Martin Orans, a distinguished cultural anthropologist and former faculty member of the UCR Anthropology Department, passed away on February 22, 2020. He is remembered as a rigorous scholar, supportive mentor, dedicated teacher, and wonderful friend. A fuller description of his scholarly contributions can be found in the AN Anthropology Newsletter, March 9, 2023. https://www.anthropology-news.org/articles/martin-orans/). For a more personal set of remembrances, click here.
Martin received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1962. His dissertation, based on fieldwork among the Santal, a modernizing “tribal” culture of India, was later published as The Santal: A Tribe in Search of a Great Tradition (1965). In the 1970s, he changed his areal focus to the South Pacific, to Western Samoa (now Samoa). He became deeply involved in the 1980s controversy over Margaret Mead’s Samoa work, publishing his own critique, Not Even Wrong: Margaret Mead, Derek Freeman, and the Samoans (1996), a testament to his commitment to empirical research. Martin’s publications also addressed broader theoretical debates within cultural anthropology, including the concept of surplus, functionalism and causal explanation, and Galton’s problem.
Martin Orans was a major intellectual force during his years in the Anthropology Department. He was committed to anthropology as a social science, believing we should apply rigorous theoretical and methodological standards to studying human behavior, even complex emotional states such as happiness or politically volatile topics like gender or racial inequality.
Along with other faculty, Orans shaped the graduate curriculum to include rigorous ethnographic and analytic methods. Students learned to formulate, test, and evaluate hypotheses, whether based on HRAF or the ideas of Erving Goffman. He taught “critical theory” before the term was in vogue, unraveling questionable theoretical assumptions (cf. Orans, “Domesticating the Functionalist Dragon’ American Anthropologist, 1975) and critiquing simplistic binary paradigms, such as “emic” vs. “etic”, “ideal” vs. “real” culture, or “materialistic” vs. “idealistic” theories. Martin embraced multi-modal, multi-disciplinary research approaches and encouraged students to do likewise, whether taking courses in linguistics, or in microevolution, microeconomics, and statistics. In 1974, Martin engaged his graduate students in a pioneering attempt to create empirically based “indicators” of happiness, using ethnographic, ethnosemantic, and quantitative and statistical measures. As a teacher, he was rigorous, demanding, and encouraging.
Martin Orans was a supportive, engaged, colleague, a mentor to junior faculty members, and open to analytical approaches and theoretical problems outside his central expertise. He was predisposed toward statistical analysis but willing to explore the linguistics-based approaches some of his closest colleagues employed. As a critic, he offered both analytic rigor, important insights, and positive, helpful, support. He had high standards for his students and colleagues, and, even more, for himself.
After Orans retired from UCR, he moved to Paradise, then a rustic enclave of about 25,000 nestled in the Sierra foothills about 18 miles northeast of Chico. He remained active in anthropological circles, through guest lectures, public presentations, and more informal exchanges linked to the Department of Anthropology at California State University, Chico. Martin continued analyzing his Samoan materials on the symbolic dimensions of exchange, especially of fine mats or ie toga. A completed manuscript on this topic is unpublished. He remained engaged in ethnopolitical and economic development topics in Central America, India, and globally.
In 2018, a major fire in Paradise, the Campfire, destroyed the Orans’ family home. They managed to exit just in time, driving through flames, smoke, and burning cinders. They lost everything but eventually successfully relocated to Chico. Although deeply affected by the trauma of the fire, Martin Orans remained intellectually sharp and compassionate until the very end of his life. He passed away at home surrounded by family and friends.
Submitted by Carol Mukhopadhyay, David Kronenfeld, Makoto Kowta, William Loker, and Paul Shankman.
Wendy Ashmore, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Emerita
Dr. Wendy Ashmore long recognized as one of the foremost theoreticians in Maya archaeological research in the areas of archaeological settlement patterns, landscape studies, household archaeology, spatial studies, and critical gender analysis, passed away peacefully on January 8, 2019, in Riverside, California after a long battle with two auto-immune diseases.
