Professor of Anthropology Jack Glazier joined the Oberlin faculty in 1971, not long after returning to the United States from anthropological fieldwork in an African community on the Mt. Kenya periphery. His subsequent research examined the lives of immigrants to the U.S. a century ago. Most recently, his field research focused on a contemporary African American community in western Kentucky.
Glazier views anthropology as inextricably bound to history, because “any question about culture requires a keen awareness of the origin and development of customary thought and behavior,” he says. In several books, edited volumes, and numerous articles, he identifies a central concern and thematic unity in all of his research: the problem of how marginal peoples reach for a sense of belongingness, personal efficacy, and communal dignity in the face of an unwelcoming majority. His recent book, Been Coming Through Some Hard Times: Race, History, and Memory in Western Kentucky, has stimulated a community-wide discussion of race relations in order to ameliorate a long history of estrangement across the color line.
Glazier served a number of terms as chair, first of the department of sociology-anthropology and then the independent department of anthropology, which the college established in 1987. An esteemed teacher, he taught such advanced courses as Culture Theory, Culture Symbol and Meaning, Immigration Then and Now, and Anthropology of sub-Saharan Africa. They addressed a wide range of ethnographic and theoretical issues of central import in a liberal arts education as well as in preparing students for graduate studies. Glazier consistently asked his students to examine the wellsprings of a universal humanity amid cross-cultural differences.
Jack Glazier’s extensive and varied publications as well as the professional offices he held helped to give Oberlin’s small anthropology program national visibility. On May 3, the anthropology department and the Office of the Dean hosted a retirement reception for him. An anonymous donor has created an endowed lecture fund at Oberlin in his honor.
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