IN MEMORIAM: Dr. Michael Clark Kearney

Anthony Metcalf: "Aes Triplex" (Robert Louis Stevenson)

As courage and intelligence are the two qualifications best worth a good man’s cultivation, so it is the first part of intelligence to recognized our precarious estate in life, and the first part of courage is to be not at all abashed before the fact.


Sheila Kearney McClellan: "Mickey: Childhood Memories"

If I try to capture in a few moments the boy, the son, the brother, the cousin, the uncle who we call Mickey, I would begin by telling you that we grew up in a veritable Garden of Eden. My first vivid memory of my brother is the day my mother allowed us to venture outside the ten foot fenced yard our parents had built to contain Mickey. I can still hear my mother calling,"hold her hand".   Outside the heavy gate, the three year old and the six and one-half year old headed down the long sweeping back lawn, through a forest of oaks, buckeyes, and under a canopy of elms and eucalyptus until we came to a sand bar along the trickling creek. Crawling under the shrubs I saw for the first time a waterfall tumbling over gigantic boulders into a huge pool of clear water. My grandparents had built a dam to form a swimming hole and a means to canoe up the San Lorenzo creek where they had helped two other families of relatives purchase property. Mickey caught two little turtles which he undoubtedly hid in the pockets of his overalls. Somehow we kept such treasures a secret so that our mother would never know that we had ventured so far from the house. That creek was our school, our sanctuary, our Narnia. There we learned to swim, we built rafts, and forts, ground acorns with original mortars and pestles, found other artifacts left by the Ohlone Indians, and hid in caves that had served as their steam baths as we spied on tramps. It doesn’t get much better that that for two kids.

Ironically our private haunt is a homeless camp today. I know some of the guys. The park district has salvaged this sacred meeting area from the ravages of CALTRANS. The caves, with Mick’s guidance, have been archived at Kroeber Hall. They say you cannot go home but Mickey and I did every so often. We took Ian and Katie there and I will scatter some of Mickey’s ashes there.

My best memories of my brother mostly have something to do with outdoor adventure. We spent summers at our cousin’s ranch in Bend, Oregon. Myron is like our big brother. We skied in the winter. Twice Mickey and I climbed Mt. Shasta, once with Jim and Naomi Miller.

My parents had a genuine love for their parents and we were well-loved and loving children. Our home was base for many relatives and we were never sure whom my father would be bringing home for dinner or to stay until they could get on their feet again.  He never passed up a hitchhiker in uniform. Six Japanese men lived at our home in order to avoid internment. Our driveway entrance was home for several summers to a horse drawn wagon with Gypsies who camped along the creek and made willow furniture.

Our father was a tireless general practitioner and our mother was a registered nurse. Just like our grandparents, they went on house calls almost every night. The dinning room table occasionally served as an operating table for emergencies and we often assisted my parents. So I believe our careers and lifestyles were nurtured and nudged long before college.
What remains most meaningful will be some of the experiences during these last few months and days. Despite his optimism, my brother had been working very hard with closure and he has left no stone unturned. At first we started talking more frequently on the phone, then we took a trip together, just the two of us, to visit May Boy, his au pair. Then he and Carole came to visit. Then we talked practically every day. Then Ethel-May and I came to visit a few times. This Hospice process of his has been an incredible experience.   When caring for someone you love with their friends you’ve not known, it takes only a moment to feel a deep bond.  Meeting someone who also has this special relationship with someone you love is an ultimate intimacy.

Sadness is an interesting emotion and often is confused with depression. I think when we experience sadness we intensify our ability for feeling and new possibilities are presented.

I am thankful that I could experience this and accept the love that has surrounded Mickey. I thank my partner Ethel-May and my friend Kathleen. I have wonderful friends--Deb and Tony, Leland, Kristine, Renata and George, Wendy and Tom. I have a deeper relationship with my niece, Mary Anne and her husband Jimmy, and a tighter sisterhood with Carole. I knew this was going to happen but I am stunned by the fact that Mickey had such a special relationship with each individual here today.


Kathleen Turk Surós: "Autumn" (Buscon)

When I go out of the gate,
I also am a traveler,
In the autumn evening.


Deborah Bennett: "Michael as Friend and Neighbor"

Many people have spoken abut Michael from different perspectives, busy professional, family member, teacher, researcher, mentor, excellent anthropologist, activist for human rights and the specific rights of individuals, but I would like to address another perspective-that of friend and neighbor living in very close proximity for 23 years. We virtually lived with Michael for this long period of time. Michael and Carole bought a 7 acre chunk of hillside in what was then Sunnymead in the mid 1970’s. When they bought the land, there was a small house made of plywood on it.  It was 10 ft. by 30 ft. When Michael and Carole built their house the "cabin" as it came to be called, was moved to a graded spot at a slightly higher elevation than Michael and Carole’s big house.  Students and friends found shelter there from the mid 70’s to the early 80’s. Then Tony and I arrived and it seemed as if we would never leave. We loved it there.  We were nestled among the rocks and boulders of coastal sage scrub habitat. We were surrounded by tall eucalyptus and towering Aleppo pines, and old elms. We had nearly 100 birds on the yard list. We had legless lizards, granite spinys, rattlesnakes, king snakes, gopher snakes, we had possum, foxes, bobcat, lots of coyotes, and probably a time or two a mountain lion. But most of all, we had Michael. 
As we all know, we present different parts of ourselves in our different worlds. But there is one place where we can be real and true and that is home. And for all those years, we saw, heard and felt Michael at home. From his coffee first thing in the morning, leaving for work as the hawk watched from the old tree, coming home to dinner. If Carole was there, a fine cooked meal. If on his own, a more modest repast. Sometimes eating with us, but mostly not. And many, many times working until late into the night with the small lamp burning on the corner of his desk. What a comfort it was to go to sleep at night knowing that Michael was there and would be there in the morning.

Michael loved his chunk of the hillside. He spent countless hours doing all the things you do to keep up with most of the seven acres. He would put his books and notes down, change into his work pants, boots, shirt and hat, grab a machete or a weed whacker and cut, trim, haul, move, chip, for hours or even days sometimes. He had an old Toyota pickup and he would put 10 ft. plywood sides on the bed and fill that thing to overflowing for a dump run. We always imagined it just might not make it…But it always did. Michael referred to it as "the place." "It’s good to have a dog on the place" he would say. Or "Carole’s coming in. Better get the place cleaned up" One of my favorite memories is looking out our doorway late on a hot Saturday afternoon and seeing a figure sort of behind Michael’s house, hosing himself down with cold water to get the dirt and dust of a twelve hour day of chopping, clearing and hauling off his body.
We had adventures and experiences that could never begin to be replicated. We had dogs and cats that we loved and shared the care of. We had Constantino, the Paraguayan prisoner of conscience that Michael and Carole brought to the place to help him rebuild his life. One summer Carole and Constantino cured olives, storing them in about 10 five gallon jars. The sound of those jars of olives crashing through the shelves in the pantry and glass breaking on the floor is with us today.
There were Mixtecas, some coming as visitors, some coming to help work on the place, some coming to live. The Avila family-five brothers from San Jeronimo pulled a 30 ft. trailer onto the place and made it the hub of their life in Southern California. What fine friends and neighbors they were!  I am not sure they always thought the same of us. They had the habit of leaving their shoes on the steps outside the trailer at night. Our dog, Fina, had the habit of going to the trailer and bringing a shoe or two or three home to us. 
There were other students-a young couple with two kids who used Michael and Carole’s house for a few weeks one summer.  They went off to Disneyland and left the toilet running.  Ruined carpet, ruined rugs, but that was the price of friendship and kindness. 

