Academic Profile

Academic Profile

Prof John Stephen Lansing

Co-Director, Complexity Institute
Professor

Asian School of the Environment
College of Science

Email: JLANSING@NTU.EDU.SG
Phone: (+65)6908 3487
Office: Blk 2 Innovation Centre, Level 2 Unit245

Education
  • PhD (Anthropology) University of Michigan 1977
  • MA (Anthropology) University of Michigan 1974
  • BA (Highest Hon) Wesleyan University 1972
Biography
J. Stephen Lansing is a Visiting Professor in the Social Sciences at Nanyang Technological University. He is a
professor in the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona, with a joint appointment in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He is also an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute, birthplace of complexity theory, and a senior research fellow at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Before moving to Arizona in 1998, Lansing held joint appointments at the University of Michigan in the School of Natural Resources & Environment and the Department of Anthropology, and earlier chaired the anthropology department of the University of Southern California. He has been a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, the Institute of Advanced Study at Durham University, the Wesleyan Center for the Humanities and the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology in Jakarta.
As a Wesleyan undergraduate, Lansing spent six months on the Indonesian island of Bali, and promptly changed his major from physics to anthropology, graduating with highest honors. He completed his doctorate in anthropology at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton with Clifford Geertz. In the 1980’s, Lansing and ecologist James Kremer showed that Balinese water temple networks can self-organize. Later research showed that over the centuries, water temple networks expanded to manage the ecology of rice terraces at the scale of whole watersheds. In 2012, Bali’s water temple networks were recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage.
As the pieces of the water temple story were falling into place, Lansing became interested in self-organizing processes elsewhere in the archipelago. In 2000 he began a new collaboration with Indonesian geneticists, linguists and public health officials to study the co-evolution of social structure, language change and disease resistance on fourteen Indonesian islands. In 2013, he will be a visiting professor at Singapore’s new institute for complexity research, and an adviser on the governance system for Bali’s World Heritage. His recent research has to do with the long-term dynamics of coupled social-ecological systems, focusing on two topics. The first has to do with emergent properties of Balinese water temple networks. Currently he is assisting the Government of Indonesia to create a new UNESCO World Heritage site to help preserve the temple networks. The second project is a comparative study of social structure, ecology, kinship, language change and the evolution of disease resistance in 69 villages on 14 Indonesian islands. Recent books include Perfect Order: Recognizing Complexity in Bali (2006) and Priests & Programmers: Technologies of Power in the Engineered Landscape of Bali (2007). Documentary films include The Goddess and the Computer (1988), a segment of The Sacred Balance (2003), Perfect Order (2006) and Voyagers on the Ring of Fire (2011). Recent publications and films are available at www.slansing.org.
Research Interests
Lansing's recent research has to do with the long-term dynamics of coupled social-ecological systems, focusing on two topics. The first has to do with emergent properties of Balinese water temple networks. Currently he is assisting the Government of Indonesia to create a new UNESCO World Heritage site to help preserve the temple networks. The second project is a comparative study of social structure, ecology, kinship, language change and the evolution of disease resistance in 69 villages on 14 Indonesian islands. Recent books include Perfect Order: Recognizing Complexity in Bali (2006) and Priests & Programmers: Technologies of Power in the Engineered Landscape of Bali (2007). Documentary films include The Goddess and the Computer (1988), a segment of The Sacred Balance (2003), Perfect Order (2006) and Voyagers on the Ring of Fire (2011).
Research Grant
  • Academic Research Fund Tier 2 (2015-)
Current Projects
  • Co-evolution of humans and infectious diseases in island southeast Asia
  • Working Groups on Transition Pathways: Islands of Order
  • Working Groups on Transition Pathways: Islands of Order

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