Terence (“Terry”) Turner In Memoriam: 1935-2015

Terence TurnerTerence (“Terry”) Turner In Memoriam: 1935-2015

Visiting Professor of Anthropology [at Cornell University], Terence Sheldon Turner, emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago, died Nov. 7, 2015, at Cayuga Medical Center of a brain hemorrhage. He was 79.

“Terry was a truly eminent anthropologist and one of the most insightful thinkers of his generation,” said Adam Smith, chair and professor of anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences. “Terry’s contributions to anthropology were breathtaking in their scope and inspiring in the new vistas that they opened for critical analysis. Few anthropologists have had more impact on more domains of our discipline than Terry Turner.”

Known best for his ethnographic and activist work with the Kayapo communities of central Brazil, Turner’s work addressed topics from social organization and kinship, to myth, ritual and history, from the construction of personhood to the ontology and epistemology of representation, from political organization and mobilization, to values and inter-ethnic relations.

“Terry Turner’s legacy to anthropology is one of the most consequential bodies of work to have emerged during the past 40 or 50 years,” said P. Steven Sangren, professor of anthropology. “Both as an ethnographer of Brazil’s Kayapo and as an astonishingly acute and innovative theoretical thinker, Terry has changed how we think about culture.”

Read the full obituary at the Cornell Chronicle.

Terry was also instrumental in bringing the first video cameras to Kayapó film makers in the late 1980s. His subsequent analysis of their productions as part of the “Kayapó Video Project” is widely credited with giving birth to the burgeoning subfield of indigenous media studies.

In March of 2015, Terry participated in the first edition of the “InDigital” conference at Vanderbilt University on indigenous engagement with digital and electronic media in Latin America. This was his last public appearance before his death in November. The volume From Filmmaker Warriors to Flash Drive Shamans, edited by Richard Pace and published by Vanderbilt University Press, contains results from the 2015 conference and is dedicated to Terry.  It includes a chapter drawn from an interview conducted with Terry and one of his oldest Kayapó friends and pioneering indigenous filmmaker, Kiameti Metuktire (pictured below), about the Kayapó Video Project and the cultural significance of filmmaking for the Kayapó.

Terence Turner

Terry and Kiameti review 25-year old footage from the Kayapó Video Project in March of 2015 (photo: Richard Pace).