Wendy was born in Los Angeles, California at Queen of Angels Hospital on June 26, 1948; started school in Mexico City during the McCarthy years; and returned to Hollywood a year later. She received her B.A. in Anthropology (magna cum laude) from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1969 and her Ph.D. in 1981 from the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation, “Precolumbian Occupation at Quirigua, Guatemala: Settlement Patterns in a Classic Maya Center,” was the beginning of a research and publication record that kept breaking theoretical barriers to bring a deeper understanding of the complexity of Maya settlement patterns to the global archaeological community. At the beginning of her career, she was an assistant and associate professor of anthropology and a member of the graduate faculty of anthropology at Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey. From 1981 to 1994 she served as both Research Associate and Consulting Curator for the University Museum at Rutgers. In 1992 she moved to the department of anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania as an associate professor and Associate Curator, American Section, of the renowned University of Pennsylvania Museum. Ashmore joined the faculty of the anthropology department at UC Riverside where she stayed until she retired as a Distinguished Professor, Emerita in 2016.
Professor Ashmore was a giant in the field of Mesoamerican archaeology, publishing highly influential work throughout her career. She was a pioneer in the areas of settlement patterns, landscape, and household archaeology, pushing the field to consider the importance of symbolic behavior and more humanistic archaeological narratives before such approaches were considered standard. Her breakthrough volumes include Lowland Maya Settlement Patterns (1981), Household and Community in the Mesoamerican Past (edited with Richard R. Wilk, 1988), Archaeologies of Landscape: Contemporary Perspectives (edited with Bernard A. Knapp, 1999). After working at the important sites of Quirigua, Copan, and Paraiso in southeastern Mesoamerica, Professor Ashmore co-directed critical work at the site of Xunantunich, Belize that transformed how archaeologists working in this area of the world approach social questions surrounding daily life. In 2012 she received the Kidder Award from the American Anthropological Association (the flagship association for anthropologists), the 24th recipient of this honor in its first 62 years of existence and only the third woman. There are no higher accolades than this award in the field of archaeology.
In focusing her research on space and place in relation to production and reproduction at household and community levels, Wendy was one of the first archaeologists to draw on emergent feminist anthropology. She theorized the contexts and content of gender relations and in doing so, contributed mightily to the conceptualization of gender and its importance in anthropological research. She wanted her students to consider gender not only as a lens for analyzing social hierarchies and relations but as a politically charged framework for new theorization. She forged in her own work a shift from looking at gender as categorization and a marker of a static division of labor to looking at the ways that gendering actually contributed to conceptualizations of landscape, the creation of place in conditions of disruption, and the spatiality of communities and households. In her more recent work, she is remembered as one of the most important theorists in the field of feminist archaeology alongside women such as Elizabeth Brumfiel, an archaeologist who raised the voice in Maya archaeology about the absence of gender analysis. Wendy’s more recent work, in fact, was a call to the field to actively prevent the erasure of the wider theoretical contributions of women archaeologists.
A stellar teacher and mentor, she was recognized by her receipt of the 2006-2007 UCR Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award and the 2008-2009 UCR Doctoral Dissertation/Mentor Award as well as her induction into the UCR Academy of Distinguished Teachers in 2013. Her textbook co-authored with Robert Sharer, Discovering Our Past: A Brief Introduction to Archaeology (the 6th edition was published in 2014), has been adopted for introductory courses to archaeology in numerous U.S. universities and beyond. Her mentorship was unparalleled and she is fondly remembered by the many former advisees who are now transforming the field as professionals themselves. Her legacy as a brilliant and transformative archaeologist continues through the many people whose lives she touched.
Wendy was also a central figure to American anthropology and archaeology through her service to the field. Through her nationally elected service to the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Executive Board, Committee on Scientific Communications, and Publications Committee she helped to forge the direction of the discipline and its relationship to disparate publics. She was widely appreciated for her cooperative, collaborative, and reasoned approach to volatile issues. Like her research, her service was grounded in careful preparation. Given her strong reputation for exceptional service to the field Wendy was invited to serve on the editorial boards of a dozen scholarly presses—including both Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press. This commitment to service was also strong at all levels in the UC system, including system-wide service on the University of California Press editorial committee and campus-wide service in the Faculty Senate. It would be impossible to overstate the conscientiousness with which Professor Ashmore approached her service work. It was beyond exemplary.
Professor Ashmore is survived by her husband, Dr. Thomas Patterson, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, UC Riverside, her brother Patrick Matthews-of Los Angeles, California and her sisters, Carol Matthews and Elizabeth Gould of Toronto Canada.
Submitted by: Dr. Juliet McMullin, Chair, Department of Anthropology and faculty members: Drs. Yolanda T. Moses, Travis Stanton, Kenichiro Tsukamoto, Karl Taube, and Christine Gailey, Emerita.
