Deborah Gewertz Honored By Association of Social Anthropologists in Oceania

Deborah Gewertz, the G. Henry Whitcomb 1874 Professor of Anthropology, and her research collaborator, Frederick Errington, a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., were jointly named honorary fellows of the Association of Social Anthropologists in Oceania (ASAO) at the organization’s annual meeting Feb. 9 to 12. Including Gewertz and Errington, the distinction is currently held by 16 scholars in recognition of their distinguished contributions to the field of social anthropology in Oceania.

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Gewertz and Errington (who are married to one another) were nominated and elected to the ASAO by their peers. In a nomination, colleague Aletta Biersack, professor of anthropology at the University of Oregon, described Gewertz and Errington’s work as “accomplished ‘experimental ethnographies’ striving to find new ways of talking about local-global articulations, their dynamics and ‘the complexity of actual lives.’” “As such, they point the way for others attempting to respond as humanistically inclined Pacific island scholars to the critique of area studies, ‘interpretation,’ structuralism, functionalism and single-sited research,” she continued. “In the volume and quality of publications, Deborah Gewertz and Frederick Errington [are] easily one of the most productive academic couples in anthropology today. Additionally, year after year, they have graced [the ASAO] with their presence at annual meetings and made lively, intelligent and provocative contributions to the various sessions.”

“I am especially honored to receive this award because it comes from the scholars of the Pacific who know my work best,” commented Gewertz.

At Amherst, Gewertz teaches courses on social anthropology, visual anthropology, anthropology and gender and the anthropology of food. She holds a Ph.D. from the City University of New York and has done extensive fieldwork in Papua New Guinea since the 1970s. She is the author, with Errington, of Twisted Histories, Altered Contexts: Representing the Chambri in a World System (1991), Yali's Question: Sugar, Culture, and History (2004) and Cheap Meat: Flap Food Nations in the Pacific Islands (2009), among other books about the people of Papua New Guinea. The authors’ research for Cheap Meat was funded in part by a 2006 grant from the National Science Foundation.