Alaka Wali


Alaka Wali is curator of North American Anthropology in the Science and Education Division of The Field Museum. From 1995 to 2010 she was the founding director of the Center for Cultural Understanding and Change. During that time, she pioneered the development of participatory social science research and community engagement processes based in museum science. She currently curates the North American collection and is leading the curatorial team working on renovating the Native North American Hall. She has also engaged contemporary Native American artists to collaborate on curating experimental exhibitions that combine contemporary art with historical items from the Field Museum’s collections. Her research focuses on the relationship between art and the capacity for social resilience. She is a team member for the Neubauer Collegium’s research project “Open Fields: Ethics, Aesthetics, and the Very Idea of a Natural History.” Wali was born in India and maintains strong ties to her birth homeland.


Stress and Resilience: The Social Context of Reproduction in Central Harlem

With L. Mullings, New York: Kluwar

Kilowatts and Crisis: Hydroelectric Power and Social Dislocation in Eastern Panama

Boulder, CO: Westview Press

“Foreword. World Anthropologies,” co-authored with V. Dominguez, in American Anthropologist, Vol 12 (4), pp. 807-808 (2018)


“Anthropologists and Museums: An Interview with Joseph Weiss,” co-authored with J. Weiss and V. Dominguez, in American Anthropologist, Vol 12 (4) pp. 808-812 (2018)


“Commentary: Museums in the World,” in American Anthropologist, Vol 12 (4) pp. 812-813 (2018)


“Art, Artifact and Commodity in a Natural History Museum,” in Stories of Almost Everyone, ed. A. Moshayedi, Los Angeles, CA: Hammer Museum/Delmonico+Prestel, pp. 172-175 (2018)


"Voices Now: Alaka Wali: A Conversation with Sam Beck," in Anthropology Now, Volume 9, Number 3, New York: Taylor and Francis (2016)


"Contextualizing the Collection. Environmental Conservation and Quality of Life in the Buffer Zone of the Cordillera Azul National Park," in Wali and Odland, eds. The Shibibo-Conibo: Cultures and Collections in Context. Fieldiana Anthropology. New Series No. 45. The Field Museum of Natural History, pp. 21-33 (2016)



Native North American Hall Renovation, Field Museum, 2018 - present

Omni Wakan: Lakota Artist Rhonda Holy Bear (with Rhonda Holy Bear and Justin Richland), Field Museum, 2016-17

Drawing on Tradition: Kanza Artist Chris Pappan (with Chris Pappan and Justin Richland), Field Museum, 2016-17

Looking at Ourselves: Rethinking the Sculptures of Malvina Hoffman, Field Museum, 2015-16

Bunky Echo-Hawk: Modern Warrior (with Bunky Echo-Hawk), Field Museum, 2013-2015

Fashion and the Field Museum Collection. Maria Pinto (with Maria Pinto), Field Museum, 2012-13

Restoring Earth (Permanent Exhibition), Co-Curator (Anthropology Components), Field Museum, 2009-11

The Ancient Americas (Permanent Exhibition), Field Museum, 2007-08

Urban Gardens: Growing Chicago’s Communities (with Madeleine Tudor), Field Museum, 2001-02

Living Together: Common Concerns Different Responses, Field Museum, 1995-97


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Modern Art and Aesthetics
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