Mary Racelis continues her lifelong fascination with anthropology by teaching one graduate class each semester at the UP Department of Anthropology. The subject differs every semester, she points out, as “That pressures me into reading intensively in areas I want to learn more about.” Her students have thus been exposed to the anthropology of poverty and wellbeing, evidenced-based social legislation, urbanization and urban informal settlements, human rights, rural society, and globalization. Fieldwork forms an essential part of her classes, with each student instructed to consult with the groups participating in the research as to the kinds of information they might find useful. Students are also encouraged as “engaged anthropologists” to provide feedback on the research results to those who generated the data.
A Research Scientist at the Institute of Philippine Culture, Ateneo de Manila University, and its former Director, as well as Professor at the Ateneo’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology, her most recent research in collaboration with anthropologist Jane Austria-Young entailed culturally sensitive education for indigenous and Muslim children. Other research interests have led to notable publications on poverty and wellbeing among urban poor children, youth, women and families in informal settlements; urbanization, community organizing and people’s participation; reproductive health, governance, gender, civil society, sustainable development, church and society, and engaged anthropology. She has been a strong advocate of the RH Law. Her research in the region has included the socio-cultural impact of the Nam Theun Dam in Laos on affected communities, and pro-poor tourism in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
Professor Racelis obtained the BA in Sociology and Anthropology from Cornell University, 1954, and MA in sociology from the University of the Philippines in 1960. De la Salle University awarded her the Doctor of Social Sciences, honoris causa, in 1975, while Ateneo de Manila University conferred upon her the Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa, in 2003.
Active in civil society affairs, she has served on several international boards like Oxfam America and the International Institute on Rural Reconstruction, and national NGO Boards like Community Organizers Multiversity, Urban Poor Associates, and Freedom to Build. Her professional positions include UNICEF New York 1979-83 as Sr Policy Specialist – Family Welfare, Women and Community Participation; UNICEF Nairobi, Kenya 1983-92 as Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa; Ford Foundation Country Director, Manila, 1992-97, and social development consultant to Misereor, Peace and Equity Foundation, the Philippine government, Asian Development Bank, AusAID, UNICEF, World Bank and World Food Programme. In 2003-04 UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed to her to his Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations—Civil Society Relations. She also takes great pride in being the mother of five and the grandmother of 13 children.