Riall Nolan

  • Professor of Anthropology
  • Dr. Nolan received his DPhil in Social Anthropology from Sussex University in the UK in 1975. He joined Purdue University in 2003.

Department Information

Anthropology // Faculty

Office Information

  • Office: STON 219
  • Office Phone: (765) 496-2014
  • Office Hours: By appointment
  • E-mail: rwnolan@purdue.edu
  • Specialization

  • International development, cross-cultural adaptation, and applied anthropology.

    Dr. Nolan’s research has centered on issues of change and development. He has done research in Eastern Senegal, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Somalia, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinee, Indonesia, Thailand, and Western Siberia.

  • Dr. Nolan worked overseas for nearly twenty years in the field of international development as a project designer, manager and evaluator, in Senegal, Tunisia, Papua New Guinea, and Sri Lanka. His experience with development includes grassroots community projects with the Peace Corps, project design and management with USAID, and policy analysis with the World Bank. He has also participated in numerous consulting assignments for both bilateral agencies and NGOs.

    Prior to joining the Anthropology Department in 2009, Dr. Nolan was Associate Provost and Dean of International Programs at Purdue. He has also held administrative and teaching positions at the University of Cincinnati, Golden Gate University, the University of Pittsburgh, the School for International Training, Georgia State University, and the University of Papua New Guinea.
    Currently half-time at Purdue, he teaches courses in applied and practicing anthropology, development anthropology, and working across cultures. He also teaches in the MPhil program in International Development at the University of Cambridge in the UK, each Fall.


    Dr. Nolan is active in several national organizations, including the Society for Applied Anthropology and the Association of International Education Administrators. He is a past board member of both of these associations, and is currently on the national board of Engineers Without Borders. He is also on the editorial board for the UK journal, Anthropology in Action.


    Fulbright Scholar, 1968-70

    Foreign Area Fellow, 1970-72

    Ford-Rockefeller Fellow, 1977-78

    GSPIA Teaching Award (University of Pittsburgh), 1994-95

    Simon Award for Internationalization (to Purdue University), NAFSA, 2006

    Timothy J. Rutenber Award for service to international education, AIEA, 2011

    Purdue Anthropology Department Teaching Award 2012


    His first book, Bassari Migrations (1986, Westview Press), was an analysis of social and economic change in a rural West African community. Communicating and Adapting Across Cultures (1999, Bergin & Garvey) was a detailed examination of the process of cross-cultural adjustment on long-term work assignments. Development Anthropology (2001, Westview Press) was selected as an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice magazine. His 2002 book, Anthropology in Practice (Lynne Rienner Publishers) is a guide for anthropology graduates who intend to work outside the academy. More recent publications include the edited collection Handbook of Practicing Anthropology (2012, Wiley-Blackwell) and Internationalizing the Academy (edited, with Gilbert Merkx), published in 2015 by Harvard Education Press.

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