resource access in its broadest sense (land, forests, or development aid), and the cultural politics of development. One aspect of my scholarship focuses on working with local community organizations in Sri Lanka on their energy needs and local environmental issues.This research explores how engaging in environmental activism and exploring new frontiers with renewable energy technologies allows individuals and communities to transform ideas of citizenship, which in turn, enables us to see how the state and particular groups in society mutually constitute one another.

Another focus of my work is on internal displacement in Sri Lanka and understanding the dynamics of hosting; the act of families taking in other families that have been displaced from their homes as a result of conflict or natural disaster. This research has immediate policy and programmatic implications as the results have and can be used to design community and family level support services so that families are able to host, and therefore, spare another family from living in an overcrowded camp.

Another aspect of my displacement research examines the relationship between displacement, sense of belonging, host community integration, and the return ‘home'.This research focuses on a very particular displaced community: Sri Lankan Muslims expelled from the Northern Province by the LTTE in 1990.

Courses Offered

International Development and Social Change

ID 125: Tales from the Far Side
ID 229: Property and Community

Awards and Grants

"Housing Solutions for Long Term Conflict Affected IDPs in Sri Lanka," European Commission, 2009

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Program on Global Security and Sustainability, Research and Writing Grant, 2002

Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad, 1999

Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS), 1998, 1999, 2001-2002

John Miller Musser Forest and Society Fellowship, Institute of Current World Affairs, 1994-1996

Harvard Institute for International Development, Harvard University & Tropical Resources Institute, Yale University, 1992

Selected Publications

2011. Anna Knox, Cynthia Caron, Jonathan Miner and Allyson Goldstein. "Land Tenure and Payment for Environmental Services: Challenges and Opportunities for REDD+". Land Tenure Journal 2: 18-55.

2009b. "Left Behind: Post-tsunami Resettlement Experiences for Women and the Urban Poor in Colombo." In: Fernando, Priyanthi, Karin Fernando, and Mansi Kumarasiri (eds.) Forced to Move: Involuntary Displacement and Resettlement-Policy and Practice. Colombo: Centre for Poverty Analysis. Pp. 177-206.

2009a. "A Most Difficult Transition: Negotiating Post-tsunami Compensation and Resettlement from Positions of Vulnerability." In: De Mel, Neloufer, Ruwanpura, Kanchana N. and Samarasinghe, G. (eds.) After the Waves: The Impact of the Tsunami on Women in Sri Lanka.Colombo: Social Scientist Association.  Pp. 112-152.

2009 (with Hannah K. Wittman)."Carbon Offsets and Inequality: Social Costs and Co-Benefits in Guatemala and Sri Lanka." Society and Natural Resources 22(8): 710-726.

2007. "Needs Assessment Survey for Income Recovery (NASIR) IV: A study undertaken in tsunami-affected areas of Sri Lanka." RADA/ILO Livelihoods.Colombo: ILO. 20 pp.

2007 (with Dia DaCosta)."There's a Devil on Wayamba Beach: Social Dramas of Development and Citizenship in Northwest Sri Lanka." Journal of Asian and African Studies 42(5): 415-445.

2005. "Sri Lanka's Northern Muslim Community: Expulsion, Internal Displacement and Prospects for Return." Law Matters (October): 15-22.

2003. "Sri Lanka." In: Desai, Manisha (ed.) The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Women's Issues Worldwide: Asia and Oceania. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.Pp. 441-468.

2002. "Examining Alternatives: The Energy Services Delivery Project in Sri Lanka." Energy for Sustainable Development 6(1): 38-46.

1997. Wedding Feast.Colombo, Sri Lanka: Karunaratne & Sons Ltd.53 pp.(English Translation of Cumaratunga Munidasa's Sinhala novel, Magul Kaema).

1995. "The role of nontimber tree products in food procurement strategies: Profile of a Sri Lankan village." Agroforestry Systems 32(2): 99-117.