Richard Wilk

Profile photo of Richard Wilk
Provost Professor, Department of Anthropology
Student Building 130
701 E. Kirkwood Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405-7100
Phone: (812) 855-1041
wilkr[at]indiana [dot] edu

 Research Interests: Economic, Applied and Cultural Anthropology

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 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.

For more Information on Dr. Wilk, visit his personal website.

Geographical Areas of Specialization: Caribbean, Latin America, North America, and Belize

Selected Publications

2009 “Consuming Ourselves to Death.” In Anthropology and Climate Change: from Encounters to Actions,edited by Susan Crate.  Duke University Press.
2009 “The Edge of Agency: Routines, Habits and Volition” in Elizabeth Shove, Frank Trentmann and Richard Wilk Time, consumption and everyday life:  practice, materiality and culture. Oxford: Berg Publishers. Pp. 143-156.
2009 (Elizabeth Shove, Frank Trentmann and Richard Wilk) “Introduction” in Elizabeth Shove, Frank Trentmann and Richard
2009 Wilk, eds., Time, consumption and everyday life:  practice, materiality and culture. Oxford: Berg Publishers. Pp. 1-16.
2008 “Consuming America” in Reflecting on America: Anthropological Views on U.S. Culture, edited by Clare L. Boulanger, McGraw Hill. Pp. 79-85.
2008 “Anchovy Sauce and Pickled Tripe: Exporting Civilized Food in the Colonial Atlantic World.” In Food Chains, edited by Warren Belasco and Roger Horowitz, University of Pennsylvania Press.
2008 “A Taste of Home: The Cultural and Economic Significance of European Food Exports to the Colonies.” in Food and Globalization: Consumption, Markets and Politics in the Modern World, edited by Alexander Nuetzenadel and Frank Trentmann, Oxford: Berg. Pp. 93-109.
2008 Hate/Love for Foreign Food: Neophilia, Neophobia and Globalization. Critique and Humanism 25(1): 65-78. (Любов/омраза към чуждестранната храна: Неофилия, неофобия и глобализация)
2008 “’Real Belizean Food’: Building Local Identity in the Transnational Caribbean” in Food and Culture: A Reader, second edition. Edited by Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik, New York: Routledge  pp. 308-327. (Reprint).
2007 “The Extractive Economy: An Early Phase of the Globalization of Diet, and its Environmental Consequences.” In Rethinking Environmental History: World System History and Global Environmental Change, edited by Alf Hornborg, John McNeil and Joan Martinez-Alier, Lanham: Altamira Press. Pp. 179-198.
2007 “Utmaning för nästa generation – att hitta en väg till hållbar konsumption.” (Finding a Path towards Sustainable Consumption) In Konsumera mera – dyrköpt lycka, Edited by Birgitta Johansson, Stockholm: Formas Fokuserar. Pp. 111-122.
2007 “Independence, Globalization, Rice and Beans” in Taking Stock: Belize at 25 years of Independence,edited by Barbara Balboni and Joseph Palacio, Benque Viejo, Belize: Cubola Productions. Pp. 310-322.
2006 “Serving or Helping Yourself at the Table.” Food, Culture and Society 9(1): 7-12.
2006 Orvar Löfgren and Richard Wilk, “Introduction.” In Off the Edge: Experiments in Cultural Analysis.Edited by Orvar Lofgren and Richard Wilk, Copenhagen:  Museum Tusculanum Press. Pp. 5-12.
2006  “Smoothing.” In Off the Edge: Experiments in Cultural Analysis. Edited by Orvar Lofgren and Richard Wilk, Copenhagen:  Museum Tusculanum Press. Pp. 23-28.
2006 “But the Young Men Don’t Want to Farm Any More: Political Ecology and Consumer Culture in Belize.” In Reimagining Political Ecology, edited by Aletta Biersack and Peter Brosius, Durham: Duke University Press. Pp. 149-170.
2004 "Miss Universe, the Olmec, and the Valley of Oaxca." Journal of Social Archaeology 4 (1): 81-98.
2004 "Poems on the theme of 'Gleaning', and 12 photographs of recycled consumer culture in West Africa." Consumption, Markets, Culture 6(3): 183-205.
2004 "The Binge in the Food Economy of Nineteenth-Century Belize." In Changing Tastes: Food Culture and the Processes of Industrialization, edited by Patricia Lysaght.  Basel: Verlag der Schweizerischen Gesellschaft fur Volkskunde. Pp. 110-120.
2004 "Morals and Metaphores: The Meaning of Consumption." In Elusive Consumption, edited by Karin Ekstrom and Helene Brembeck. Berg Publishers. Pp. 11-26.
2003 "Colonial Time and TV Time: Television and Temporality in Belize." In Television: Critical Concepts, edited by Toby Miller. Routledge. Pp. 418-430. (reprint)
2002 "When Good THeories Go Bad: Theory in Economic Anthropology and Consumer Research." In Theory in Economic Anthropology, edited by Jean Ensminger, Altamira Press: Walnut Creek. Pp. 239-250.
2002 "Television, Time, and the National Imaginary in Belize." In Media Worlds, edited by Faye Ginsburg, Lila Abu-Lughod and Brian Larkin, University of California Press: Berkeley. Pp. 171-186
2002 (Kelly Askew and Richard Wilk) The Anthropology of Media: A Reader. Blackwell
1998 (with Priscilla Stone) A Very Human Ecology: Special Issue of Human Ecology in Memory of Robert. M. Netting. Human Ecology 26 (2)
1996 Economies and Cultures: Foundations of Economic Anthropology. Westview Press.
1995 Colleen Cohen, Richard Wilk and Beverly Stoeltje "Beauty on the Global Stage: Pageants and Power". Routledge.
1991 Household Ecology: Economic Change and Domestic Life among the Kekchi Maya of Belize. Arizona Studies in Human Ecology, University of Arizona Press. (Paperback edition by Northern Illinois University Press in 1997).
1990 (with Mac Chapin) "Ethnic Minorities in Belize: Mopan, Kekchi and Garifuna." Monograph No. 1, Society for the Promotion of Education and Research, Belize City.
1989 The Household Economy: Reconsidering the Domestic Mode of Production. Boulder: Westview Press.


NP Andrew Opel and Richard Wilk, special issue of Environmental Communication, "Food, Culture and the Environment: Communicating About What We Eat."
2009 Elizabeth Shove, Frank Trentmann and Richard Wilk Time, consumption and everyday life:  practice, materiality and culture. Berg Publishers.
2006 Fast Food/ Slow Food: The Cultural Economy of the Global Food System. Altamira Press.
2006 Orvar Lofgren and Richard Wilk Off the Edge: Experiments in Cultural Analysis. Museum Tusculanum Press (University of Copenhagen).Also published as Ethnologia Europea: Journal of European Ethnology, 2005:1-2. Includes 5 of my photographs.
2005 (with Frank Trentmann) Series EditorConsumption and Public Life, Palgrave Macmillan
2002 (with Josiah Heyman) Series EditorGlobalization and the Environment, Altamira Press. 10 books published.