There were celebrations of milestones shared, Carole as chair of Amnesty International-we were all so proud!, Carole’s job at New Mexico, my getting a teaching credential and a good job, my husband completing his BA in biology and finishing his Ph.d, going from freeway flyer to tenured professor, to full professor this year. Michael becoming a member of the AAA of Science and many more. We had dinner at the Mission Inn more than once to celebrate these events, including Tony and I marrying after 19 years together. Michael saw us through it all. There was tragedy, as well. The most horrific, life changing being the death of Claire in 1998, followed by Michael’s mom Ellen later that year. We pulled together, we were there for each other.
Our Michael, as I called him, didn’t have a worry bone, flooded floors, no problem, big earthquake where Carole was-Oh, yeah, I heard about that, need to rescue a dog that is choking to death?  Michael’s your man. Always calm, cool and knowing the right thing to do.
I don’t want to make it sound like we spent a lot of time hanging out together. In many ways we did not. But Michael was always a presence for us, and we measured our days and months and years by him for so long. I don’t know if he ever knew how closely we observed him. As a former student of anthropology, Michael was my "subject". We missed him when he was gone and felt more peaceful when he was on "the place". Leaving there was the absolutely hardest thing I have ever done in my life and in many ways we have continued over these last five years to measure out time by Michael’s cycles. We always think of where he is and what he is up to. We made frequent trips to Jose’s for fajitas, we dropped in. We have been most fortunate to be with Michael and Carole these last few months. I had the opportunity to look right into his eyes and tell him how much I loved him. He didn’t like it a whole lot, but he appreciated it. Tony did the same, in the very special way he and Michael had of deeply communicating with each other as intellectuals, as care takers of others, and as men.

And we had the privilege of sharing the vigil with Carole, She, MaryAnne, Jimmy, Ethel May, and Kath, Leland, Christine, Renata, George. Our Michael.

In the end the Place was Michael’s and now Michael is of the Place. I saw him the other evening. I walked out of the house toward evening and the wind was blowing the tops of the tall pines. There was Michael in the trees, in the air, part of the Place forever. 

Michael’s illness and passing has taught me that I don’t know what will happen next year, next month, tomorrow or even five minutes from now, but I do know that Michael will be a presence in our lives forever.


Kathleen Turk Surós: "My Wish Under the Moon" (Rengetsu)

How I wish to die
in autumn moonlight,
not to be lost,
even in darkness.


Christine Gailey: "Michael Miguel"

Your fiery intellect burst forth, a shooting star
When injustice demanded
Your wiry frame with shoulders broad for comforting
Your heart gigantic and soft

As the cows that warmed scrawny Irish kids
Before famine and enclosures drove survivors to West-bound exodus,
Their stony crofts abandoned and, by now,
Privatized vacation getaways
For the rich.

Michael Miguel
Your people came West and breathed again
But you did not romanticize the reasons for it
Promoting wide awareness 
Of uprootedness, betweenness,
And the human cost
Of profit.

You knew how to help
Deploying expertise and nationality
But only on behalf
Of those whose accidents of birth and class
Prevented recognition
Of knowing and belonging.

You helped as well in quiet ways,
The ways of kin
The godson’s graduation suit (his first),
The immigration fee provider,
The work when job loss threatened neighbors
Near and far.

But quietly
So all involved could walk with dignity,
Supported as we were in mind and body and heart
For the good fight and fiesta beyond.

And so, go further West,
Our Michael Miguel
You leave us, yes,
But with a spark,
A sinewy strength,
And generosity
For kith and kindred travelers
Across this lapis world that
Holds us and belongs to all,
The two-footed and the four-,
On the path of life-and-death.


Wendy Ashmore: "Prsopero’s "Farewell," from The Tempest" (William Shakespeare)

Our revels are now ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you,
Were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made of, and out little life
Is rounded with a sleep.


Jimmy Weiss: "Michael as Family Man"

Hello everybody I'm Jimmy Weiss, Michael and Carol's son in law. First I want to say that it's an honor to be asked by Carole to stand in for my wife Mary Anne, who has become ill and unable to speak today. But it is also an honor to stand at this podium and show respect for Michael amongst so many of his life long colleagues, friends, and family.

I knew Michael for only three years but during that time, I came to know not only a brilliant and humble academic man, but a dedicated and loving family man. I have fond memories of the day I met Michael. I recall being in the car with Mary Anne to "Meet the Parents" for the first time and wondering what I was up against. For men, it's always his woman’s father he thinks most about.  Will he be eyeballing me up and down, will he be frowning, will he try to be intimidating? These thoughts gathered like storm clouds as we approached the house. When we walked in the door, there stood Michael and Carole, smiling and welcoming, warm and accepting, and quite pleasant looking! I was very relieved and conversation came easily. Michael made me feel comfortable and the process of getting to know one another happened very quickly. We talked about everything from the beautiful furniture in his house to exercise and weight lifting. Tweaking my arm with his fingers he said, "Wow, looks like you work out." I replied, (humbly) that yes I did and before I knew what was happening, this man whom Mary Anne had told me was in his late sixties, was standing on his head,  his feet straight up in the air, doing push ups! I couldn't believe it, and I watched in amazement until eventually he dropped to the floor in a very smooth athletic form and said, "Boy that really gets the blood going." Of course Michael asked me if I wanted to try it, (I just knew that was coming), and there was no way I was going to decline such an invitation, especially with so much male bravado in the air! Terrified, I went down on  hands and knees, took my last breath of oxygen, threw my feet up in the air and.. and.... Blam! Down I went, flat on my back..! Needless to say, everyone laughed uproariously and I learned a good lesson. It was a wonderful evening, one I will never forget.

This picture of Michael, smiling, warm and oh so kind, reminds me of the man I will remember.  Many people here have known Michael for decades; I knew him such a short time. However, there isn't anyone here who ever had an experience like asking Michael for his daughter’s hand in marriage!  When I sat in the living room with Carole and Michael and asked permission for their daughter’s hand, Michael was the one who asked the two toughest questions before they gave me their blessings. "How do you feel about Mary Anne’s children? ", and, "Are you prepared to support them?" We discussed those issues in addition to being responsible and present for Mary Anne. And I want to tell you, while we were having those two little conversations, the smiling face you see on Michael here on this card WAS NOT PRESENT. A serious man, concerned for his family, was sending me a very clear message, and I thoroughly respected that. That was Michael, he loved his grandchildren and wanted to make sure they spent the remainder of their childhood years in a stable and loving household. Many times I saw him come down to the desert and pick up John on his way to visit his other grandson, young Daniel, and they would all spend the day together. I remember him sitting with John talking about anything John was working on in class from the origins of the earth to recent American history.

I will miss Michael very much and I'm glad for this opportunity to thank him once more for accepting me into his family. I know I speak for Mary Anne when I say we will love Michael and remember him for the rest of our lives. Thank you everyone for coming today and honoring this wonderful man.


