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About the Foundation

The Foundation

The Foundation was founded in 1941 by Axel Wenner-Gren as the Viking Fund, Inc. Its name was changed to the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Inc., on its 10th anniversary in 1951. A short history of the Foundation can be found here.

Since its beginning, the Foundation nurtured the discipline of anthropology and has been a leader in its continuing development. In the early years, the Foundation pursued its aims through focused research and funding programs, numerous symposia, workshops and other meetings, the production of educational materials through AnthroCast (1959-1976), and an active publication program including the Viking Fund Publications in Anthropology (1942-1979), and the journal Current Anthropology (founded in 1959).

As the field grew and developed, the Foundation also changed, establishing a strong identity that focused on the internationalism of anthropology and on its broad-based nature, encompassing sociocultural, biological and linguistic anthropology together with archaeology. The Foundation also developed a commitment to special research needs not met by other funding sources and strengthened its emphasis on innovation and leadership in the discipline.

In addition to its Board of Trustees, the Foundation has an Advisory Council comprised of six senior international anthropologists who give guidance on program development and leadership initiatives in the field. It also has over sixty reviewers who provide constructive feedback to all applicants and insure that the research that is funded is of the highest quality.

The modern Wenner-Gren Foundation is a private operating foundation committed to playing a leadership role in supporting anthropology and anthropologists worldwide. Although all our programs contribute to our mission in more than one way, we can sort them according to their importance in addressing our four major goals:

  1. To advance knowledge across anthropology's many subfields and specializations:
    • Dissertation Fieldwork Grants (for doctoral students) and Post-Ph.D. Research Grants (for established scholars) support individual research projects.
    • The Historical Archives Program preserves the anthropological record for future generations of scholars.
    • Engaged Anthropology Grants encourage the engagement of our grantees with their research community and/or scholars in their research area/country.
    • Engaged Research Grants, currently under development, will support the work of scholars whose work moves forward conversations in anthropology through studies designed and carried out in collaboration with indigenous and under-served communities.
    • Current Anthropology publishes articles and commentary covering all aspects of anthropological research worldwide.
  2. To amplify the discipline's impact by giving anthropologists the skills and platforms they need to reach broader audiences and to affirm the value of anthropology in a rapidly changing world.
    • SAPIENS shares anthropological insights with non-academic audiences, while providing scholars based in academic settings a chance to hone their skills in writing and producing podcasts for broader publics.
  3. To nurture and safeguard anthropology as a career and a discipline by helping anthropologists demonstrate the value of their discipline and develop new ways to put their skills and insights to work.
    • Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowships and Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowships provide recent doctorates with the support they need to complete articles, books, and films based on their findings.
    • SAPIENS Public Fellowships allow recent doctorates to gain skills in communicating to non-academic audiences.
    • Global Initiatives Grants fund collaborative projects falling outside our regular funding programs that are designed to help the discipline survive and thrive.
  4. To foster inclusive conversations by supporting anthropologists with different backgrounds, perspectives, methods, and commitments.
    • Wenner-Gren Symposia provide an international forum for scholars to meet and discuss cutting-edge developments in the discipline.
    • Wenner-Gren Seminars, held in conjunction with major international conferences, bring together accomplished junior and senior anthropologists who are working to change the debate on an emerging research question or theme
    • Conference and Workshop Grants support international networking at professional meetings of all sizes.
    • Wadsworth International and African Fellowships enable scholars in places where anthropology is less established to gain doctorates in world-class departments.
    • Wadsworth Institutional Fellowships enable departments in the Global South to nurture a culture of grant writing for international agencies.

Over the years, the Foundation has also helped establish major anthropological associations, such as the European Association of Social Anthropology, the Pan-African Anthropological Association) and the World Council of Anthropological Associations.

Wenner-Gren Mission Statement