Richard Ashby Wilson

Professor, Ph.D. London School of Economics, 1990


Richard Ashby Wilson is a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Law, Gladstein Chair of Human Rights, and founding director of the Human Rights Institute. He presently serves as the Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Intellectual Life at the University of Connecticut School of Law.

Wilson is the author or editor of eleven books on anthropology, international human rights, 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 Guardian, The Independent, The Times Higher Education Supplement, and The Washington Post. His work has been translated into Chinese, Danish, Italian, Portuguese, Serbian, Spanish, and Turkish. He served as the editor of the journal Anthropological Theory and associate editor of the Journal of Human Rights.

His 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. His latest book, Incitement on Trial: Prosecuting International Speech Crimes (Cambridge University Press, 2017) integrates the international law and social science of hate speech, advances a new way of thinking about how speech contributes to genocide and crimes against humanity, and reconceptualizes criminal liability for incitement as a form of complicity.

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 fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

He is committed to engaged scholarship and bringing his research into contemporary legal and policy debates about civil rights, human rights, freedom of expression, and racial and economic inequality. From 2009-2013, he served as Chair of the Connecticut State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, during which time the Commission focused on racial profiling in traffic stops and the achievement gap in high schools. In 2021, he was appointed by the governor of the state of Connecticut to the Hate Crimes Advisory Council, and he chairs the Hate Crimes Reporting and Data Analysis Subcommittee. He serves on the international advisory board of the Human Rights Quarterly and The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice, as well as the Scientific Oversight Board of the International Nuremberg Principles Academy, and the Community Advisory Board of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science.

Area focus

Colombia, Guatemala, South Africa, The Hague


ANTH 3230-Propaganda, Disinformation, and Hate Speech

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

2021    Hate Speech on Social Media: Content Moderation in Context.” Connecticut Law Review (52): 1029-1076.

2020    “Incitement in an Era of Populism: Updating Brandenburg After Charlottesville.” Co-Authored with Jordan Kiper,  Journal of Law and Public Affairs, 5(2): 56-121.

2020     “Justice After Atrocity.” In The Oxford Handbook on Law and Anthropology. Marie-Claire Foblets, Mark Goodale, Maria Sapignoli, and Olaf Zenker, eds. Pp. 1-19. Oxford: Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198840534.013.31

2019     “The Digital Ethnography of Law: Studying Online Hate Speech Online and Offline.” Journal of Legal Anthropology. Summer. 3(1): 1-20.

2019     Co-authored with Catherine Buerger. “The Practice of Human Rights.” Jeremy MacClancy (ed.), Exotic No More: Anthropology on the Front Lines. 2nd Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 291-305.

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.

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 Gangsters 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.

Contact Information
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