Bonnie Bade: "Michael as Mentor"

Michael Kearney has been a beloved mentor and friend to many, many people over the course of his 40-year career as professor of anthropology at UC Riverside. In these few days leading up to today, I have received correspondence from dozens of his past students recounting the wonderful qualities that endeared him to them. I read these letters with tears as students recalled his passion, commitment, and open door policy. They speak of how Michael constantly kept them on their toes, challenging assumptions and pushing them to think beyond the borders of their presumed understanding of realities. One student wrote that "he was a man who was universally respected by his peers, but never demanded respect and always gave it." His students write that when they saw his office door open, they would think of excuses to go in and visit and then were amazed that he always made them feel welcome, and, most importantly, valued. His students saw him as a brilliant thinker who was compassionate and sensitive and who reminded them that our work was an attempt to "contribute to the total sum of human knowledge," as he put it.  Michael’s students were proud to be associated with him. They saw him as a mentor and professor committed to the highest ideals of anthropology who sought enlightenment and taught his students to respect and honor the communities with whom they worked.

Michael Kearney changed people, forever. His vision of anthropology has shaped at least three generations of anthropologists who embody his ideals of commitment, collaboration, and the meaningful practice of anthropology. With Michael as my mentor, I always felt protected and proud, but more importantly, I felt special. He saw in me a person I had no idea that I could be. Through gentle guidance Michael steered me into a world in which he knew I would blossom. I remember the first time we met. After a few minutes of conversation he ended up inviting me to work with him as a research assistant in Oaxaca over the summer. I thought "this guy is going to pay me to live in Mexico, is he nuts?" He drove to my parent’s house and spent several hours convincing them that their daughter would be safe with him. And I always was. Something about Michael made me trust him completely. From the day I met him I innocently expected unconditional love from him and I always received it. He supported me through not only the academic and personal challenges of graduate school, but also through the emotional and heart-wrenching upheavals that twenty-year-olds face as they grow and mature to realize that they are not the center of the universe. I have depended on Michael to set me straight for the last 25 years. Together we have cultivated a life-long relationship based on respect and love that transcended the student-mentor relationship and has deeply shaped the person I am today.

To Michael, anthropology was not a discipline, but rather a way of life. His gift to me and others was to provoke self-reflection. He would make little comments to make me question my assumptions, drop a hint that would at first piss me off, and then stick in my craw and force me to examine how I think about things and how I understand the world. Because he cared, he would call regularly to find out how things were going and what I was doing and thinking—even years after I had completed my dissertation and had become a professor of anthropology at Cal State University San Marcos. As my mentor, Michael has instilled in me core principles of respect, collaboration, commitment, and enthusiasm towards the work of others. Through his teachings and guidance I was inspired to develop an anthropology department founded on community-based on-going collaborative research with local communities. It is thanks to Michael Kearney that Cal State San Marcos has its advanced anthropology students working side-by-side with members of local tribal communities, immigrant activists, and Oaxacan home town associations to generate original research. Michael’s vision of having Oaxacan students research and write about their own communities is being realized at Cal State San Marcos as two of the students he mentored, myself and Konane Martinez, put into practice the ideals he taught to honor and respect the communities with whom anthropologists work.

Michael Kearney has influenced many lives and will continue to do so for generations. He is now changing the lives of my students. Surfers, ex-military service men and women, single moms, and children of Oaxacan migrants who have come to CSU San Marcos and found a home in anthropology. They are drawn to the hands-on, compassionate, and cooperative approach of our anthropology program that is the direct result of Michael’s teachings and guidance. We strive to put into practice all that Michael has taught us, knowing that we can and will make a difference in this world.

Michael’s mentoring has impacted whole and new generations beyond the realm of anthropology. The respect and honor he practiced in all aspects of his life—from friendships to collaborations with whole communities—has permeated all of us and influenced how we deal with our selves, our families, our students, and our communities. I have been faced with many a problem in my life and have found strength and courage when I asked myself "what would Michael do?" He will always challenge us to be better, more compassionate, more respectful. Michael Kearney is a part of each and every one of us here. His ideas, enthusiasm, and good will live on in our actions and dreams. When I look at you, I see him. I see his love and I love you the more for it because you love him too. So many people from so many places and backgrounds—he brought us together. He started something and we are here to continue it. Michael Kearney lives on inside all of us.


Georg Gugelberger: "Michael as a Friend and Colleague"

Collegues, Friends, Amigos

I have deliberately chosen these words since you will observe a gradation, a growth in my relation with Michael.

October and November were two sad months for anthropology. On October 30th died the author of "Sad Tropics" and of the "Structural Anthroology." Only barely two weeks later died Michael Kearney. We were colleagues (the word comes from co-legere, to collect, maybe to read together) since 1970 when I arrived at UCR. Michael had arrived some three years earlier. These were the years of French Structuralism influenced by Claude Lévi-Strauss and his Structural Anthropology. It was the happy confluence of (literary and critical) theory and anthropology. Where anthropology and critical theory met, discussing structuralism, deconstruction, Marxism, post-marxism, neo-marxism, Michael and I were at hand and involved in the same college activities: co-legere, to collect, to read together, we simply were colleagues.

Maybe it was Michael’s interest in Mexico, to me at first somewhat enigmatic, that got me to apply for directorships at our EAP Study Center in Mexico, a position I held for the first time during the 80’s and then again and again during the 90’s and on into 2000. Being in Mexico, living in Mexico, it also was a first hand experience of what Michael thought and felt in Oaxaca. After my first return in 1986 from Mexico Michael and I met more often. Michael convinced me to join LAP (Latin American Perspectives) and together we edited a two volume special issue on the Latin American testimonio, on testimonial literature, that was entitled "Voices of the Voiceless." And we began meeting more and more often at Michael and Carole’s home, at our home, in Albuquerque where Carole taught and lived. Out of collegiality came friendship. Let me quote Emerson: "Happy is the house that shelters friends." This house we entered again and again.

Before leaving from Riverside to Mexico City by car this year after a recall teaching stunt at UCR we saw Michael at another place where he was less at home but where friendship nonetheless dominated: at a hospital after a cancer operation. Michael as usual was the perfect optimist (if an optimist can be perfect?). I said to him that for the next months don’t do any push ups and no weight lifting. He responded : not for a week or two. And later I learned that a few weeks before he died he still could do some 100 push-ups. I can’t do ten.  Incredible. When we learned from Carole about the sad state of Michael’s health in November, we flew up to see him a last time. We arrived at the house in Moreno Valley at 2:00PM. At 9:00PM the same day Michael passed. We and some other friends stayed near his bed side. The house again became a house of friendship. Through Michael new friends were found. As a wise man (Epicurus) said: "Of all the means which wisdom gives us to ensure happiness throughout our lives, by far the most important is friendship."

We have lost a dear friend, but we shall not lose his memory. As the famous Welsh poet said:

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain,
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

The word amigo derives from Latin amare, to love.

We love you Michael,
farewell amigo.


Gaspar Rivera: "Michael and Mixtec Activism"

Michael Kearney was for the Mixteco migrant community both a solid ally and a critical thinker who contributed with his intellect to the struggle of the Mixteco community to advance the rights of all indigenous Mexicans.

