Journal of Legal Anthropology Vol 1 No. 3 (2013) online edition now available on this site.  Please follow the Journal links to access promotional copies.

Richard Wilk

Provost Professor, Anthropology Department, Indiana University 
AffiliateCenter for Archaeology in the Public Interest
Faculty AssociateAnthropological Center for Training and Research on Global Environmental Change (ACT)


I am passionately interested in social theory as a means of making connections between fields and problems at different scales, making sense of applied problems and public issues, and informing research design and methodology. Theory is the thread that ties together work which might otherwise seem an odd juxtaposition; modern beauty pageants and the spread of ancient Olmec society, the shortcomings of rational choice theory and the history of Belizean cuisine, or moral talk about television and the global branding of bottled water. My work relates to and connects with topics like Development, Political Economy, and Globalization; History, Narrative, and Power; Gender and Sexuality.

I find nothing antithetical about doing both strongly scientific research and critical and interpretive anthropology. I have always worked hard to combat the polarizing discourse that has had a regrettable affect on our discipline. I continue to feel strongly that the combination of different approaches to understanding human experience is the greatest strength of anthropology.

Teaching has always been an essential part of my intellectual life. I have been teaching at least one new course a year for as long as I can remember. Teaching fundamental undergraduate courses keeps me constantly thinking of new ways to connect anthropological knowledge and theory to the kinds of issues and topics that make students want to learn. I have been teaching introductory anthropology steadily for almost 20 years, and I enjoy my undergraduate courses on consumer culture, Mesoamerica and gender. I have taught our core theory graduate proseminar, which has over the years produced an award-winning website on anthropological theory.

My teaching philosophy has been changing rapidly in the last few years, due to my involvement in service learning and in alternatives to the lecture format in large classes. I still believe strongly that the lecture has an important role in the classroom, but I have also had great success with alternative formats. The last time I taught my development anthropology course, the class did an applied research project along with a local social service agency; this was by far the most rewarding teaching experience I have ever had, and the students were equally engaged.

I see three main themes developing in my next five years of work. First, I will develop a field research project in the United States on food tastes and preferences and family dynamics; I expect to prepare a major research grant proposal in the year 2005-6. Second, I will extend my policy-related work with European collaborators as part of the research agenda now defined as “sustainable consumption.” Finally, after I complete publication of my research on the ethnography and history of food in Belize, I will begin a book on the globalization of masculinity in the nineteenth century (a paper outlining part of this project is available online at http://www.humecol.lu.se/woshglec). Finally, this summer I expect to visit Central Asia for the first time, to explore the possibility of starting a new field project in Kyrgyzstan.

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