Richard Wilk

Richard Wilk

Emereti Distinguished Professor, Anthropology

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  • Office Hours
    By Appointment Only


  • Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Arizona, 1981
  • B.A., Anthropology, NYU, 1974


I am passionately interested in social theory, and use any tools I can find to help me understand how the world works. I find my interests are shaped by the concerns and issues of the time; this 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 Commodity chains, 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 enjoy my undergraduate courses and have taught our core theory graduate proseminar, which has over the years produced an award-winning website on anthropological theory.

At the moment my major research interests are in food studies, particularly the history of food globalization. I continue to engage with work on climate change, mostly through participation in the sustainable consumption community, but also as a member of the AAA Task Force on Climate Change. In the next few years I will be directing the Indiana Foor Research Center, part of the new Indiana Food Institute.

Honors and Awards
  • Honorary Doctorate conferred by Lund University in 2012