University of Virginia, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Richard Handler

Professor & Director of Global Development Studies Program, Anthropology, Global Studies
Three-day Residency of artist Matthew Bakkom

I am a cultural anthropologist who studies modern western societies. My initial fieldwork was in Quebec (1976-1984) where I studied the Québécois nationalist movement. This has led to an enduring interest in nationalism, ethnicity, and the politics of culture. My second major field project was an ethnographic study of Colonial Williamsburg, which is both an outdoor museum and a mid-sized nonprofit corporation. This has led me to an interest in tourism and cultural development around the world. Finally, I have had an enduring interest in the work of anthropologists as critics of modernity and development. My most recent book is Critics Against Culture: Anthropological Observers of Mass Society. A different interest is the intersection of anthropology and literature. I have written on Jane Austen's novels, on the literary bent of such noted anthropologists as Ruth Benedict and Edward Sapir, and on the difficulties of writing the ethnography of nationalist movements. Finally, I have had an ongoing interest in the history of American anthropology - in particular, in anthropologists as critics of modernity, and the relationship of our discipline's critical discourse to other intellectual trends. I am the editor of the journal-series History of Anthropology. I am also completing a collection of essays entitled Critics Against Culture: Anthropological Visions of Mass Society. Specializations: Sociocultural anthropology; nationalism, ethnicity and multi-culturalism; museum studies; cultural criticism; symbolic anthropology; history of anthropology; anthropology and literature; culture theory; modern societies; contemporary North America.