Dunham completed “Surviving Against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia,” for the University of Hawaii in 1992, after a frequently interrupted span of 14 years. The thesis focuses Javanese craftsmen in the village of Kajar in Indonesia. Dunham examined, in 1,000 pages, how metalworking provided an economic alternative for an area dependent on rice production. Between 1988 to 1992, Dunham also worked with Bank Rakyat Indonesia to build a microfinance program.
Dunham died of ovarian cancer three years later. She was 52.
Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama’s half-sister and Dunham’s daughter, enlisted the help of Dunham’s graduate adviser and a student who had performed research alongside her. Alice Dewey, University of Hawaii professor emeritus of anthropology, and Nancy Cooper, adjunct professor and lecturer in anthropology, revised and edited the dissertation.