It is with great sadness that we report the death of our dear colleague, Steve Rubenstein, Steve died March 8, 2012, in his home in Liverpool, where he had been living since 2006. Steve was a Reader in Latin American Anthropology in the School of Cultures, Languages, and Area Studies at the University of Liverpool, UK.
After earning two BAs, one in Anthropology from Columbia University, where he was one of the last students of Robert F. Murphy, and another in Philosophy from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, in 1984, Steve went on to receive a PhD from Columbia in 1995. He held teaching positions at Georgetown University, Ohio University and the University of Liverpool. Steve was also active in the affairs of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America (SALSA), serving on its executive board, as the book editor of its journal, Tipiti, and as co-host and Program Organizer of its 2010 meetings in San Antonio, Texas. He was noted for his active research program in the Ecuadorian state, the Shuar Federation, and shamanism. In addition, he made important contributions to women’s studies (Signs, 2004); circulation and power (Cultural Anthropology 2007); and political ecology (Tipiti 2004). Among his noted works are also two books, the 2009 edited volume Border Crossings: Transnational American Anthropology (co-edited with Kathleen Fine-Dare) and the 2002 Alejandro Tsakimp’ : A Shuar Healer in the Margins of History. At the time of his death, Steve was engaged in several new and ongoing projects. His article, “On the Importance of Visions among the Amazonian Shuar” had just been published (Current Anthropology 53(1)39-79) in February and was generating discussion among fellow scholars. Memorials took place at the 2012 ICA meetings in Vienna and the November 2012 AAA meetings in San Francisco.
Steve was an inspiring colleague, warm and generous friend, and caring mentor. His absence is felt by many.
For more about Steve Rubenstein’s life, work, and contributions to lowland South American scholarship, see this tribute published in Tipiti, by Daniela Peluso. “Astronaut of the Human Soul” is a tribute by Glenn Shepard. A selection of Steve’s publications can be viewed here.
Steven Rubenstein’s personal academic library has been donated to the Center for Amerindian Studies (CAS) at the University of St. Andrews.
Steve was famous for his collegiality and concern for younger scholars. At conferences, he inevitably could be found sitting in the hotel lobby, surrounded by students and colleagues, talking and offering advice and insights into personal and professional aspects of our lives as anthropologists. Carrying on his spirit, in 2013, SALSA created “Conversations in the Lobby.” This is a special event at SALSA’s sequisannual conference, in which an established scholar opens a collective discussion about the kind of personal and professional questions about which Steve cared and conversed so generously. The Conversations in the Lobby event in his memory is now a tradition at each of our Society’s international conferences.
In 2015, SALSA will provide a conference scholarship in Steve’s name. A travel stipend of $500 will be awarded to a graduate student, recent PhD, or precariously employed member who wishes to present work at the SALSA sesquiannual meetings.