janine Wedel

janine Wedel

janine Wedel

Distinguished University Professor

Anthropology of Public Policy, Influence Elites, Corruption, Central and Eastern Europe, Foreign Aid, Governance, Privatization of Policy, Social Networks

Janine R. Wedel writes about governing, corruption, foreign aid, and influence elites through the lens of a social anthropologist. A university professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, Wedel is a pioneer in applying anthropological insights to topics dominated by political scientists, economists, or sociologists. She has an internationally recognized record of innovative scholarly research, and inquiry into current intellectual issues. She has been named a Global Policy Chair at the University of Bath, UK, and a Fellow at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. She is the first anthropologist to win the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order, an honor typically reserved for political scientists (previous recipients include Samuel Huntington and Mikhail Gorbachev).

Wedel is co-founder and president of the ASsociation for the Anthropology of Policy (ASAP), a section of the American Anthropological Association.

A five-time Fulbright fellow, Wedel has also won awards from the National Science Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Institute for New Economic Thinking, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the New America Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the International Research and Exchanges Board, the Social Science Research Council, the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research, the United States Institute of Peace, the German Marshall Fund, the Eurasia Foundation, the National Institute of Justice, and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, among others. Wedel’s latest book, Unaccountable: How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt our Finances, Freedom, and Security (Pegasus, Oct. 2014), was named in the Bloomberg survey of 2014 favorite reads. Wedel’s books have been widely and favorably reviewed (see http://janinewedel.info/books.html). Shadow Elite: How the World’s New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government and the Free Market (Basic Books, December 2009), was book of the month for The Huffington Post and received a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Contemporary Sociology called it “an example of the cutting edge of the discipline [of anthropology].” Choice writes that “Wedel… presents an arresting theory of power that deserves wide attention….as a thinker she is in the same league as John Kenneth Galbraith and Charles Lindblom.”

Wedel’s Collision and Collusion: The Strange Case of Western Aid to Eastern Europe (Palgrave 2001) was named “impressive and informative” by Foreign Affairs. American Ethnologist called it “a tribute to the high caliber of Wedel’s journalistic and anthropological abilities alike and a reminder of the need for a re-envisioned and effective anthropology brought to bear on pressing social issues.”

Her first book, The Private Poland: An Anthropologist’s Look at Everyday Life (1986) which Osteuropa Wirtschaft called “a brilliant account of contemporary Polish society” was likened by the Christian Science Monitor to Hedrick Smith’s The Russians. Wedel has also published the coauthored Confronting Corruption, Building Accountability (2010) and The Unplanned Society: Poland During and After Communism (edited, translated, annotated and introductions, 1992), which the British anthropology journal Man called a “pioneering work.” A public intellectual, Wedel has contributed analysis pieces to more than a dozen major outlets, including the New York Times, Financial Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal Europe, Los Angeles Times, National Interest, Nation, Salon, Washington Times, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Politico, Huffington Post, Salon, and others. She has a regular featured column in The Huffington Post. She has served as an associate producer of three PBS documentaries. Her television appearances include CNN, MSNBC, PBS, C-Span, AlJazeera, and Russia Today, as well as many radio shows, including BBC and both NPR and satellite.

Wedel has testified before congressional subcommittees and written for the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress and units of the United Nations, the World Bank, and the OECD. Her stops on the university lecture circuit include Harvard, Yale, Columbia, MIT, Chicago, Berkeley, Princeton, Oxford, Brown University, the University of Toronto, Central European University (Budapest), Vrije Universiteit (Amsterdam), the University of Zagreb, the University of Warsaw, London Business School, the Institute of Social Studies (the Hague), the University College London, United Nations University/WIDER (Helsinki), and the Freie Universität (Berlin). Her recent non-university audiences have included TEDx (Berlin), the Bruno Kreisky Institute (Vienna), the European Journalism Observatory (Lugano, Switzerland), the New America Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the National Press Club, National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences workshops, watchdog NGOs, and congressional staff.

Her work has been favorably reviewed and quoted in the New York Review of Books, Economist, New York Times, Newsweek, Financial Times, Vanity Fair, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Investor’s Business Daily, New Republic, Foreign Affairs, Chronicle of Higher Education, and Publishers Weekly, among many others. It has been reviewed or translated into Chinese, Danish, French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, and Turkish.

Selected Publications

UNACCOUNTABLE: How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt our Finances, Freedom, and Security. New York, NY: Pegasus Press, October 2014, http://janinewedel.info/Unaccountable-Flier.pdf, http://janinewedel.info/books.html.

CONFRONTING CORRUPTION, BUILDING ACCOUNTABILITY: Lessons From the World of International Development Advising (with Lloyd J. Dumas and Greg Callman), New York, N.Y.: Palgrave, 2010.

SHADOW ELITE: How the World’s New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market. New York, N.Y.: Basic Books, 2009, http://janinewedel.info/books.html. Paperback: March 2011. Huffington Post Book Club Selection.

PRYWATNA POLSKA (THE PRIVATE POLAND). With updated introduction: “The Private Poland, A Quarter Century Later.” Warsaw, Poland: Wydawnictwo Trio, 2007.

COLLISION AND COLLUSION: The Strange Case of Western Aid to Eastern Europe. 2nd edition, New York, N.Y.: Palgrave, 2001.
Winner, 2001 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order

COLLISION AND COLLUSION: The Strange Case of Western Aid to Eastern Europe 1989-1998. 1st edition, New York, N.Y.: St. Martin’s, 1998.

THE UNPLANNED SOCIETY: Poland During and After Communism. Edited, translated, annotated, and introductions. New York, N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 1992.

THE PRIVATE POLAND: An Anthropologist’s Look at Everyday Life. New York. N.Y.: Facts on File, 1986.

Courses Taught

Courses Developed (or Co-Developed) and Taught

  • Culture and Public Policy
  • Corruption and Public Policy
  • Culture, Organization, and Technology
  • Advanced Field Research for Policy: Theory and Method
  • Interview and Ethnographic Research Methods
  • Political and Economic Anthropology
  • Civil Society
  • Western Aid Policies to Central & Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union
  • Anthropology of Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union
  • “Mafias,” Institutional Change, and the State in Central and Eastern Europe & Former Soviet Union

Other Courses Taught

  • International Organizations and the Policy Process
  • International Commerce and Culture
  • Capstone in International Affairs
  • Capstone in International Development


Ph.D-1985 University of California, Berkeley

M.A.-1980 Indiana University, Bloomington
Anthropology, East European Studies

B.A.-1978 Bethel College, N. Newton, KS
History and the Soc. Sciences, German

1976-1977 Philipps-Universität, Marburg, FRG
Political Science, History, and German