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.
Areas of Expertise (6)
London School of Economics and Political Science: Ph.D., Anthropology 1990
Malinowski Memorial Award, 1990
Wenner-Gren Foundation Doctoral Research Grant, 1988
London School of Economics and Political Science: B.Sc., Economics 1986
Special Subject: Anthropology
The Johns Hopkins University: Natural Sciences and Anthropology 1984
- American Anthropological Association, Political and Legal Anthropology Section
- American Ethnological Association
- American Bar Association (Associate, ABA International Law Section)
- American Society of International Law
- Association of Social Anthropologists, United Kingdom and the Commonwealth (ASA)
- Connecticut Bar Association
- Law and Society Association
Malinowski Memorial Award (professional)
Media Appearances (3)
Mass deportation isn’t just impractical. It’s very, very dangerous
Washington Post online
We’ve hit the home stretch of the election. The time has come to get serious, really serious, about understanding what’s at stake with Donald Trump’s proposal to deport 5 million to 11 million undocumented immigrants and his promise that 2 million will be deported in “a matter of months” if he is elected.
In May, former homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff told the New York Times: “I can’t even begin to picture how we would deport 11 million people in a few years where we don’t have a police state, where the police can’t break down your door at will and take you away without a warrant.” He also said, “Unless you suspend the Constitution and instruct the police to behave as if we live in North Korea, it ain’t happening.”
Demagogues in history: Why Trump emphasizes emotion over facts
The Conversation online
ou may have heard news media and political rivals describe Donald Trump as a “demagogue” this presidential primary season.
Hillary Clinton used the term to describe Trump in a MSNBC interview:
That’s what a demagogue does: They say whatever they need to say to try to stir up the passions of people.“
The term demagogue is conventionally defined as a political leader who tries to get support by making false claims and promises and using arguments based on prejudice and emotion rather than reason.
America has a deep and abiding history of demagogues, including Louisiana’s Huey Long, Alabama’s George Wallace, and Washington D.C.‘s Pat Buchanan.
In my research, I examine the efforts to hold demagogues around the world accountable for spreading violent propaganda. Kenyan Vice President William Ruto and former Vice President of Serbia Vojislav Šešelj, for example, are currently awaiting verdicts in The Hague for allegedly inciting violence against other ethnic groups. Dutch politician Geert Wilders is facing charges of insulting a group of people based on race, and inciting discrimination and hatred.
For better and worse, America is an outlier in its legal tolerance of demagogues who incite ethnic and racial hatred, in large part because of First Amendment jurisprudence after World War I that left political speech to compete in ”the marketplace of ideas.“
Safeguarding the Hague Tribunal’s Unique War Archives
Balkan Transitional Justice online
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has amassed an archive of over 10 million documents and other vital evidence which must be preserved as a permanent record of the war years.
Last week, Radovan Karadzic was convicted of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. This verdict is of tremendous importance for survivors of the war that tore apart the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and forms a milestone in the international community’s pursuit of global justice.
Bringing this highly complex case to an end is the latest of an impressive list of achievements of the Tribunal, which includes the completion of 147 such cases. As the Tribunal is preparing to close its doors next year, its contribution to international justice will be undeniable.
Richard Ashby Wilson
International and national armed conflicts are usually preceded by a media campaign in which public figures foment ethnic, national, racial or religious hatred, inciting listeners to acts of violence. Incitement on Trial evaluates the efforts of international criminal tribunals to hold such inciters criminally responsible. This is an unsettled area of international criminal law, and prosecutors have often struggled to demonstrate a causal connection between speech acts and subsequent crimes.
Richard Ashby Wilson
During the Khmer Rouge's brutal reign in Cambodia during the mid-to-late 1970s, a former math teacher named Duch served as the commandant of the S-21 security center, where as many as 20,000 victims were interrogated, tortured, and executed. In 2009 Duch stood trial for these crimes against humanity. While the prosecution painted Duch as evil, his defense lawyers claimed he simply followed orders. In Man or Monster? Alexander Hinton uses creative ethnographic writing, extensive fieldwork, hundreds of interviews, and his experience attending Duch's trial to create a nuanced analysis of Duch, the tribunal, the Khmer Rouge, and the after-effects of Cambodia's genocide. Interested in how a person becomes a torturer and executioner as well as the law's ability to grapple with crimes against humanity, Hinton adapts Hannah Arendt's notion of the "banality of evil" to consider how the potential for violence is embedded in the everyday ways people articulate meaning and comprehend the world. Man or Monster? provides novel ways to consider justice, terror, genocide, memory, truth, and humanity.
Sindre Bangstad, Irfan Ahmad, John R Bowen, Ilana Feldman, Angelique Haugerud, David H Price, Richard Ashby Wilson, Mayanthi L Fernando
Based on a transcript from the AAA 2016 roundtable on “anthropological publics, public anthropology,” organized by Sindre Bangstad, held at the AAA Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on November 18, 2016, and edited, referenced, and footnoted by Sindre Bangstad, this forum explores prominent anthropologists’ experiences of doing “public anthropology,” asks what kind of structural impediments there are in our time to the engagement of wider publics for a “public anthropology,” and what anthropologists can do better.
Margarita Marroquin-Guzman, David Hartline, Janet D Wright, Christian Elowsky, Travis J Bourret, Richard A Wilson
Understanding how microorganisms manipulate plant innate immunity and colonize host cells is a major goal of plant pathology. Here, we report that the fungal nitrooxidative stress response suppresses host defences to facilitate the growth and development of the important rice pathogen Magnaporthe oryzae in leaf cells. Nitronate monooxygenases encoded by NMO genes catalyse the oxidative denitrification of nitroalkanes. We show that the M. oryzae NMO2 gene is required for mitigating damaging lipid nitration under nitrooxidative stress conditions and, consequently, for using nitrate and nitrite as nitrogen sources. On plants, the Δnmo2 mutant strain penetrated host cuticles like wild type, but invasive hyphal growth in rice cells was restricted and elicited plant immune responses that included the formation of cellular deposits and a host reactive oxygen species burst. Development of the M. oryzae effector-secreting biotrophic interfacial complex (BIC) was misregulated in the Δnmo2 mutant. Inhibiting or quenching host reactive oxygen species suppressed rice innate immune responses and allowed the Δnmo2 mutant to grow and develop normally in infected cells. NMO2 is thus essential for mitigating nitrooxidative cellular damage and, in rice cells, maintaining redox balance to avoid triggering plant defences that impact M. oryzae growth and BIC development.
Katharine Richards, Richard Ashby Wilson
In periods of transition after political violence, a truth and reconciliation commission is one method for successor governments and international agencies to document past abuses of human rights. These temporary commissions investigate the covert activities of repressive regimes and rebel groups, document and publicize survivors' testimonies, and recommend institutional reforms and restitution for victims and their families.