Laureation address: Professor Michael Herzfeld

Lauren Sykes
Tuesday 13 June 2023

Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters
Laureation by Dr Daniel M Knight, School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies

Tuesday 13 June 2023

Vice-Chancellor, it is my privilege to present for the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, Professor Michael Herzfeld.

Professor Herzfeld is one of the most influential anthropologists of the past 50 years, whose credentials stretch across disciplines to Classics, Modern Languages, Modern Greek Studies, and comparative area studies. He is Ernest E Monrad Research Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University, where he taught for nearly 30 years and founded the University’s Thai Studies programme. He also holds positions in Melbourne, Leiden and Shanghai, and an affiliation with Rome ‘Tor Vergata’.

His research in Greece, Italy, and Thailand addresses the social and political impact of historic conservation and gentrification, the dynamics of colonialism, nationalism and bureaucracy,

and the ethnography of knowledge. Over the course of his illustrious career, Professor Herzfeld has authored 12 books, most recently Siege of the Spirits: Community and Polity in Bangkok, published in 2016 by University of Chicago Press, and Subversive Archaism: The Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures, published in 2022 by Duke University Press. Published in the year of my own birth, his 1985 monograph The Poetics of Manhood: Contest and Identity in a Cretan Mountain

Village shaped a generation of anthropologists turning their focus toward Europe with ethnographic portraits of contest, friendship, nationalism, and reciprocity. A former president of the Modern Greek Studies Association and of the Society for the Anthropology of Europe, Professor Herzfeld has served as editor of the discipline flagship journal American Ethnologist and is currently editor-at-large responsible for ‘Polyglot Perspectives’ at Anthropological Quarterly. In 2021, he was awarded honorary citizenship of Greece for his services to the social sciences in that country.

Professor Herzfeld is a generational and discipline-defining anthropologist and social commentator, dedicated to critiquing power relations between genders, the state, colonisers and colonised, and academics and their subjects of study. He has led the field in ‘de-exoticizing’ anthropology, opening up a discipline that until the 1980s had been preoccupied with finding ‘The Other’ in far-flung corners of the globe. As a proponent of so-called ‘anthropology at home’, he lay the cornerstones for Europeans to study Europe – a legacy that lives on strongly in the Department of Social Anthropology at St Andrews.

Professor Herzfeld’s agenda to unearth the imperial apparatus behind state governance and sustained subjugation of people in southern Europe and southeast Asia, while debunking ideas of exoticisation and legacies of colonialism, align with St Andrews’ worldviews on internationalisation, equality, and ethics. His contribution to St Andrews has been established over the course of 30 years, where he has participated in workshops – including the acclaimed

2005 Ways of Knowing event – examined PhD theses and been a guest of the Department of Social Anthropology. Just last year, Professor Herzfeld delivered the Department’s ‘Ladislav Holy Memorial Lecture’, the named lecture in honour of our founder. Ever generous, on his extended visit, he hosted an early-career publishing clinic, a doctoral research workshop for PhD students, and one-to-one sessions with postgraduate students. He also re-established a connection with the British Academy’s British School at Athens, an institution he holds dear and of which our own St Andrean, Professor Rebecca Sweetman, is now Director.

A polyglot, Professor Herzfeld communicates complex ideas beyond academia, engaging the international press and policy domains. As such, his media presence has helped community engagement and academic-public interaction in at least four nations. He continues to demonstrate a lifetime commitment to St Andrews’ core values of diversity, multicultural understanding, and global academic excellence.

Vice-Chancellor, in recognition of his major contributions to Anthropology and Area Studies, I invite you to confer the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, on Professor Michael Herzfeld.

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