Gracia Clark

Gracia Clark

Professor Emeritus


  • Ph.D., Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge , 1984
  • Certificate, Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge, 1977
  • B.A., History, Stanford University, 1974

About Gracia Clark

Bridges between theory and practice at many levels have moved anthropology forward in exciting ways in recent years. Most recently a new awareness of the relation between ethnographic theory and the interactive practice of ethnography has opened up new vistas in dialogic interviewing and reflexive writing. Critical and feminist studies of development and research have addressed new questions about the relation between the dominant issues shaping academic and policy research and the practical everyday concerns of the “target groups.”

The practice of policy making and of making research agendas now attracts its own theoretical attention, with innovative research methods practiced to increase dialogue and interaction. Tracing the active connection between theory and policy work since the early days of anthropology has fractured the innocence of the ethnographer. But it has also promoted a more active and controversial dialogue with Third World scholars and activists by joining them in the issues of concrete policy decisions and implementation that engage more of their everyday attention.

By moving between academic and applied work, in my own employment and writing, I have been actively traveling and strengthening those bridges. This has meant addressing a series of the most central current issues in development policy, from the informal sector to food security to structural adjustment, to maintain dialogue with leading critics of development as a historical process and as an international industry. It has meant investigating the latest academic critiques to evaluate their usefulness to new initiatives in development theory and new participative strategies in research and implementation. It has meant shifting my own work to include advocacy and life history work in order to integrate personal interaction more thoroughly into my research findings. It has also meant nourishing long-term relationships with African scholars, policy analysts and market women, to give more voice to their development priorities, first by repeating them and eventually by translating or transposing them into global debates over issues like structural adjustment.

I teach courses across this whole range of interests and push students to be competent and fluent in the range of skills and discourses needed to thrive in a multidisciplinary, multicultural working and thinking environment. We learn the historical and cultural dynamics of development thought and ethnographic thought. We consider the implications of using the wide range of methodologies--quantitative, literary and interactive--that researchers deploy in search of effectiveness and equity in all these arenas.

Selected Publications

Forthcoming Little By Little: Getting Ahead As Mothers and Traders in A West African City.

2003 “Gender At Work In Economic Life (ed., with introduction).” #20, Monographs in Economic Anthropology, Society for Economic Anthropology. Altamira Press