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Global Perspectives: Edward Green ’59

Daintry Duffy Zaterka '88
Edward Green’s background as an anthropologist has informed his work on AIDS prevention in Africa.
Having a slight British accent and no knowledge of baseball or football, Ted felt out of place at Fay, but there were bright spots. As one of the few boys who knew about horses, Ted enjoyed taking care of the horses at Fay and riding on the trails near school. He also experienced the glimmer of wider opportunities ahead. In his memoir, he recalls sitting by the window in English class one spring day as his teacher, expounding on the prospects of the students in his class, exclaimed, “You will become doctors and teachers and explorers and scientists and wealthy businessmen, and some of you will be artists and writers and musicians and philanthropists… Just think of the sheer potential right here in this room! It’s staggering, extraordinary!” Unused to such encouraging remarks, this statement made an impression on Ted, who recalls thinking, “maybe even I would have an interesting life as an adult!”
Ted went to Groton and graduated from the Seoul American High School in Korea, where his father, Marshall Green, diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to Indonesia and Australia, was stationed. He returned to the U.S. to study anthropology at George Washington University, earning a master’s degree in anthropology at Northwestern and a Ph.D. at Catholic University. For his dissertation, Ted spent two years living in the Amazon rainforest with the Matawai, a tribe of Suriname Maroons descended from escaped rebel African slaves who had learned subsistence skills from local Arawak Indians. Through this work, Ted developed an appreciation for economic and international development.
Ted’s research and consulting work has focused on all aspects of public health, including infant nutrition, reproductive health, assisting war-traumatized children, and combating HIV/AIDS. He lived for four years in Swaziland and for two in Mozambique. “By the time I got to the Harvard School of Public Health in 2001 (where he focused on African and global HIV/AIDS prevention and policy/program innovation), I had worked on all inhabited continents except Australia.”
Following the science of human behavior has occasionally put Ted at odds with the establishment. He is a pioneer in anthropological research on African indigenous healers, who serve as a local and primary source of health care for many Africans. Ted’s work to engage with indigenous healers and find areas of common ground led to the founding of programs in Nigeria, Mozambique, South Africa, and Swaziland that combine western and indigenous health knowledge to promote good public health practices. Ted also published three books on the topic of indigenous healing and beliefs. In total, he is the author of nine books and over four hundred fifty peer-reviewed articles, papers, and reports.
In his book, Rethinking AIDS Prevention: Learning from Successes in Developing Countries (2003), Ted challenged the western approach to AIDS prevention as ineffective in Africa. “People were spinning theories of AIDS and poverty in Africa,” he explains, “but in reality the people in urban areas with greater wealth and mobility were most impacted.” Ted pointed to epidemiological evidence from Uganda, where a behavior-based approach that encouraged fidelity to one partner significantly reduced AIDS transmission. In a March 2009 editorial in The Washington Post, Ted created a stir by aligning himself with Pope Benedict XVI’s stance on the issue. “I eventually became burnt out by the global debate that this and other of my publications provoked,” he notes.
When his Harvard AIDS Prevention Research Grant ended in 2010, Ted established The New Paradigm Fund in Washington, D.C., to support research and programs that improve health and well-being in under-served populations worldwide, with particular emphasis on embracing indigenous peoples’ beliefs and practices. Ted is now retired and working on his memoir, Have Degree, Will Travel: Tales of a Renegade Anthropologist. He and his wife Suzie split their time between Washington, D.C., and Kittery Point, Maine.
In 2016, Ted was asked to establish an archive of his field notes at the Smithsonian, including photographs and audio recordings from his time living with the Matawai in the early 1970s. In 2018, some members of the tribe of Suriname Maroons came to Washington to study his archive, and he invited them over for dinner. They spoke Matawai with Ted and admired the photographs that he had taken of their famous chiefs. Ted stays in touch with the tribe members through WhatsApp, and a year after the dinner party, one of the Maroons contacted him about the recordings of old tribal songs in his archive. Ted got his tapes, and through the app, the village was able to gather and listen to songs that many of the younger tribe members had never heard. Apparently, the new wi-fi in their village, deep in the Amazon, is quite good.

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