Professors Jane Fajans, David Holmberg, and Kathryn March are retiring. The Department of Anthropology gathered in May to celebrate their oustanding contributions to the department and to the discipline of anthropology.
Professor Fajans arrived at Cornell in 1989 as an assistant professor, just a few years removed from her PhD at Stanford. Her research was initially focused on Baining communities in Papua New Guinea and she established an early reputation as an expert in Melanesian societies. Her first book They Make Themselves: Work and Play among the Baining of Papua New Guinea revealed that the Baining define themselves not through intricate cosmologies or social networks, but through the meanings generated by their own productive and reproductive work. Following her work in Papua New Guinea, Fajans shifted her research to Brazil where she examined how food and cooking were critical locations for making culture and nation, a project that resulted in the book Brazilian Food: Race, Class and Identity in Regional Cuisines.
Professor Holmberg received his BA from Cornell in 1970 and his Ph.D. in 1980 in Anthropology and Asian Studies. He subsequently joined the faculty and served as department chair for a total of 10 years during his career. Throughout his career, Holmberg’s research has focused on the socio-cultural anthropology of the Himalayas, especially in Nepal. His first book, Order in Paradox: Myth, Ritual, and Exchange among Nepal’s Tamang, remains one of the finest ethnographies of Himalayan communities, exploring previously unseen connections between social and ritual structures and the emergence of Nepal’s hierarchical state. Professor Holmberg’s second book, co-authored with Kathryn S. March, Surya Man Tamang, and Bhim Bahadur Tamang, was Mutual Regards: America and Nepal Seen through Each Other’s Eyes. The work inaugurated a new form of collaborative research practice that anticipated the emergence of what we now refer to as “engagement”, an approach to teaching and research that Professor Holmberg and Professor March institutionalized at Cornell through the Cornell-Nepal Study Program.
Professor March first came to Cornell in 1973 as a graduate student in anthropology, receiving her Ph.D. in 1978, after which she was recruited to join the faculty. The most enduring thread in March’s broad program of anthropological research in Nepal examines the relation between gender and social change. It was this interest that shaped her first book (co-authored with Rachelle Taqqu, Women's Informal Associations in Developing Countries: Catalysts for Change?. Professor March’s concern to examine social change gave rise to an abiding commitment to rethink traditional ethnographic research. In Mutual Regards: America & Nepal Seen Through Each Other’s Eyes (Co-authored with David Holmberg, Bhim Bahadur Tamang & Surya Man Tamang), Prof. March developed the outlines of a radically new program of engaged learning and research. With the foundation of the Cornell-Nepal Study Program (CNSP), Prof. March established a vital institutional tie between Cornell and communities in Nepal. American and Nepali alumni of CNSP alike testify to the myriad ways that the program changed their lives by fostering connections, changing outlooks, and reshaping career aspirations.
We wish them the very best in all of their new adventures and we extend our sincere gratiude for everything they've done over the years for our students, alumni, staff and fellow faculty members. Your legacies will forever be recognized.