Michael played an important role in advancing the struggle of indigenous migrants thought the forging of innovative and beautiful theoretical concepts that were appropriated by activist to focus and advance their struggle. Michael coined key concepts such as transnational indigenous community and Oaxacalifornia. At the beginning these concepts appeared strange and too abstract. Eventually they became the cornerstone of the discourse of many activists and indigenous organizers both in California and Mexico.

However, Michael was not happy with just writing about the struggle of indigenous organizers, he wanted to have a direct impact in their struggle. So he become involved in working with organizers and develop organizing strategies that would eventually lead to the formation of some of the most important grassroots organizations formed by Mixteco migrants in California. Michael attended endless meeting and debated vigorously with strong-headed militant Mixteco activists. Some of these meeting were held in his own home in Moreno Valley, where he fed and nourish the minds and bodies of a whole generation of Mixteco leaders. This work extended not only through the Central Valley and Southern California regions, but also into Tijuana and the Mixteca region in Oaxaca.

It was such a pleasure to witness the way Michael would light up the room with his kind and jovial face. He had a kind and generous demeanor that would disarm the most aggressive opponent with an out of the blue joke or a remark in Mixteco. He was also able to overcome many different borders in his own work. In English, Spanish or Mixteco. And this showed in his appreciation of the other, in his respectful treatment of the very diverse groups of people who were part of his world. He could deliver a solid illuminating testimony as an expert witness in a court delivering on a case of a monolingual Mixtec migrant and also he could reach out to the community leaders or share a carne azada with his compadres from San Miguel del Progreso.

In addition Michael was always reminding indigenous leaders of the importance of learning from other experiences. And the most important contribution to the struggle of indigenous peoples was his advice to organizers to always keep in mind the balance between refusing to live our lives as victims and never allow ourselves to become the victimizer of others.

The way Michael lived his life is the most potent example that this can be achieved only by the constant care of the other, by the endless reminder that the other, the poor, the marginalized are people who also deserve the right to live their lives with the expectation to fulfill their dreams. This generation of Mixtec activists can claim this legacy for them and for the world.

Hasta siempre amigo Michael!


Carole Nagengast: "Remember me at Sunset" (Richard Fehn)

Remember me at sunset as radiant colors bathe the sky
Gather in the warmth as you take pause
And recount the brilliance of the day
A time for thought and reflection as the clamor subsides,
If I have brought you inspiration, or only a smile
My very existence will have been true.

Passing on into twilight, see how the sky clings desperately
To what remains, be easing gently into darkness
Where night will cradle you in peaceful slumber until the dawn.
When in your waking, it is revealed that everything has begun anew.


A memorial reception was held on November 18, 2009 at the Kearney-Nagengast residence in Moreno Valley, California, and was attended by more than 250 people from a range of countries. During the reception a group of Michael’s friends and colleagues from Mexico and the United States gathered in the living room to share memories and stories about their histories with Michael and his contributions to communities, the well-being of those around him, and anthropology.  Bonnie Bade introduced Ron Chilcote, who summarized Michael’s career and read dozens of emails from people expressing their esteem and love for Michael. With that introduction, others came forth, speaking in English, Mixtec, and Spanish to convey their thoughts and memories of Michael. The following are representative.   


T. S. Harvey "But Beautifully"

Into the endless unfolding,
We dive, each in our turn,
Leeward on the waves, without pressure,
Seaward to the farther shore,
Distances too far for mortal vision,
Places unremembered yet foreseen,
Times when season replaces reason,
Here, leaves change… but beautifully,
Under the branches of life’s oldest tree,
Home, a place for you and a place for me.

[T.S. Harvey, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, UCR]


Isabelle Placentia

I remember taking Dr. Kearney’s Political Anthropology course as an undergraduate. At that time I knew that I loved the field of anthropology, but really didn’t have a focus to continue on to graduate studies. I would ask myself, "How are the concepts and approaches of the field relevant to today?" "How can they pragmatically be applied to have meaning and significance to the societies and people we are privileged to study?" Long story short:  Dr. Kearney’s lectures provided the answers to these questions and today I am a second year grad student at UCR. He always lectured with such enthusiasm that you could not help but engage with the material. He truly had a gift for breaking down the complex concepts and making them available to us students. The "car differential" is one that always comes to mind or the "Jujitsu politics" (I use this today with my students). Through the personal stories he would interject into discussions, like his and his wife’s participation in the birth of their guest’s child on their property in Moreno Valley, you really got a sense of Political Anthropology in action or "on the ground".  I will always be grateful for his example of activism and that spirit will serve to guide my academic and personal life.
The last time I saw Dr. Kearney was at a lecture by A. Sen. My friend and I were always so excited to see him and to have a conversation with him. During the lecture we noticed him dozing off and the "the head bob". We, of course, giggled, because he reminded me of my father—always going 100 miles mph with his hair on fire, but sit him down for two minutes and he was out like a light.  To his family: thank you for sharing him with us. He was a wonderful spirit and a beautiful human being.

[Isabelle Placentia, Graduate Student, UCR]


Jim O’Connell

Michael was a good friend and I was very sorry to hear of his passing. The news brought me back in many ways to our time together at UCR in the early '70s.

My former spouse Laura and I knew Michael from the Berkeley anthropology department in the 1960s. He was a bit ahead of us in the program. We weren't well acquainted at the time, but had close mutual friends. As I recall, Michael left for UCR in about 1967 or'68; we came along in the fall of 1970 and stayed for two and a half years. We didn't see each other much the first year: we were all busy in our various ways.

Somehow, in the summer of '71, the three of us decided to move to a house in Grand Terrace - corner of Mt Vernon & Main. It was a great old place, an early 20th C. two-story, 'sort-of­ Victorian.' The lot was divided into four parts - the house itself w/ a large lawn fronting on Mt. Vernon; the fruit orchard and chicken coop behind; next to that an open patch soon to be covered w/ Laura's vegetable garden; and another open but well fenced area bordering the garden and house that served for awhile as Michael's goat run and later a place where members of the local 4H Club kept their mischievous pigs. The property also hosted five mature avocado trees, which kept the department well supplied w/ fruit whenever they were in season.

We all socialized a lot, as did many other members of the department. The house was a perfect venue for it. Big parties, and all the shenanigans that went w/ them, including the occasional back yard goat-roasting exercise - which always seemed to be arranged by Michael's protégés among the undergrads - were easily accommodated. So were the 'casuals' who dropped by now and then for a schmooze, and maybe dinner if they could swing the invite from Laura. Michael's good friend, the redoubtable Harry Lawton, was a particularly frequent visitor.

There's one story that always comes to mind when I think about those days, and about Michael in what I can only describe as a quintessentially 'Michael' moment. It was winter '72, on an evening a bit too cold to be riding home, as I was, on the scooter. I came in through the kitchen - Laura was cooking. 'Watch out for the dog,' she said. 'What dog?' There it was, in the front room: a full-sized black-and-white Great Dane, sprawled across one of Laura's red Afghan rugs. 'Whose is it?' 'Belongs to some friend of Michael's.' 'Where are they?' 'Upstairs, busy.' Later, they came down to dinner. I can't recall the woman's name, or much about her, other that she was from some place in northern California. Oddly, it seemed from their conversation (hers and Michael's) as if they had just met. Laura and I were curious but held back. They disappeared after dinner and she left the following morning. That night, when Laura, Michael and I re-convened for dinner, Laura posed the obvious question -'Who was that?' 'So-and-so from such-and-such,' said Michael. 'Do you know each other well?' 'No, we just met.' 'Well, why was she here?' Michael smiled his perfectly impish smile and said: 'She heard about me.'