Sylvia Marguerite Broadbent
With sadness, we note the passing on July 30 of Professor Emerita SYLVIA MARGUERITE BROADBENT of the Department of Anthropology, following a long illness. Born in 1932 in London, she emigrated with her family to America in 1947, settling in Carmel, California. She graduated from Carmel High School at age 16, and with support from fellowships went on to earn an AA, BA, and Ph.D. degrees in anthropology and linguistics at Berkeley, where her research commitment focused on the preservation of native California Indian languages.
Her doctoral dissertation, A Grammar of Southern Sierra Miwok, was completed in 1960. It was the first of her four major publications on the Miwok language, others being Central Sierra Miwok Dictionary, with Texts (with L.S. Freeland, University of California Press, 1960); Comparative Miwok: a Preliminary Survey (with C.A. Callaghan, Waverly Press, Indiana University, 1960); and The Southern Sierra Miwok Language (University of California Press, 1964).
After graduation Professor Broadbent went to live in Bogotá, Colombia, and began career-long studies of the Chibcha (Muisca) civilization. She taught briefly at Northwestern University in the spring of 1961, then at Barnard College of Columbia University until 1964, after which she joined the faculty of the Universidad de Los Andes, in Bogotá, Colombia, where she taught and studied Chibcha culture and history. Her research there produced Los Chibchas: Organización Socio-Politico (Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 1964); Investigaciones Arqueológicas en el Territorio Chibcha (Universidad de los Andes, 1965); and La Arquelología del Territorio Chibcha, II: Hallazgos Aislados y Monumentos de Piedra (Universidad de los Andes, 1970).
Professor Broadbent joined the Anthropology Department at Riverside in 1966 where she taught linguistics, language and culture, archaeology, prehistory, and symbolism, and continued her studies in Andean ethnohistory, but also in symbolism, the California Mission period, and other topics. In 1983 she was awarded the Robert F. Heizer Prize by the American Society for Ethnohistory for her comprehensive work “The Formation of Peasant Society in Central Colombia”, which remains a contribution of lasting significance.
A person of complex and varied interests, Professor Broadbent was an activist in the Sierra Club and a staunch fighter in environmental and historical preservation issues. She loved exploring the California deserts and their archaeological traces with students. Former colleagues and students respect her loyal support and mentoring, her requirement that research is of the highest caliber, and that nothing short of clear and proper writing was acceptable.
Professor Broadbent retired from UCR in 1992 but was recalled to teach several times thereafter. Her research papers are filed in Special Collections/University Archives of the Rivera Library. A graduate research fellowship for studies in anthropology at UCR has been established in her name.
December 22, 1937 – November 12, 2009
Funeral services and memorial reception were held on November 18, 2009, in Riverside, California. A simultaneous memorial service was held in Ixtepeji, Oaxaca, Mexico.
Carole Nagengast: “Inscription for a Gravestone” (Robinson Jeffers)
I am not dead, I have only become inhuman;
That is to say,
Undressed myself of laughable prides and infirmities,
But not as a man
Undresses to creep into bed, but like an athlete’
Stripping for the race.
The delicate ravel of nerves that made me a measurer of certain fiction
Called good and evil; that made me contract with pain,
And expand with pleasure;
Fussily adjusted like a little electroscope:
That’s gone; it is true;
(I never miss it; if the universe does,
How easily replaced!)
But all the rest is heightened, widened, set free.
I admire the beauty
While I was human, now I am part of the beauty.
I wander in the air,
Being mostly gas and water, and flow in the ocean;
Touch you and Asia
At the same moment; have a hand in the sunrises
And the glow of this grass.
I left the light precipitate of ashes to each
For a love token.
Thomas C. Patterson: “Michael’s Contributions to Anthropology”
Today we are here to remember and celebrate the life of Michael Kearney. Michael was a husband, father, grandfather, brother, teacher, mentor, friend, human and civil rights activist, expert witness, and anthropologist. He was also an avid runner, skier, and alas relentless punster. Born and raised in Hayward, California, he attended the University of California School of Dentistry before switching to anthropology at Berkeley, where he received his B.A. (1963) and Ph.D. (1968) degrees. In 1969-1970, he was a post-doctoral fellow in social psychiatry at the University of California Medical Center. He joined the anthropology faculty of the University of California, Riverside in July 1967 where he spent his entire academic career until his retirement in June 2008.
