Dr. Richard Wilk 4-5:15 PM, MW 131 Student Bldg.
Office Hours: T 11:00 AM- 12:00 PM or by appointment

Email: wilkr





Tests & Papers


Course Description:

Are economics the same in every culture? Are there places where people donít care about money or new clothes? Why are some people so poor, while others are so rich? Just what does anthropology have to say about economics anyway?

Economic anthropology takes highly abstract, mathematical, and dry economics and turns it into something more interesting, theoretical, controversial and complicated. We ask all the tough questions about human nature, power and social life that economics stopped wondering about, over 100 years ago. It has direct topical focus on peasants, markets, gifts and commodities, consumption, and systems of production. It is readily applied to archaeology, international business, and any other social science.

This is not "watered-down economics for the mathematically disabled." But it sure is going to be a lot more interesting than working out econometric models of interest-rate fluctuation. We are going to be reading in detail about other peoplesí economic lives, and about the major issues of poverty and development that shape the world. Throughout the semester I will argue that Economic Anthropology is directly concerned with the most central anthropological issues of human nature, choice, values, and morality. I think this semester will give you a solid basis for thinking about the different ways we explain human behavior, thought, and culture and provide a foundation for applying anthropological knowledge to real-world situations.

Our topics have to be limited, since some things simply do not fit into a short semester. Archaeologists are some of the most active economic anthropologists these days, but we only have a few readings in archaeology. The anthropology of work is missing. So is the formal study of game theory, rational choice, and decision making. These were tough choices.

With this syllabus you get a schedule of topics and lectures, and a list of readings with a schedule. Look them over and you should have a good idea of what we will cover.

The Textbook:

After many years of frustration with the lack of an integrating text in Economic Anthropology, I finally decided the only thing to do was to write my own. Starting in January of 1994, I took (unpaid) leave from the University, and then wrote for most of the next two years. In 1994 when I taught this course, the class gave me detailed critiques and feedback on the book, which I used in editing and revising the second draft. The book is called Economies and Cultures and we will use it as the basic outline for the semester. So you are not stuck with my own point of view, I have also ordered the other recent text in economic anthropology, by Narotzky.

Course Format and Requirements:

The course will require a lot of careful and critical reading that must be done on schedule. Most graduate students find the amount of reading for this course to be pretty reasonable, but undergrads will find it a bit extreme. Believe me, it is all there for a reason, and you will not be able to contribute much to the class discussion unless you have been keeping up. Class sessions will be split between lectures and discussion of the reading. At times I will call on individuals or groups of students to summarize particular articles or chapters in class - you are graded on all of these. I want you to participate fully in the class, asking questions and taking part in discussion.

Students are required to attend class regularly and participate in discussions. There will be a midterm exam in the form of a five-page paper. There is a choice of a final exam or a ten-fifteen page research paper for undergraduates. Graduate students will take the final exam and write a research paper.


Final Grades are weighted as follows:

Classroom Discussion 20%

Mid-Term Exam 25%

Final Exam 25% (55% for undergrads taking this option)

Paper 30% (55% for undergrads taking this option)




Ferber & Nelson, BEYOND ECONOMIC MAN at IU Bookstore

Mauss, THE GIFT at IU Bookstore


Acheson, LOBSTER GANGS OF MAINE at IU Bookstore


Small, Kathy VOYAGES from Tongan Villages to American Suburbs, Cornell UP

(You will have to order this one from WWW.AMAZON.COM on the web.)

A PACKAGE of Xeroxed articles on reserve in the Geography library in the basement of the Student Building. I have put these on long reserve so you can take the whole package out and copy it yourself.


You will be required to complete all coursework in order to pass the course. Requests for incompletes must be filed in writing with the instructor by December 30, 1998. Late work will be marked down, at the discretion of the instructor. You must adhere to all provisions of the University code of conduct, and may be ejected from the class for unacceptable behavior. Final paper grades will be emailed to you; you must make your own arrangements to collect final exams and papers from the instructor, or it will be discarded. Failure to attend class regularly will result in a lowered grade.



Top of Page | Wilk's Courses Page| Wilk's HomePage