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Steve Chaplin
IU Communications

Last modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2012

IU's Wilk appointed to anthropology association's climate change task force

Jan. 25, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Provost Professor of Anthropology Richard Wilk has been appointed to the American Anthropological Association's new nine-member Global Climate Change Task Force.

Richard Wilk

Richard Wilk

Creation of the task force, according to association President Virginia R. Dominguez, is a step toward bringing anthropology's contributions into the spotlight and increasing its engagement with research, policy discourse and the communities with which its members work.

"Today more anthropologists across all subfields engage with climate research and more anthropologists witness its often deleterious effects on the sustainability of human livelihoods and sociocultural systems, both past and present," Dominguez said. "While biogeophysical scientists and governmental bodies decry climate changes and ecological effects, anthropologists' sociocultural and archaeological interpretations are less well-known."

Anthropologists are able to interpret from multiple scales and perspectives -- such as ethnographic and archaeological understandings of effects on livelihoods, identities and culture, and the asymmetries in global power dynamics and inequities associated with global climate change policies and responses, she added.

The primary objectives of the task force are to facilitate anthropological contributions to interdisciplinary research, and to produce a guiding document to recognize anthropological contributions to global climate change-related issues. The group will articulate new research directions, educate the public and association members on climate change issues, develop curricula for teaching about climate issues, and provide the American Anthropological Association with actions and recommendations to support and promote anthropological investigation.

Wilk noted that his primary goal while on the task force -- members were appointed through 2014 -- would be to move anthropologists to think more broadly about both the causes and consequences of global climate change.

"Most of us have been out there studying the way the changing climate is hurting people -- melting the ice which the Inuit live on, and drowning low-lying areas like Polynesian islands," he said. "I think we also need to do more research on increasing energy use, wasteful agriculture and runaway consumer culture, all of which are causing climate change."

An action plan already developed by the task force includes targets to recognize and communicate anthropological roles in and contributions to the study of climate change and climate-related issues; to produce guiding documents to recognize, promote and develop anthropological contributions to global climate change-related issues; support anthropologists and anthropology students who are interested and engaged in climate research across all sub-disciplines of anthropology; and to provide the American Anthropological Association with proposed actions and recommendations to support and promote anthropological engagement with climate change.

Wilk holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Arizona and has taught at the University of California Berkeley, University of California Santa Cruz, New Mexico State University and University College London. He has held fellowships at Gothenburg University and the University of London. His research in Belize, the United States and West Africa has been supported by three Fulbright fellowships and grants from the National Science Foundation and other organizations, including IU.

He has published over 125 research papers and book chapters, a textbook in economic anthropology and a number of edited volumes. His books include "Time, Consumption and Everyday Life: Practice, Materiality and Culture," "Fast Food/Slow Food: The Cultural Economy of the Global Food System" and "Off the Edge: Experiments in Cultural Analysis."

Joining Wilk on the task force are Susan A. Crate of George Mason University, task force chair Shirley J. Fiske of the University of Maryland, Heather Lazrus from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, George Luber of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lisa Lucero from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Anthony Oliver-Smith of the University of Florida, Ben S. Orlove of Columbia University and the University of Wyoming's Sarah Strauss.

To speak with Wilk, please contact Steve Chaplin, IU Communications, at 812-856-1896 or Tweeting IU science: @IndianaScience