David Riches was trained in Social Anthropology at the Universities of Cambridge and then London, from where he took a doctorate in 1975. He moved to a lectureship at St Andrews in 1979, after having taught at Queen’s University, Belfast for six years. He was one of the founding fathers of St Andrews’ Social Anthropology, which he helped to build with Ladislav Holy in size, reputation and international standing over the following years. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1992 and took early retirement in 2005 on grounds of ill health, which brought to an end a distinguished career of over 25 years service at St Andrews.
Author of two monographs (on northern nomadic hunter-gatherers, and with Ruth Prince on New Age movements), editor of four major thematic collections of essays (including the volume ‘Anthropology of Violence’), and responsible for over 40 journal articles, book chapters and other scholarly publications, David based his work on field research conducted among Inuit Eskimos (1970-72) in the Arctic, and among alternative communities and new religious movements in the UK (1990). His research interests included the study of peace and violence, complementary medicine, human social evolution, and hunting and gathering societies in comparative perspective. He also worked actively to promote medical anthropology in the Dept, and was instrumental in obtaining external funding for numerous research projects.
Over the course of his career, he gained a reputation as a stalwart of the Department and a keen advocate of Social Anthropology; he was a good servant to the University, performing the roles of Head of Department (1991-94) and Acting Head of School (1992). An inspirational and popular teacher to scores of undergraduates and numerous postgraduate research students, he commanded deep respect and admiration from all those who passed through the Department. He was the best and most loyal of colleagues; he was an anthropologist and scholar of distinction.
He is survived by his wife Elizabeth and his son Adrian.
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