Vale, Michael - may the road rise up to meet you and the wind be always at your back.

[Jim O'Connell, Lecturer in Anthropology UCR, 1970-72, Professor of Anthropology, University of Utah]


Rufino Domínguez-Santos, "Al gran Maesto Michael Kearney, en gratitude a su apoyo solidrio a los indígenistas migrantes"

A nombre de la Mesa Directiva y el Personal del Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indigena Oaxaqueno (CBDIO), expresamos nuestro profundo pesar a Carole Nagengast por el fallecimiento de su esposo, el reconocido y comprometido antropologo Michael Kearney, quien fallecio en la noche del dia 12 del presente mes despues de batallar un ano con el cancer de pancreas, en Moreno Valley, California.

La consolidacion del CBDIO, representa un fruto de su contribucion comprometida con las comunidades y pueblos indigenas migrantes y no migrantes oaxaquefios en Mexico y los Estados Unidos.

Por esto, Michael Kearney fue y sigue siendo un ejemplo para los academicos, profesionales e investigadores de como realmente deben de trabajar y contribuir de manera mutua en beneficio de los investigadores y los investigados. El profesor Kearney siempre fue una voz nuestra y se Ie considera el padre del complejo concepto de TRASNACIONALISMO que se utiliza para referirse al fenomeno migratorio.

A partir de que el profesor Kearney acuno este termino, muchos estudiosos de la migracion, los gobiernos, las instituciones y las organizaciones no gubernamentales han hablado de "comunidades trasnacionales". Por ello, reconocemos y damos credito a este gran personaje que estuvo trabajando con nosotros muy cercanamente.

Apelamos a la conciencia de la nueva generacion de investigadores cuando realizan sus trabajos con las comunidades y sus organizaciones indigenas, a continuar este ejemplo para que ambos seamos beneficiados, y no solamente como suele pasar de que muchos vienen, sacan la informacion y se alejan para nunca mas volverlos aver.

Gran maestro Michael Kearney, te estamos extrafiando y nunca vamos a olvidar tus brillantes aportaciones: Descansa en paz!


To great Master Michael Kearney, in gratitude for their support and solidarity for indigenous migrants

On behalf of the Board and the Staff of the Binational Center for Oaxacan Indigenous Development (CBDIO), we express our profound sympathy to Carole Nagengast by the death of her husband, the renowned and committed anthropologist Michael Kearney, who died in the night of 12 of this month after a year battle with pancreatic cancer, in Moreno Valley, California.

The consolidation of CBDIO, is a result of your contribution committed to the communities and indigenous peoples Oaxacans migrants and non migrants in Mexico and the United States.

For this, Michael Kearney was and remains an example for scholars, practitioners and researchers as they really should work and contribute mutual benefit of researchers and investigators. Professor Kearney has always been a voice and Ie we considered the father of the complex concept of MNC that is used to refer to the phenomenon of migration.
From that Professor Kearney coined this term, many students of migration, governments, institutions and NGOs have spoken of "transnational communities". Therefore, we recognize and give credit to this great character who was working very closely with us.
We appeal to the conscience of the new generation of researchers as they carry out their work with indigenous communities and their organizations, to continue this example so that we both benefit, and not just as often happens that many come, pull out and leave information for never again see.

Grandmaster Michael Kearney, we're extrafiando and we'll never forget your brilliant contributions: Rest in peace!

[Rufino Domínguez-Santos, Executive Director, Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaceño]


Ronald Chilcote and Jan Rus, In Memoriam: Michael Kearney (1937–2009)

Our dear friend, colleague, and fellow editor Michael Kearney passed away on November 12, 2009. He was a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Riverside. His research was focused on Oaxaca, Mexico, and involved extensive fieldwork in the Mixtec-speaking region, specifically in San Jerónimo Progreso. At the same time he was one of the first to conduct research with people who maintained ties and lived in communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border and coined the term "transnational communities" to refer to their unique unique social structures and cultures. Beyond his many collaborations with students and colleagues from UCR and Mexican universities, he played a leading role in the training of the first generation of native Mixtec-speaking young men and women as anthropologists. In his descriptive, ethnographic work as well as in his development of new concepts to explain his observations, he never stopped challenging scholars across the social sciences to think in new ways.

Michael’s fellow editors of Latin American Perspectives think of him as one of its founders, even though he joined the journal after 1974. He was closely involved with LAP for over 30 years and as coordinating editor organized and edited a number of issues on the themes of his own research. Early on he contributed to the third of a series of important issues on the peasantry (Volume 7, Issue 27, Fall 1980). Later he collaborated with Georg Gugelberger on two issues on testimonial literature (Volume 18, Issues 70 and 71, Summer and Fall 1991). Together with Rodolfo Stavenhagen, he coordinated and wrote the introductory overview of an issue on ethnicity and class in Latin America (Volume 23, Issue 89, Spring 1996). And finally, with Bernadete Beserra, he organized an issue on migration and identity (Volume 31, Issue 138,September 2004). In addition, on behalf of the editorial collective he wrote introductions to six other issues: on health, violence, race, and class (Volume 10, Issue 38, Fall 1983), on populism, reform, and state crisis (Volume 11, Issue 43, Fall 1984), on repression and resistance (Volume 12, Issue 46, Summer 1985), on religion, resistance, and revolution (Volume 13, Issue 50, Summer 1986), on popular protest (Volume 13, Issue 51, Fall 1986), and on agriculture and labor (Volume 14, Issue 54, Summer 1987).

One of us knew Michael from the time he joined the faculty at UCR in 1967. In our conversations during those years, we worked through the implications  for our respective research and for the journal of the critical theories of the time, first on dependency and the relationship of underdevelopment to development and later on class and class struggle and the importance of modes of production as an approach to understanding capitalist development or lack of it. We also worked together to develop interdisciplinary studies on Latin America at UCR, and together we supervised graduate students from our respective departments.

The other first met Michael at a conference about undocumented migration in the early 1980s. In a paper for that conference Michael described his becoming involved with migration when friends from the Mixtec community where he had long worked in Oaxaca showed up at his front door in Southern California asking for help. For those who knew him, Michael’s response and the course of his talk will seem completely in character: when a friend needs you, you don’t rest until you’ve done everything you can. But at the time no one could have predicted where this solidarity would take him over the next quarter century. By the time he retired from UCR in 2008, he had done groundbreaking work on the migration of indigenous people from Latin America to the United States: not only ethnographic work of the very highest order on the migrants from Oaxaca and not only theorizing that produced concepts that would soon come into general use for understanding the growing international migration of indigenous people throughout the Americas (much of it in collaboration with his wife, Carole Nagengast) but untiring, generous engagement with the struggles of the peoples of Oaxaca. This engagement took many forms, from personal kindnesses to individuals to helping indigenous Oaxacans organize themselves in new ways beyond their local communities, on both sides of and across the border, until today they are perhaps the best-organized indigenous peoples in North America.

