Sylvia Tidey headshot

Sylvia Tidey

Assistant Professor
Unit: College of Arts and Sciences
Department: Department of Anthropology
Office location and address
Brooks Hall, 208
1702 University Ave
Charlottesville, Virginia 22904

I am a cultural anthropologist with an interest in the ethics of care in family intimacies amid particular socio–political notions of the good life.  In my various research projects in Indonesia, I address how family expectations and obligations of care blur lines between corruption and good governance in local bureaucracies, and complicate health outcomes for transgender women in the context of HIV and LGBT activism.  The questions that permeate my research are how globally circulating ideologies of improvement around health or government interact with on–the–ground governmental and health­–related practices; how the normative dimensions of such ideologies contrasts with the ethical complexities of everyday life; and what role the maintenance of family ties plays in the construction of ethical personhood.

In my first research project I examined the continuation of civil service corruption in Indonesia in the aftermath of stringent anti–­corruption measures meant to promote “good governance.” If anti–corruption did not succeed in decreasing corruption, so I asked, what did it do? I am currently working on a book manuscript based on this research, tentatively entitled Between the Ethical and the Right Thing. Based on twelve months of ethnographic research in city–level civil service in the eastern Indonesia city of Kupang, named Indonesia’s most corrupt city by Transparency International in 2008, this book uniquely draws on fieldwork conducted inside government offices and with civil servants, thus offering perspectives from the viewpoint of those so often portrayed as the main culprits of corruption. This book, then, will offer a thorough ethnographic study of the contradictory effects of anti–corruption measures, the practical and ethical dilemmas these measures pose to civil servants, and the complex ways in which these dilemmas are intertwined with configurations of state and kinship.

In my second, ongoing research project, I attend to the intersection of global and local circulations of HIV care and LGBT activism in Indonesia, which currently has one of Asia’s fastest growing HIV epidemics.  Through extensive person–centered, phenomenological research with waria – Indonesian transgender women, I look at waria’s possibilities for personhood, care, and happiness as they develop within the nexus of family, HIV–related care, and LGBT activism where contrasting conceptions of what constitutes proper personhood, care, and happiness often collide.  Central to this research are questions of how waria maintain relationships with their families in spite of carrying a double stigma as gender non–conforming persons at risk of infection with a highly stigmatized virus; what kinds of care alternatives exist outside of familial care contexts; and what the unexpected effects of some assumptions at the heart of LGBT and HIV–related care discourses are on waria health and well–being.

FORU 1500: Introduction to the Forums
Credits: 3
This course will introduce first-year students to their forum topic. Students should enroll in the section associated with the forum to which they were accepted. (See for information on the forums.)
FORU 1510: Continuing the Forum
Credits: 1
This course follows the first-semester introductory forum class and keeps students engaged in the content of their forum. Students should enroll in the section associated with the forum to which they were accepted. (See for information on the forums.)
INST 1550: Interdisciplinary Studies-Student Initiated Courses
Credits: 1–3
With sponsorship and supervision by a faculty member and approval of the Dean's Office, acting for the Committee on Educational Programs and the Curriculum, students may initiate a course in which they provide the instruction. The grade is determined by the faculty member. These courses count as "outside the College." Students in the College may offer no more than 3.0 credits for the B.A. or B.S. Consult the INST course web page at (copy and paste Web address into browser) for specific descriptions.
ANTH 2280: Medical Anthropology
Credits: 3
The course introduces medical anthropology, and contextualizes bodies, suffering, healing and health. It is organized thematically around a critical humanist approach, along with perspectives from political economy and social constructionism. The aim of the course is to provide a broad understanding of the relationship between culture, healing (including and especially the Western form of healing known as biomedicine), health and political power.
ANTH 2285: Anthropology of Development and Humanitarianism
Credits: 3
This course explores anthropological writings on development and humanitarianism to better understand the historical context and contemporary practice of these distinct modes of world saving. We will attend to critiques of development and humanitarianism, and will also consider writings by anthropologists who champion the humanitarian project
FORU 2500: Forum Capstone Experience
Credits: 3
This course is the capstone course for forum students. It is to be taken in the fourth semester by forum students only. Students should enroll in the section associated with the forum to which they were accepted. (See for information on the forums).
GSGS 3112: Global Perspectives on Corruption
Credits: 3
This course takes an ethnographically informed approach to the question of how to understand corruption by examining practices of and perspectives on corruption from across the globe - including the so-called Global North. It aims to encourage students to 1) critically assess assumptions at the heart of international anti-corruption discourses; 2) examine tensions between global discourses of corruption and local practices; 3) compare and contrast corruption between different localities.
GSGS 3559: New Course in Global Studies
Credits: 1–6
This course provides the opportunity to offer new topics in Global Studies.
ANTH 3590: Social and Cultural Anthropology
Credits: 3
Topics to be announced prior to each semester, dealing with social and cultural anthropology.
GDS 4991: Fourth-Year Seminar
Credits: 3
In this seminar, GDS majors complete their GDS research paper. Prerequisite: Instructor permission AND the student must be a GDS major in order to enroll.
ANTH 4998: Distinguished Majors Thesis Research
Credits: 3
Independent research, under the supervision of the faculty DMP thesis readers, toward the DMP thesis. Prerequisite: Admission to the Distinguished Majors Program in Anthropology.
ANTH 4999: Distinguished Majors Thesis Writing
Credits: 3
Writing of a thesis of approximately 50 pages, under the supervision of the faculty DMP thesis readers. Prerequisite: ANTH 4998.
ANTH 8999: Non-Topical Research
Credits: 1–12
For master's thesis, taken under the supervision of a thesis director.
ANTH 9999: Non-Topical Research
Credits: 1–12
For doctoral dissertation, taken under the supervision of a dissertation director.