Marshall Sahlins Death – Obituary : Marshall Sahlins has Died.
Sean Dowdy 6h · It is exceedingly difficult to articulate just how important Marshall Sahlins was, is, and always will be to me. More than a mentor, more than a teacher, more than a buddy—Marshall and I were thick as thieves. Whether it be golfing at the landfill in graduate school, or grumbling about politics and the latest mess in anthropology; whether it was scarfing down Romanian sausages or platters of pastrami at Manny’s, or collecting and discovering ethnographic details from books never once checked out from the Reg; whether it was in frustration with each other when times were difficult, or watching each other’s backs when times were even worse; and whether we were enjoying a perfect dinner party with Barbara, or sharing belly laughs over dirty jokes with friends… I always thought of Marshall as our “genius” in the original Latin sense of the term–a tutelary patron, yes, but also the relentlessly witty and vital force that brought forth new possibilities for all of us working under his towering presence. Marshall often surprised me by his vulnerability, which was almost always otherwise masked by his well-known (and infamous) character armor. The recent deaths of Mr. S. and David G. really got to him. The last time I was with him, before he became fatally infirm, we were up in his office chatting away. He asked how psychoanalytic training was going for me and then snatched the opportunity to crack a few jokes about shrinks, moms, and Jewry (nb: like his brother, Marshall lived out his Jewishness deliciously). But then Marshall became rather solemn. He spoke in almost teary-eyed chokes about his dead friends and time lost. We both stared at the floor. As unconscious communication goes, we both knew that was the last time we would see each other. So I knew this day would have to come, but preparing for it didn’t make it any easier. It never does. On this warm spring day, the robins have returned to my backyard and the rabbits are splayed out in the garden. Everything is a bloomin’ and a buzzin’. And, as cosmic contingencies would have it, I am scheduled to teach Historical Metaphors & Mythical Realities tomorrow. Today I renew more than my professional commitment to Sahlinsian anthropology…I renew honor due to a true companion with whom I shared 13 years of joy, pain, laughter, and mutual discovery. I pay my respects to you, Marshall, with this virtual tabua. I hope that one day we can laugh together again. Loloma. 115115 21 Comments 3 Shares Like Comment Share
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Hilary Morgan Leathem
Sean this is beautiful; your words pay tribute to an indomitable spirit and I’m admittedly choked up/crying. Sending love
Inés Escobar González
The humanity, beauty, and love that you are able to express here are majestic, Sean. I’m delighted to know that Marshall’s spirit continues to live and spark in people like you.
Terrible news, sorry for your loss. he must have been a great person to have as friend and teacher. I have’nt had the opportunity to meet Sahlins in person, but his books has been with me since I first entered anthropology.
What a moving and deeply personal obituary. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this.
Robert Winslow Blunt
You were his last investment Sean. It’s a huge honor…..you got to the know the last anthropologist in a way few got to. I know this one’s hurts. Hang in there and enjoy the fructifying flowers and trees, birds and bees. Historical Metaphors and Mythical Realities was one of my favorite texts of all time, and survived in MAPSS long after it had died in Haskell. I am grateful that as a lowly MA student I was taught it by Michael Scott.
This is really beautiful, Sean. And I’m very sorry for your loss. I truly regret not getting an opportunity to meet him. I Will always cherish the few exchanges I had with him via email or on FB. We’ve lost a lot of heroes, but losing David and now Marshal have been real suckerpunches.