At Harvard Theodore Macdonald is a Lecturer in Social Studies, a Faculty Affiliate at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, and was an Affiliate of the University Committee on Human Rights Studies.
He received his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Illinois-Urbana. From 1979-1994 he was Projects Director for the international human rights NGO Cultural Survival at Harvard’s Peabody Museum and then Associate Director of the Program on Nonviolent Sanctions and Cultural Survival at Harvard's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs until 2005.
His research and teaching focus on human rights, ethnicity and conflict, Latin America, indigenous peoples and the State, common property, land/natural resource disputes, and individual/collective property and citizenship rights. He co-edited, with David Maybury-Lewis, Manifest Destinies and Indigenous Peoples (DRCLAS/Harvard U. Press, 2009) and is currently preparing a study of natural resource conflicts in Latin America.
From 1983-1987 Macdonald was an official observer during negotiations surrounding the armed conflict between Nicaragua’s Miskito Indian organizations and Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. He has worked directly on several, high-profile, indigenous/oil disputes in the Upper Amazon and, from 1996-2002, he directed the tripartite (indigenous organizations-environmental NGOs-oil corporations) Harvard Dialogues on Oil in Fragile Environments. In 1997 he undertook the ethnographic research and subsequently served as witness for the community in the precedent-setting 2001 indigenous land and natural resource rights case, Awas Tingni vs. Nicaragua, before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
While teaching at Harvard he has received the following distinctions • Hoopes Prize for Academic Excellence- 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2010 • Certificate of Distinction in Teaching -Fall 2007, Fall 2008 • Knowles Scholar (for Small-Group Instruction) 2009-2010 • Nominated for the Marquand Award for Exceptional Advising and Counseling -2010 • The Barrington Moore Prize for Excellence in Advising, Committee on Degrees in Social Studies--2010.