Elizabeth Colson

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Wikipedia:Elizabeth Colson

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Elizabeth Colson

From: lilyan white [1] Sent: Sunday, November 06, 2016 3:07 PM To: Lowys Subject: Re: Elizabeth Colson Memorial at UC Berkeley Oct. 24, 2016

Thank so much for these notes and notices of Lizzey..She was probably my favorite of all..the real thing from Alpha to Omega..When you did work she praised it was something to value. She had a wonderful sense of humor. She was on my thesis committee as it was on social structure and Doug and I were with her and Ted on a group on long term projects..always a pleasure and an honor..so much clarity, so little nonsense, zero bs, a perfect recipe for a person to respect and honor and keep in ones heart always.

Thank you for these pages..

And the funeral information was also perfect and in character..one day I should like to see the video. Lilyan

Hi Everyone,

Elizabeth’s memorial service at UC was very well attended and some very lovely and touching talks about her were part of the program. Mike also provided some touching and a few humorous memories.

At the end of there talks while we had some refreshments, a shortened version of Elizabeth’s four hour funeral ceremony [with drumming, singing and lots of ritual] attended by hundreds of people from many, many areas was played. One of Elizabeth’s student/protégée/colleagues [name we can’t recall] took the video. She was able to fly there in time, from her east coast university. We could see Elizabeth’s face in her coffin; the top lid was left open as people came and dance by paying respects. Elizabeth’s coffin was carried on a cart drawn by oxen to the grave and the coffin was manually placed at the bottom by the grave diggers. People came forward and sprinkled a handful of dirt on it; some prayers were said including by a Christian clergy member. After the grave was filled in, several women were shown smoothing the dirt over the mound.

Mike and I felt it was a very fitting funeral for Elizabeth and a very fitting memorial service at UC. She was an incredible woman, scholar and human being.


Ruth and Mike

In memorium

Elizabeth Florence Colson was born in Hewitt, Minnesota, June 15, 1917. She died in Zambia August 3, 2016. Colson received her BA and MA from the University of Minnesota and her PhD in Anthropology at Radcliffe College in 1945. Her dissertation on the Northwest Coast Makah was supervised by Clyde Kluckhohn. Employment opportunities were limited for anthropologists in general and more for women in particular. Having landed a position at the Rhodes-Livingston Institute in Central Africa. Colson studied the Tonga. In 1947 Colson succeeded Max Gluckman as the director of the Institute, where she remained until 1951.

Upon return to the United States, Colson taught at several universities before coming to Berkeley in 1964. She retired in 1984, but maintained her long-term research in Zambia for over 60 years. Her study, The Social Consequences of Resettlement (1971), had reverberations in fields of development, forced migration, refuges and other displaced populations. Colson took part in the Refugee Studies Program at Oxford University where an annual lecture on forced migration was established in her honor.

At Berkeley, her collegial style was noticeable in faculty meetings. She mostly listened, and then commented in a forthright and crisp manner, with dry humor. She was small in stature, large in presence. Her impact was felt in work on the status of women faculty, as the first woman to head the Budget Committee, in delivering the Faculty Research Lecture. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences 1n 1977 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1978. In 2015 Colson received the Distinguished Emeriti Award for the University of California system.

For Colson, fieldwork was a way of life. She was under no illusion that social life or culture was stable and integrated, as numerous ethnographers did think at the time. She loved figuring out puzzles. How did the Makah of the Pacific Northwest assimilate, and what kept this population, which had had intermarried with and assimilated to white society, together as an identifiable Native American community? How do societies without constituted political authority institutionalize ways of social control? Who becomes the focus of witchcraft accusations as the social ecology changes? Her theory was fine-grained first and then grand. Her understanding of restraints on violence related to the dispersal of vengeance groups among the Plateau Tonga, or the rain rituals during which they must be at peace. The cross-links between matrilineality and stock raising are pieces of the larger puzzle. Long before it became vogue Colson was writing about the impact of colonialism on a changing Afiica. Given that Elizabeth Colson considered her field site home, it is fitting that she worked, lived, died and was buried there. The funeral took about 4 1/2 hours. Truckloads of Zambians attended-tribal chiefs, university people, government peopie, Zambian singing. They drummed and danced, drumming and singing to the grave.l00kg of maizemeal was cooked. two cows were slaughtered and 100 cabbages cut. Elizabeth Colson would have loved this last ritual. She is survived by her nieces and nephews. (Laura Nader)