Everyone who knew Michael has a story—many stories—about his kindness. What he demonstrated through his life, most of all, was that our activism and our scholarship, our roles as human beings in solidarity with each other and as intellectuals trying to understand the forces that move all of us, can be the same thing—that they can flow out of being attentive to those around us in our everyday lives and welcoming the opportunities they bring us. We always felt as if he saw knowing us as an opportunity, and over time we realized that he made everyone feel that way. Don and Marjorie Bray remember him for his important and insightful contributions to thinking about Latin America and add, "He was fun to be with. He had a twinkle, an enthusiasm that was catching." They remember LAP editorial meetings at his home—"big pots of delicious food that he cooked for us, lingering after meetings for animated and thoughtful conversations"—and recall his once suddenly dashing off, while walking with them down a street in Tijuana, and returning later to explain that he had seen some Mixtecs he had worked with in Oaxaca walking on the other side of the street. They recall his students’ reporting the valuable insights they had gained in his classes and the engaged interest he took in their careers. "Perhaps most of all," they conclude, they recall "his reminding us, as we considered manuscripts for the journal, of his abiding conviction that class is everything."

Susanne Jonas writes that Michael was an extraordinary human being in addition to a brilliant mind: "I don’t have to tell you how greatly he impacted my work, especially on migration. I also considered him to be one of the most ‘special’ human beings that I have known in academia." Richard Harris reminds us that "he will never be forgotten by all of us who knew, worked with, admired, and loved him. He was a brilliant and wonderful person." James Green refers to him as a wonderfully generous and kind person who took careful interest in his students and those working on Latin America. Miguel Tinker-Salas adds that "he always struck me as a person concerned about the well-being of others." Heather Williams writes of "the influence his work had on my life made it seem as if he were a close friend or a mentor perhaps. I remain awed by his commitment to crafting rigorous theory at the same time that he engaged so furiously and compassionately with the world." Russell White adds that "he gave a lot and was always willing to share and help people." For Mônica Martins "he will be always among us, through his writings, thoughts, actions." Arturo Santamaría Gómez points to "his quality as a person and his powerful intellectual capacity," and Barry Carr calls him "an excellent and pioneering scholar."Jean Díaz remembers the course in which his students lived and worked asctivists in the Casa Blanca area of Riverside and in the Chicano community of Corona as "representing much of the essence of Michael, a participant observer who was always evolving, always on the cutting edge of his field, always questioning and reaching out—someone who couldn’t be confined to one discipline or one perspective or to a classroom. And he passed that spirit on to so many of us who were fortunate enough to have known and worked with him." Tamar Diana Wilson mentions Michael’s provocative Reconceptualizing the Peasantry: Anthropology in Global Perspective (1996), in which he labels what was once called the semi-proletarianized peasantry "polybians," arguing that they cannot be categorized because of their participation in a variety of economic endeavors. This work will remain a classic in economic anthropology, the anthropology of migration, and the anthropology of peasantries. David Barkin suggests that LAP devote a special issue in his memory to his controversial thesis, a discussion of the "new rurality" and its political implications, and consideration of whether the peasantry may offer new models for social an productive organization that respond to the need for more forceful challenges to neoliberalism and international capital. Lynn Stephen, a frequent contributor to LAP, feels that the journal should also devote attention to his work on migration.

Ron Chilcote is the founding editor of Latin American Perspectives; Jan Rus, a member of the Latin American Perspectives editorial board, is a graduate student inanthropology at UCR.


Gaspar Rivera-Salgado, "Comunidad Indígena Migrante lamenta el deceso del antropólogo estadounidense" Michael Kearney

El Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño (CBDIO) y el Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Binacionales (FIOB) lamentan el sensible fallecimiento del Doctor en Antropología Michael Kearney, quien con sus investigaciones profundizó el conocimiento sobre las comunidades indígenas oaxaqueñas en su proceso migratorio.

Michael Kearney no sólo fue un excelente maestro y académico que formó a varias generaciones de investigadores sino que también fue un compañero comprometido con la lucha por la justicia con los pueblos indígenas, manifestó el sociólogo mixteco Gaspar Rivera Salgado, quien trabajó de cerca con él.

Para la comunidad indígena migrante y sus líderes, las contribuciones de Kearney resultan invaluables ya que además del rigor científico en sus investigaciones, Kearney demostró ser una persona excepcional. De acuerdo al Director Ejecutivo del CBDIO, Rufino Domínguez, Kearney se esforzó por conocer a fondo a los pueblos indígenas y prueba de ello es que él entendía el idioma Mixteco y vivió muchos años en San Jerónimo El Progreso, Silacayoapan, Oaxaca.

Kearney también convivió con las comunidades mixtecas y zapotecas en las montañas de la sierra, siguió sus pasos por los desiertos de Baja California, las colonias populares de las ciudades fronterizas, los campos de cultivo de California y los barrios de migrantes en Los Angeles.

De acuerdo al profesor Gaspar Rivera, muchas de sus ideas fueron cruciales en la formación y desarrollo de varias organizaciones de indígenas migrantes, pero en especial dejó una huella profunda en la historia de nuestra organización el Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Binacionales (FIOB).

Agregó que a Kearney se debe el concepto de Oaxacalifornia, el cual sintetiza la vida de los migrantes oaxaqueños en California, lugar en el que recrean su vida y culturas, con todos los elementos de sus lugares de origen.

Gaspar Rivera, actual Coordinador Binacional del FIOB, comentó que Kearney se encargó de documentar los orígenes y desarrollo de las organizaciones de migrantes indígenas.

Rufino Domínguez precisó que a partir de 1985, Michael Kearney se acercó a las organizaciones de indígenas migrantes que comenzaban a formarse en California y empezó a realizar una serie de eventos a los que llamó a los dirigentes indígenas para que expusieran sus ideas, que hablaran de los conflictos territoriales en sus comunidades de origen, explicaran el fenómeno migratorio desde su perspectiva, que hablaran de su cultura, y del ìqué es ser indígenaî.

Los esfuerzos organizativos de los migrantes oaxaqueños fueron fortalecidos con las contribuciones de Michael Kearney por 24 años. Gracias a su trabajo teórico y sus iniciativas de crear espacios de difusión de la vida de los indígenas migrantes contribuyó al crecimiento de varias organizaciones indígenas que existen actualmente.ìPor eso ahora estamos donde estamos, como señaló Rufino Domínguez.

Michael Kearney falleció el 12 de Noviembre, a los 71 años de edad, rodeado de su familia y amigos en su casa de Moreno Valley, California. Hasta antes de su muerte, se desempeñaba como profesor emérito en la Universidad de California en Riverside. Kearney también se distinguió por sus aportaciones al conocimiento en el campo de la antropología social, economía política y antropología práctica así como en los temas de transnacionalismo, etnicidad, frontera y migración México-California.

Fue becario de Posdoctorado en Psiquiatría Social por el Centro Médico de la Universidad de California y obtuvo un doctorado en Antropología por la Universidad de California-Berkeley, y una licenciatura de Artes en Antropología, por la misma universidad.

