In Memoriam

The department faculty below have recently passed away. Our thoughts and condolences go out to the family, friends and colleagues of each.

Ray Fogelson

Prof. Raymond Fogelson, Emeritus Professor in the Departments of Anthropology, Comparative Human Development, Psychology, and the College, passed away on January 20, 2020. Fogelson received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1962 and taught at the University of Washington before joining the Department of Anthropology in 1965. He was widely recognized as a leading authority on Native American ethnology, with a specific focus on the Southeast. His expertise was wide ranging, including the comparative studies of religion, psychological anthropology, museum anthropology, tourism, hunting and gathering societies, and he was a founding figure in the field of ethnohistory.

Fogelson was well known for his encyclopedic knowledge of the history of anthropology and of North American indigenous cultures. He was equally known for his generosity to students, and commitment to building programs both on campus and across professional societies. After his retirement in 2011, the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences created The Raymond D. Fogelson Prize in his honor, for the highest distinction in the field of ethnology or history. Legendary for his wild sense of humor and generosity of spirit, Fogelson’s professional service included supporting new anthropology programs on multiple campuses, establishing and nurturing professional societies, and mentoring students working at the intersection of Native American Studies, the Anthropology of Museums, Psychological Anthropology, and Ethnohistory.

Fogelson served as the President of the Central States Anthropological Society in 1983 and the President of the American Society for Ethnohistory in 1987. He was also the book review editor for American Anthropologist for many years and mentored many emerging scholars in this roll. Fogelson maintained a vast professional network of former students and colleagues and was a highly in demand lecturer and invited speaker throughout his career. He held visiting professorships at the University of Texas at Austin, the University of California-Santa Cruz, twice at the University of California-San Diego, and three times at Princeton University.  

Fogelson conducted field work with members of the Eastern Cherokee, Shuswap, and Oklahoma Cherokee and Creek communities. A prolific writer of articles and scholarly reviews, Fogelson’s books include The Cherokees: A Critical Bibliography, an edited collection Contributions to Anthropology: Selected Papers of A. Irving Hallowell and a co-edited collection with R.N. Adams The Anthropology of Power.  Fogelson’s most prominent publication was as sole editor of the Smithsonian’s authoritative Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 14, Southeast.

Fogelson was a devoted teacher, with boundless energy for people and scholarship, and made vital contributions to intellectual life on the University Chicago campus. Our thoughts and condolences go out to all his family and friends.


Nancy Munn

Prof. Nancy Munn, Emerita Professor of Anthropology, passed away on January 20, 2020. Munn joined the University of Chicago in 1976 to become the first female full professor in the Department of Anthropology. A pathbreaking researcher and theorist, she conducted field work in Australia and Papua New Guinea, and made major intellectual contributions to understandings of symbolism, value, and space-time relations.

Munn was raised in New York, completed her PhD at Australian National University in 1961, and taught at University of Massachusetts, Amherst before moving to the University of Chicago. She was a Guggenheim Fellow, held a visiting membership at the Institute for Advanced Study, and won numerous research awards before her formal retirement in 1997. An active presence in the Department of Anthropology until very recently, Munn continued to work on cross cultural understandings of space, time, and place and was a much-loved colleague for faculty and students across campus.

Munn’s first book was Walbiri Iconography: Graphic Representation and Cultural Symbolism in a Central Australian Society (1973, Cornell University Press).  She gave the prestigious Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures at the University of Rochester in 1976 which became, after several years of additional fieldwork, the basis for her most influential work, The Fame of Gawa: A Symbolic Study of Value Transformation in Massim (Papua New Guinea) Society (1986, Cambridge University Press).  In 2010, Munn delivered the keynote lecture for a Department of Anthropology conference exploring “qualia” – a term she used for the ways in which sensations are experienced, coded, and understood within sociocultural orders. This conference provided the basis for a special issue of Anthropological Theory in honor of her work. Her keynote focused on “The Decline and Fall of Richmond Hill” an early 19th century house in what is now Manhattan, part of Munn’s wide-ranging historical study of transformations in economy and landscape in antebellum New York City. This was part of an ambitious book project that continued her groundbreaking contributions to sociocultural understandings of time, space/place, and value.


Marshall Sahlins

Prof. Marshall Sahlins, the Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology and in the College, passed away on April 5, 2021. Sahlins was a singular force of nature, an original thinker, teacher, mentor, and spirited intellectual pugilist, one who will be equally remembered for his keen wit, constant humor, and generous humanity.

Sahlins joined the Department of Anthropology as Professor in 1973 after receiving his doctorate in Anthropology at Columbia University in 1954 and teaching at the University of Michigan for over fifteen years. He retired in 1997, devoting himself to fulltime research and writing as well as serving as Executive Publisher of Prickly Paradigm Press, which revied the eighteenth-century pamphleteering tradition as a provocation to contemporary thought.

