Research Interests

Richard Borshay Lee's research interests have evolved over time. His early work at the University of California Berkeley, at Harvard and at Rutgers (1963-72) focused on the evolution of human behavior and the possible light that could be shed on the topic by studies of still-viable hunting and gathering societies like the !Kung San (Bushmen) of Botswana. He approached the subject through the methodological lens of ecological anthropology pioneered by Julian Steward. Moving to the University of Toronto, in the 1970s, Lee expanded his focus toward the central themes of social and cultural anthropology, the study of kinship, social and political organization, economics, and religion of traditional non-western non-state societies. Methodologically he was strongly influenced by the neo-Marxist theories of Eleanor Leacock, Eric Wolf and Marshall Sahlins. By the 1980s Lee had become actively involved in global campaigns for the rights of indigenous people facing rapid change, and in southern Africa particularly, the struggle to defeat Apartheid. In the 1990s and 2000s, as the crisis of HIV/AIDS began to emerge in Africa, Lee turned his attention to medical anthropology, conducting research and developing capacity building programs to address the health crisis. His work has always sought to bridge the divides between biological, historical, and socio-cultural perspectives in Anthropology.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 51: Anthropology

Secondary Section

Section 64: Human Environmental Sciences