Fue autor de los libros Cambiando Campos de la Antropología Americana: De lo local a lo global, obras selectas de Michael Kearney, incluyendo 4 capítulos originales (2004); Reconceptualizando al campesinado: Antropología en Perspectiva Global (1996); Concepción del Mundo (1984); Los vientos de Ixtepeji: concepción del mundo y estructura social de un pueblo zapoteco (1971), la versión en inglés fue publicada en 1972.

Kearney escribió varias monografías, y fue editor del libro Mixtepec: Etnografía multilocal de una comunidad transnacional mixteca y fue realizador junto con James Grieshop y Stefano Varese, de la pelicula Indios Invisibles: Trabajadores del Campo Mixtecos en California. También fue autor de numeros artículos, ensayos, capítulos de libros y otras piezas cortas. Entre estos últimos se encuentra Los efectos de la cultura transnacional, economía y migración de la identidad mixteca en Oaxacalifornia (1995).

En el 2005, escribió el ensayo La antropología de Comunidades Transnacionales y el nuevo marco de la investigación sobre immigración en California: El Caso Mixteco y Encuesta sobre las redes de pueblos oaxaqueños en la Agricultura de California, incluído en La Ruta Mixteca: El impacto etnopolítico de la Migración transnacional en los Pueblos Indígenas de México.

Entre sus publicaciones destaca Gobernanza municipal en Oaxaca en un contexto transnacional, en Indígenas Mexicanos Migrantes en los Estados Unidos, editado por Jonathan Fox y Gaspar Rivera Salgado.

También escribió ìComunidades trabajadoras migrantesî. Enciclopedia de la comunidad: De la aldea al mundo virtual.

Las aportaciones de Michael Kearney al entendimiento de las culturas indígenas oaxaqueñas y los factores que los empujan a migrar resultan invaluables para comprender el fenómeno migratorio.

Varios dirigentes indígenas acompañarán este 18 de Noviembre, a la esposa de Kearney, Carole Nagengast y demás familiares, para dar el ultimo adiós a quien fuera amigo de los indígenas. Descanse en paz, Michael Kearney.


John Alvarado, El Profesor y "Oaxacologo" Michael Kearney

The anthropologist and "oaxacologo" Michael Kearney passed away last night, November 12th, 2009. Michael had been fighting pancreatic cancer for almost a year. Michael Kearney and his wife Carole Nagengast were the first anthropologist to document the migration and formation of indigenous Oaxacan transnational communities. Indeed, the idea and concept of a "transnational community" was first conceived by Michael and his wife Carole while working with Mixtec Indians from San Jeronimo Progreso, Oaxaca in the U.S. Michael spent his entire life working with the aboriginal peoples of Oaxaca and brought attention to their hardships and realities in the 21st Century. 

Michael trabajo toda su vida a iluminar la realidades y luchas de los pueblos indigenas de Oaxaca en Mexico y E.E.U.U. Fue el primer antropologo en la epoca moderna que documento la vida transnational de los Mixtecos de Oaxaca. 

Michael will truly be missed. 

From all of his Paisanos Mixtecos-

Shabindohó-Da'Vindohó ñañi Lele. 

[John Alvarado is a graduate student in anthropology at UCR]


David Barkin

Comrades and Colleagues:

People's fond memories of Michael must be complemented by his contribution to fundamental debate about the nature of the peasantry that is still very much up in air. A reviewer summarized his argument some time ago as follows:

Micheal Kearney questions the peasant concept in anthropology. Current global conditions, he argues, do not favour the perpetuation of the peasantry. Therefore, this category should be abandoned. Instead, Kearney proposes to call the globalized postpeasant individuals polybians. These are "slippery creatures" that defy social bounds having multiple social identities because they carry out different economic strategies.

Although this formulation is not the best, I would suggest that LAP consider a special issue on this in his memory: the discussion of what is "new rurality" has taken on significant political implications. Clacso's original contribution to this in a book (available on line) edited by Norma Giarracca, ¿Una Nueva Ruralidad en América Latina?, has since been supplanted by a group of conservative scholars who insist (once again) that the peasantry is fighting a rear guard action against its own assimilation by the forces of international capitalism (also in materials published by Clacso). In contrast we (a group more attuned to the strengths and strategies of via campesina, but not limited to this 'line') argue that the peasantry offers a constellation of new models for social and productive organization that respond to the need for more forceful challenges to neoliberalism and international capital; these are progressive responses with which the LAP community should build alliances; this would be as fitting a tribute to MK's legacy as I could imagine.

¡In solidarity and with fond memories!

[David Barkin, Profesor de Economía, Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana-Xochimilco, Calzada del Hueso 1100, Villa Quietud, 04960 Coyoacan, DF MEXICO]


Ron Chilcote

When I wrote yesterday about Michael's role as an LAP editor, I did not make clear what his involvement really was.  Over the years we held editorial meetings (at least a dozen of them ) at his home and from the late 1970s until very recently, He attended most of the monthly editorial meetings of the journal. He was a coordinating editor who also organized and edited four or five issues of the journal (on peasantry, on Mexico, on migration). His ideas and thought influenced many among our one hundred editors in Latin America and around the world. I will send you soon some of the feedback that makes this very clear.


Heather Williams

I'm heartbroken at news of Michael's passing. I never had the chance to spend much time with Michael in person, but the influence his work had on my life made it seem as if he were a close friend or a mentor perhaps. I remain awed by his commitment to crafting rigorous theory at the same time that he engaged so furiously and compassionately with the world. I shall miss him terribly.


Russell White

Michael was a man who gave a lot and was always willing to share and help people. He will be missed. He was a good man.


Mônica Martins

He will be always among us, through his writings, thoughts, actions, and of course, our memories of this happy man! Keeping together and working on Latin American we will honour him.



Alejandro Alvarez

I feel very sorry to hear that Michael passed away. For LAP as a collective and for many of us as a friend is a very sad news. Receive my condolences and share my solidarity with all the colleagues of LAPS. a hug.


Arturo Santamaría Gómez

Solo tuve la oportunidad de platicar con Michael Kearney una sola ocasión, pero fue suficiente para conocer su calidad como persona y confirmar su poderosa capacidad intelectual. Estoy seguro que los migrantes mixtecos lo extrañarán mucho. Sus textos me ayudarán a no olvidarlo.


Cliff Welch

A sad news indeed. His contribution to anthropology and Latin American Studies is invaluable. He will be missed as he becomes another historical figure in academia. I never met Prof. Kearney but his work and insights were important to me and his help with the recent peasant movement issue of LAP. I am shocked by this news. My sincerest condolences.


Barry Carr

I knew Michael a little, met him several times, and had some interesting conversations. He was a fine guy and an excellent and pioneering scholarin anthropology, peasant studies etc and, obviously, a major contributor to LAP.  


Tamar Diana Wilson

Michael Kearney, was a thoughtful scholar, who kindly served as an outside member for my Ph.D. dissertation Vamos a Buscar La Vida: A Comparison of Patterns of Outmigration from a Rancho in Jalisco and In-Migration to a Mexicali Squatter Settlement (1992). His book Reconceptualizing the Peasantry: Anthropology in Global Perspective (1996), in which he defines what was previously labeled "the semiproletarianized peasantry" as "polybians" who cannot be categorized due to their insertion in a variety of economic endeavors, will remain a classic in economic anthropology, the anthropology of migration, and the anthropology of peasantries. His research on migration and peasants was innovative and of value to students and scholars engaged with those subjects.  Michael’s supportive and positive attitude toward his graduate students will be remembered by many.