A world-renowned scholar and teacher, Sahlins made fundamental contributions to the anthropology of history, economy, and culture. His primary research was on indigenous Pacific Island communities during the European contact period, engaging Hawaiian and Fijian modes of kinship, political structures and concepts of nature as serious philosophical systems. His enduring interest was to show how cultural difference works in history and how history shapes culture, and to argue for the fundamental value and rigor of indigenous modes of thought. These concerns led him to major critiques of capitalist economics, of socio-biology, and of modernist concepts of nature. Collectively, this body of work transformed the discipline of anthropology and moved it to the center of contemporary debates about capital, science, and imperialism. He was widely known for his lectures and love of intellectual debate. A fierce and fearless defender of intellectual and academic freedom, Sahlins was a committed activist. He invented the “teach in” as a way to mobilize communities on campus to address U.S. wars, neoliberal reforms, and the homogenizing effects of economic globalization. In his teaching, lectures, and writing, he mobilized the integrity of cultural difference as a way of radically reorienting interdisciplinary debates on economy, society, authority, and subjectivity.

A prolific and passionate writer, he authored nineteen books, produced over one hundred articles and essays, and his work has been translated into over twenty languages. Key publications include: Stone Age Economics (1972), Culture and Practical Reason (1976, which won the Gordon J. Laing Prize), Islands of History (1985), Anahulu: The Anthropology of History in the Kingdom of Hawaii (1992, written with Patrick Kirch, which won the J.I. Staley Prize), How “Natives” Think: About Captain Cook, for Example (1995, which won a second the Gordon J. Laing Prize), Culture in Practice (2000), What Kinship is—and is Not (2012), and On Kings (2017, written with David Graeber). In recent years, Sahlins was devoted to completing a projected three volume magnus opus on Oceanic cultures and thought. The first volume, The New Science of the Enchanted Universe, is forthcoming from Princeton University Press in 2022.

Sahlins was a Member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Fellow of the British Academy. He lectured widely and internationally, including giving the Marc Bloch Lecture at the Sorbonne, the Sir James Frazer Lecture at the University of Liverpool, the Radcliffe Brown Lecture at the British Academy, the Sir Douglas Robb Lectures at the University of Auckland, and the Ryerson Lecture at the University of Chicago in 1992, to name but a few. He was awarded honorary doctorates from Université Libre de Bruxelles (1985), University of Paris X-Nanterre (1999), University of Michigan (2001), St. Andrews University, Scotland (2003), Universidad Federale de Minas Gerais, Brazil (2006), The London School of Economics (2011), University of Paris V (René Descartes) (2011), and McGill University (2017). In 2011, he was awarded Chevalier de l’Ordre de Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.

Michael Silverstein

Prof. Michael Silverstein, Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology, of Linguistics, and of Psychology and in the Committee on Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities, passed away on July 17, 2020. Silverstein joined the Department of Anthropology in 1971 as an Associate Professor after being a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard. Over a half century at the University of Chicago, he produced a body of work that fundamentally changed the place of linguistics in the field, with foundational contributions to the understanding of language structure, sociolinguistics, and semiotics, as well as the history of linguistics and anthropology. His fieldwork included research in the Pacific Northwest on Chinookan languages, among the Worora and Northern Kimberley Aboriginal societies in Australia, and on a wide range of issues related to U.S. society and political culture.

Silverstein's erudition, sense of humor, love of scholarship, of teaching, of conversation and substantive debate is legendary and helped establish the intellectual strength of the University of Chicago in all the many different fields he was part of. His Language in Culture lectures alone have trained generations of scholars to think differently about semiotics and communication, providing a new theoretical language for understanding how speech and other semiotic media function dynamically, for how meaning is structured and achieved in discursive practice, and of the interactional grounding of culture and cognition. Silverstein was a prolific writer of essays, articles, and reviews, providing professional service across the University of Chicago and to seven professional societies (including serving as the founding Vice President and then President of the Society of Linguistic Anthropology). He served on the editorial boards of American AnthropologistLaw and Social InquiryEthnosFunctions of Language, and the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, among others. His books include Whitney on Language, Natural Histories of Discourse (with Greg Urban), Talking Politics, and Creatures of Politics (with Michael Lempert).

Silverstein's list of academic honors includes being named a MacArthur Fellow in 1982. He held a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1979, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1991, and to the American Philosophical Society in 2008. Silverstein received the Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching at the University of Chicago in 2000 and gave the 47th Nora and Edward Ryerson Lecture in 2019 in recognition of his lasting contribution to the intellectual life of the University of Chicago. In 2014, he received the highest award offered by the American Anthropology Association – The Franz Boas Award for Exemplary Service to Anthropology.