His anthropological studies in Oaxaca, Mexico began in the mid-1960s and have involved annual or even more frequent trips to the Mixteca, specifically to San Jeronimo Progreso, in order to gain a fuller understanding of the changing dynamics of the everyday lives of its members, to renew friendships and kin relations with the people, and to happily fulfill commitments he had made to the community. In the process, he collaborated with and helped to train students from UCR and colleagues from Mexico. His legacy remains alive with the on-going collaborative research in which his previous students continue to engage in investigations on both sides of the border. In recent years, Michael has been actively engaged in changing the face of Oaxacan studies by training the first generation of native Mixtec-speaking young men and women as anthropologists, the first of whom are now completing their doctorates at UCR.
Anthropology was a way of life for Michael, and he continually worked toward improving the theories and practices informing the discipline. As his engagement with Mixtec peoples deepened in the 1970s, his grasp of how both he and persons in the communities understood and explained changes that were taking place locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally also grew. He no longer talked with his informants and friends only in Mexico, because many now worked in the Inland Empire and the rest of California. He often said, “I would walk out of the classroom to talk with them as they worked in orange groves around UCR or in nearby towns and cities to see whether what I was thinking jibed with what they knew and were experiencing.”
Michael was one of the first anthropologists to explore the implications of conducting research with persons who lived in communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border and who maintained strong emotional, cultural, and social ties with their natal communities. By the late 1980s, anthropologists would come to call these concerns multi-sited research, transnational communities, and transnational borders. He was acutely aware of the fact that emigration and migration affected not only the people who moved but also those who remained in their homeland. He wrote path-breaking books and articles addressing the changing face of anthropological research that inspired his anthropology colleagues around the world to think in new ways about these issues and the forces that underpinned their appearance and crystallization.
Michael’s research interests grew steadily over time and, by the early 1980s, had come to include health and identity formation among transnational indigenous farmworkers in California, the emergence of new social networks, poverty, and most importantly the rights of indigenous peoples. This focus on individual and community rights led him to serve as an expert witness in trials involving Mixtec individuals who on occasions spoke neither English nor Spanish and were thus often denied the right of adequate counsel. He became a leader among both scholars and immigrant communities on various immigration and citizenship issues. These experiences brought him into more profound relations with the communities which, in turn, clarified issues, emphasized the importance of justice for all, and created new ways for Mixtec community organizations and their members, anthropologists and government officials, on both sides of the border, to think about and engage with the changing worlds in which we live.
Michael was fearless in confronting oppressive, antagonistic authorities on both sides of the border. On more than occasion, he placed himself in harm's way without weapons except those of his highly honed sense of indignation, honesty, fairness, and basic human love. Because of this and because of close collaborative relationships with transnational indigenous communities over the course of four decades, he earned the respect and trust of grassroots and home town associations of Mixtecs living and operating on both sides of the border.
In 2005 he was commissioned by the officials of San Jeronimo Progreso to conduct a census of all members of the community regardless of where they lived. Michael accepted their charge. His travels with census-takers from the community took them from Oaxaca to Oregon and eastward into the Great Basin. He viewed this as a “wonderful adventure”--an incredibly exciting, enriching, and rewarding experience. He had opportunities to renew acquaintances with old friends, to meet people he had been hearing about for years, to make new friends, and, most importantly, to serve a community whose members had been so generous with their time and insights over the years. This long, close collaboration enabled Michael to practice what he thought anthropology was or should become.
After 40 years of teaching, research, and mentoring at UCR, Michael retired in 2008. His goal was to write about what he thought anthropology should be: (1) a field of inquiry whose practitioners had a nuanced appreciation of the dynamics of social relations, culture, and communication; (2) a deep understanding of the historical forces underwriting changes in the old socio-cultural forms and the appearance of new ones; and (3) a profound commitment to peoples with whom one works.
In his most recent work, Michael sought to re-conceptualize current anthropological worldviews to provide a more progressive intellectual foundation for the field and its reorganization. He called it self-reflexive, pragmatic anthropology. He understood that peoples and cultures not only differ but that they also change. Moreover, he understood that people do make a difference and even occasionally make history.
Michael was an optimist by nature who believed that some stories have better endings than others. Consequently, he put all of his considerable skills and energies into helping others improve the circumstances in which they live—to finding those “better endings.” While he will be missed by family, friends, and colleagues, his insights and contributions will continue to inspire those of us who knew him as well as generations of future anthropologists and activists. He has left behind students, scholars, and community leaders who have been changed forever by his wisdom and generous spirit. He has also left a rich body of work for us to think about as well. So, let’s continue the conversation, and let’s continue the struggle.
See eulogies for Dr. Michael