Suzanne Jonas and colleagues at UCSC

Michael had many admirers (as well as some of us personal friends) at UCSC, and some knew Carole, who taught there for 3 years before UNM. This is especially difficult, because Michael was such an extraordinary human being, in addition to a brilliant mind. The collective response from LALS will be more in the nature of a "from all of us" condolence card

I don't have to tell you how greatly he impacted my work, especially since I began working on migration -- but way before that, since he had the mind of a Renaissance Man. I also considered him to be one of the most "special" human beings that I have known in academia. Of course I know many colleagues who have made excellent academic contributions, but Michael had personal qualities quite uncommon among academics.

Abrazos fuertes,


James N. Green

Michael was a wonderfully generous and kind person, who took careful interest in his students and those working on Latin America. As a graduate student, new to Latin American Perspectives, I always sensed that he genuinely was interested in my research and career. He will be greatly missed.


Miguel Tinker-Salas

Although I never had the opportunity to know Michael very well, he always struck me as a person concerned about the well being of others, especially the people of Southern Mexico with whom he worked.


Jeannie Diaz

I am deeply saddened to hear of Michael's passing. I hadn't seen him in so very long and did not know how bad he was. But he certainly lived his life with purpose and passion.

Michael was a great and positive influence on me as an undergraduate who was just becoming aware of social movements and activism. I only took one class from Michael. It was a very innovative, multidisciplinary course that was based on an immersion model where students lived and worked as activists in the Casa Blanca area of Riverside and Corona's Chicano community. I can only imagine what he went through to get that course approved, even back then in more "liberal" times. That course seems to me to represent much of the essence of Michael Kearney--a participant observer who was always evolving, always on the cutting edge of his field, always questioning and reaching out, someone who couldn't be confined to one discipline or one perspective or to a classroom. And he passed that spirit on to so many of us who were fortunate enough to have known and worked with him. He leaves an indelible mark and will be missed.

My heart is aching right now as I reminisce about the time and space in which I knew Michael. He was such a special person in so many ways.


Richard L. Harris

Michael will be greatly missed and never forgotten by all of us who knew, worked with, admired, and loved him. He was a brilliant and wonderful person. I feel blessed to have known him and worked with him. My heart goes out to all his family and friends.

Hasta siempre

[Richard L. Harris is Professor Emeritus, California State University Monterrey and Managing Editor of the Journal of Developing Societies]


Jim Stuart (PhD UCR Anthropology 1978)
Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois at Springfield. Residence: Santiago, Chile

I met Michael in fall 1967, his first semester at UCR, when I took his course "Peoples of Mexico." I had been doing an informal major in Latin American Area studies, but quickly discovered that Michael’s perspectives on Ixtepejanos and the peasantry better explained why Latin American revolutionary movements had not spread than my political science and history courses. And that, and Michael’s encouragement, put me on course for an eventual Ph.D. and career in Anthropology, and a long friendship with Michael.

A year or so later I graduated and went off to grad school at UC Davis, but the draft intervened, and I found my self as an MP in Korea. I corresponded with Michael about what I was seeing in the Korean country side (he was encouraging as always), and asked him about being admitted to UCR’s graduate program, which would allow me to get out of the army a few moths early. Michael arranged it, and I started grad school in fall of 1970 under Michael’s (loose) direction.

Sometime in the fall of 1987, when I was finishing up my dissertation, Michael got a call from the Sherriff’s department about some Indians from Oaxaca who needed help and didn’t seem to speak Spanish. He went down to meet them, and made his first contact with the Mixtecos from San Jerónimo. One of their companions had been killed in a robbery and they had all (7 or 8 men as I remember) been taken in as witnesses. Michael quickly made contact, discovered that they did speak Spanish, and arranged to have them released to his custody. During the next few months he helped them send the body back to San Jerónimo, got to know them better, and asked me to help him find out more about them.

We quickly discovered that the literature on Mexican immigration contained nothing about indigenous migrants, and we applied for and received a grant to study Mixtec migration. And when the semester ended, we left for Oaxaca.

At the Mexico City airport Michael rented a VW bug (next best thing to 4 wheel drive) and we headed to San Jerónimo, bouncing from rock to rock for the last 5 miles or so. Michael was a great field companion; easy going, patient, a bit audacious and adventuresome, and generally fun to be with. And things were fun with Michael that would have been disastrous with another companion. A couple of things I remember about that first trip were the food and sleeping arrangements. All the time I knew Michael was a vegetarian, happy as a clam with tortillas, a bowl of beans and a little chile to spice them up. But for some reason, the woman who was feeding us gave us mostly sulfurous hard fried eggs and beef jerky—Michael wasn’t thrilled, but ate it, saying "If you’re going to eat meat, this is the best kind; no antibiotics or chemicals." We were staying in an empty house, evidently previously occupied by dogs, because the dirt floor was full of fleas. At night we would crawl into our sleeping bags and discuss the day, waiting until all the fleas had fed (on us) before going to sleep. In spite of the fleas, I remember it fondly. Eventually we found a can of DDT and applied it liberally to the bags and the floor; and slept peacefully every night thereafter.

On a later San Jerónimo trip we were a little better prepared, with a GMC carryall from the UCR motor pool, cots, census forms, and another grad student to help us. As part of the census we were taking an inventory of household belongings; tables, chairs, radios, etc., but our companion seemed to be having trouble with that part. Most of his inventories were blank. Finally Michael asked him, "When you did the census and filled out the form, what were you sitting on?" "Oh, yeah" he replied, "A chair." And from that time on there was always at least one chair listed on his inventories.

Driving through Mexico with Michael was always interesting. One time we were stopped by a traffic cop because Michael had stopped few feet over the line at a red light. Michael and the cop had a cordial discussion of the importance of respect for the law, and so on, but of course, a fine would have to be paid. The officer thought that the judge would surely demand $50, but Michael thought it was more likely to be $5 or $10. Eventually they agreed on $15 or so and the officer graciously offered to deliver it to the judge himself. As he was walking away, money in hand, Michael called out, "But I’ll need a receipt." "Of course," the cop replied, "I’ll put it in the mail first thing in the morning."

One more story: Some time in the 70s he was interested in espiritualismo in the border region and I went with him to attend a spiritualist meeting in Ensenada, Baja California. He asked the woman medium who was the group leader if he could tape record the meeting. She said that it depended on the spirits, who included an Aztec doctor, someone from outer space who spoke in an unknown language, and others. But this night, the first spirit who came was God himself, and God spoke to Michael, saying that he understood that Michael had a request. And Michael did; he asked God if he could tape record the meeting. God said yes, and as far as I know they have been on cordial terms ever since.

Michael was a tremendous influence in my life, and a good friend. I’ll miss him.


James Cockcroft (Author, Lecturer, Revolutionary)

Sorry, Ron and fellow LAPers, so sorry about our loss of Michael Kearney. I ran across the emails about his passing only now, having been away at that time and having fallen way behind in my emails. I always found Michael's energy contagious and positive. He will be missed.

Cliches don't cut it when it comes to giants like him.

luv and solidarity,