Dr. Jean Comaroff, a world-class anthropologist and professor of anthropology and social sciences at The University of Chicago, gave a free public lecture on Thursday, November 5, 2009, in the Millsaps College Leggett Center.
Comaroff's lecture, entitled "Nations with/out Borders: the Problem of Belonging in Africa, and Beyond," is part of the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars program. As one of 276 colleges and universities that boast a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, Millsaps is able to take advantage of the many opportunities that contribute to the College's intellectual life.
"It's a very big deal to have her on campus," says Associate Professor of Anthropology and Sociology Dr. Julian Murchison. Comaroff's research is at the forefront of modern anthropology.
Specifically, Murchison remarks that her research causes anthropologists today to "think about the ways in which history and anthropology come together."
Her research is focused in southern Africa, namely South Africa and Botswana. Her current topics of interest include colonialism, modernity, ritual, power and consciousness. While she has broad interests, she also focuses on specific problems associated with religion, healing and state sovereignty.
Comaroff is the author, co-author and co-editor of several well-known texts and articles, including Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance. She is also published in high-profile anthropological journals, including American Ethnologist and Anthropology Today.
Murchison says that he references Comaroff in his own research and describes her work as "integral" in encouraging modern anthropology to address "large-scale as well as small-scale questions" in the field.
Not only is Comaroff at the forefront of today's anthropological debates - she excels in the classroom, as well. She was named Bernard E. and Ellen C. Distinguished Professor by The University of Chicago and has received the Quantrell Award for excellence in teaching on two separate occasions.
Senior anthropology major Nadia Al Hashimi is excited that Comaroff is "interested in things at the forefront of anthropological debates." She adds that "bringing anthropology outside of academia" is becoming increasingly important in addressing problems we face today.
Al Hashimi anticipates that Comaroff's visit will help "make people aware of their colleagues in anthropology outside of Millsaps."
Junior Lauren Cospelich, also an anthropology major, says that "in Mississippi in general we won't get interest in archaeology or anthropology" without bringing outside experts in. She is reminded of last year's Moreton Lecture Series in the Sciences that focused on archaeology.
Last year's Moreton series brought well-respected archaeologists to Millsaps, including Egyptologist Dr. Angelique Corthals, Ceramicist Dr. Hector Neff and chocolate expert Dr. W. Jeffrey Hurst.
Having "bigger names" on campus is "kind of like having movie stars," she says. "They draw interest."