1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Roy Wagner

Since the completion of my field research in New Ireland I have been interested in the objective basis of subjective phenomena like thought, imagery, representation, and symbolism. It is the difference between the objectivity of the event or encounter and the way it gets to be represented later in thought, reflection, and writing that turns real or pragmatic happening into an empirical copy of itself, into an "experience" of self and other. My interest in teaching anthropology to graduate students is to involve them and their interests as much as possible in the positive side of this, the pragmatic objectivity of cultural and conceptual phenomena. The "down side" of graduate study would have to do with making the difference between objectivity and its subjective copy as abstract, dry, and austere as possible, turning it into "anthrospeak." The brighter, or "up" side involves taking responsibility for the invention of culture, understanding if not collapsing the differences between reality and its representation. I join my colleagues in not insisting on a specific canon for how this is to be done.


Indigenous conceptual systems, especially involving kin relations; ritual, myth and worldview in Melanesia, Australia, and North America; pragmatics of cultural representation (imagery, writing, and speech) as a basis for symbolism; shamanism and curing techniques exclusive of psychological, political, or "ethnic" perspectives; studies involving the human element in technology and power concepts.

Selected Publications

2001 - An Anthropology of the Subject: Holographic Worldview in New Guinea and Its Meaning and Significance for the World of Anthropology. University of California Press.

2000 - The Reprojective Basis of Human Society. Soumen Antropologi, Journal of the Finish Anthropological Society.

1986 - Asiwinarong: Ethos, Image, and Social Power among the Usen Barok of New Ireland. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

1986 - Symbols That Stand for Themselves. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1981 - Lethal Speech: Daribi Myth as Symbolic Obviation. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

1981 - Habu: The Innovation of Meaning in Daribi Religion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1981 - The Invention of Culture. University of Chicago Press.

Department Faculty

Sonia Alconini
David A. Harrison III Professor of American Archaeology
Ira Bashkow
Goldsmith Family NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor, 2018-2021: Associate Professor
Frederick H. Damon
Eve Danziger
Professor and Director of the Interdepartmental Program in Linguistics
Lise Dobrin
Associate Professor
Gertrude Fraser
Associate Professor
Richard Handler
Professor & Director of Global Development Studies Program
James Igoe
Professor & Chair
Kasey Jernigan
Assistant Professor of Anthropology and American Studies
Adria LaViolette
Professor, Director of Undergraduate Studies
Daniel Lefkowitz
Associate Professor
George Mentore
Associate Professor
Rachel Most
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs & Professor
Fraser D. Neiman
China Scherz
Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies
Mark Sicoli
Assistant Professor, Director of Graduate Admissions
Margaret Smith
Director & Curator, The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection
Sylvia Tidey
Assistant Professor
Patricia Wattenmaker
Associate Professor
Kath Weston
Jarrett Zigon
William & Linda Porterfield Chair in Biomedical Ethics and Professor of Anthropology