Richard Ashby Wilson


Richard Ashby Wilson is the Gladstein Distinguished Chair of Human Rights and Professor of Anthropology and Law, and founding director of the Human Rights Institute.

Wilson is the author or editor of ten books on anthropology, international human rights, and post-conflict justice institutions such as truth and reconciliation commissions and international criminal tribunals. His articles have been published in American Anthropologist, American Ethnologist, Anthropological Theory, Current Anthropology, Human Rights Quarterly, and the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, as well as in media outlets such as The Independent, The Times Higher Education Supplement and the Washington Post. His last book, Writing History in International Criminal Trials, selected by Choice in 2012 as an “Outstanding Academic Title,” analyzed the ways in which international prosecutors and defense attorneys marshal historical evidence to advance their cases. He has served as editor of the Journal of Anthropological Theory and associate editor of the Journal of Human Rights.

Having received his BSc. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Professor Wilson held faculty positions in anthropology at the Universities of Essex and Sussex, as well as visiting professorships at the Free University-Amsterdam, University of Oslo, the New School for Social Research and the University of the Witwatersrand. He has held prestigious fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. He has consulted for various policy agencies including UNICEF in Sierra Leone and he served as Chair of the Connecticut State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 2009-2013.

His forthcoming book examines international efforts to prosecute political leaders and media figures who incite others to acts of ethnic and racial violence and genocide, titled “Incitement On Trial: Prosecuting International Speech Crimes” (Cambridge University Press, 2017). In 2017-18 he will be a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, writing about incitement and hate speech in the United States since 2016.

Area focus

Guatemala, South Africa, The Hague


ANTH 3098-Law, Culture and Society
LAW 7883 -Human Rights and Post-Conflict Justice
HRTS 5301-Contemporary Debates in Human Rights


Wilson, Richard A. (2017) Incitement on Trial: Prosecuting International Speech Crimes. Cambridge University Press.

Wilson, Richard A. (2011) Writing History in International Criminal Trials. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Selected by Choice as an “Outstanding Academic Title.”

Fardon, Richard, Olivia Harris, Trevor Marchand, Mark Nuttall, Cris Shore, and Richard A. Wilson, Editors, (2012) A Handbook of Social Anthropology. Volumes 1-2. London: Sage.

Wilson, Richard A. and Richard D. Brown, Editors, (2008) Humanitarianism and Suffering: the mobilization of empathy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wilson, Richard A., Editor, (2005) Human Rights in the “War on Terror.” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wilson, Richard A. and Jonathan Mitchell, Editors, (2003) Human Rights in Global Perspective. London, New York: Routledge.

Wilson, Richard A. (2001) The Politics of Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: legitimizing the post-apartheid state. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cowan, Jane, Marie B. Dembour, Richard A. Wilson, Editors, (2001) Culture and Rights: Anthropological Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wilson, Richard A., Editor, (1997) Human Rights, Culture and Context. London: Pluto Press.

Wilson, Richard A. (1995) Maya Resurgence in Guatemala: Q’eqchi’ experiences. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Gills, Barry, Joel Rocamora and Richard A. Wilson (1993) Low Intensity Democracy: Political Power in the New World Order. London: Pluto Press.

Selected Journal Articles and Book Chapters

2017       “Propaganda on Trial: Structural Fragility and the Epistemology of International Legal Institutions.” In Palaces of Hope: The Anthropology of Global Organizations, Ronald Niezen and Maria Sapignoli, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Available here.

2017       “The Future of the Anthropology of Law.” Political and Legal Anthropology Review (PoLAR) Online, 10 February 2017.

2016   “Experts on Trial: Social Science Evidence at International Criminal Tribunals.” American Ethnologist. Issue 43(4), November. Available here.

2015  “Inciting Genocide With Words.” Michigan Journal of International Law. Volume 36, Issue 2. January, 2015. Available here.

2013  “A Gangster’s Paradise? Framing Crime in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism and Development. Vol. 4, No. 3. Pp.449-471.

2011  “Through The Lens of International Criminal Law: Comprehending the African Context of Crimes at the International Criminal Court.” Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism. Vol. 11, No.1, pp. 106-115. Available here.

2007  “Humanity’s Histories: Evaluating the Historical Accounts of International Tribunals and Truth Commissions.” Politix: Revue des Sciences Sociales du Politique. Vol. 20, No. 80, pp. 31-59. Available here.

2006  “The Social Life of Rights.” American Anthropologist. In Focus: Anthropology and Human Rights. Vol. 108, No. 1. March. Pp. 77-83. Available here.

2000  “Reconciliation and Revenge in Post-Apartheid South Africa: rethinking legal pluralism and human rights.” Current Anthropology. Volume 41, Number 1, pp.75-98. February.