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Jane C Goodale: 1926-2008.

Jane Goodale, Professor Emerita at Bryn Mawr College, died in 2008 having lived a long and richly interesting life of research and teaching in the field of anthropology. She was educated at Radcliffe College and the University of Pennsylvania, and taught at Bryn Mawr from 1959 until her retirement, continuing to hold an Emerita position until her death. She was 'Jane' to all her friends, and there were many: it was a very diverse set of people that included her students, her academic colleagues, and her research partners in Australia and Papua New Guinea, among others. Jane was an outstanding ethnographer and an inspiring teacher. Securely and honestly centred in her own personhood, there was just one Jane--as she was with students and her academic peers, so she was in the bush. I learned this when I visited her while she was doing research at Milikapiti (Melville Island) in 1980. I was a novice anthropologist, and I was both astonished and inspired when I realised that the Jane who was perfectly at home sitting cross-legged on a blanket playing cards with a group of Tiwi women was exactly the same Jane who was perfectly at home leading graduate seminars back at Bryn Mawr.

Jane undertook her first fieldwork in Australia in 1954, living with and learning from Tiwi people of Melville Island. She continued to visit Melville Island for 50 years, widening her understanding and giving back as much as she could. Her research was reflexive and moral, considerate, insightful, and oriented in general to big questions of process and meaning. The groundbreaking ethnography Tiwi Wives (1971) was an early contribution to feminist ethnography.

At the same time, she was practising a form of ethnographic research that was founded in ethics and dialogue, and was attentive to processes of culture and social organisation. Her understanding that culture is dynamic, fluid, situated in time and place, and never singular preceded the reflexive turn in anthropology by many years. Her attention to process brought her to consider both history and the intercultural world of Melville Island--a zone that included Tiwi people, other Aboriginal people, and white Australians in a variety of occupations and roles. Linking fluidity and process with time and gender, she was able to analyse, for example, gendered differences in genealogical histories.

Following her early work in Australia, Jane decided to undertake research in Papua New Guinea. There she lived with Kaulong people of West New Britain, and from this research she produced the ethnography To Sing with Pigs Is Human (1995). The title indicates her lifelong fascination with diverse understandings of the meaning of being human, as those understandings are embedded in culture, and as they are performed, contested, held together, negotiated and changed. During that period she worked in tandem with anthropologist Ann Chowning, and the correspondence they maintained back and forth between their two host villages is now published as The Two-Party Line (1996).

Jane's legacy exists in her many books and articles, and it rests within her students as well. Pulling the Right Threads (Zimmer-Tamakoshi and Dickerson-Putnam 2008) is a tribute; edited by two of her former students, it contains contributions by 11 former students and close colleagues. During her years of active teaching, Jane became legendary for her ability to attract PhD students, train them, and send them out into the world with a commitment to ethnographic research and writing founded in dialogue and reciprocity. I was one of them. Through example and through explicit training, Jane taught us a form of collegiality that was based on respect, rigour, humour, generosity, acceptance of difference, and an open-minded approach to ideas, wherever they led. Integral to our learning was the fact that Jane never gave up trying to figure out things she did not understand. Her love of puzzles (including how to play cards Tiwi-style) included a commitment to the view that if you find the right question you will understand the answer. We learned Jane's collegiality by participating in it at Bryn Mawr; we took it with us when we went to conferences together, especially the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, which she had helped found. Other scholars noticed. Michael Lieber (2008:136) writes about taking up a short-term position at Bryn Mawr:
 I really was spying, trying to see how she
 managed to build the most successful Ph.D.
 training program in the country ... affectionately
 known as the Bryn Mawr Mafia ... There
 was no formula and no secret, just a process
 that has characterized her entire career as a
 researcher, a colleague, and an educator--collaboration.

Collaborative collegiality was central to our education and our relationships with each other, and it became the foundation of our fieldwork. We went to places that were distant from Bryn Mawr in almost every way imaginable; we met local people and many of them became new colleagues. With our local teachers we were often able to form research collaborations based on the same values of respect, rigour, humour, generosity, dialogue and open-minded inquiry. Through ethnographic practice we embedded into our own work Jane's precept that knowledge is relational and that reciprocity is at the heart of learning.

Jane will be remembered, mourned and cherished differently among different people(s). She was too great a person to be reduced to any singular context or memory. For my part, I especially treasure her capacity for complexity: to be both warm and stern, funny and serious, demanding and accepting, authoritative and egalitarian, intellectual and earthy, unyielding on many matters and yet open to everything.

Goodbye Old Woman!


Goodale, Jane 1971 Tiwi Wives: A study of the women of Melville Island, North Australia, University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA.

--1995 To Sing with Pigs is Human: Concepts of person in Papua New Guinea, University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA.

--and Ann Chowning 1996 The Two-Party Line: Conversations in the field, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD.

Lieber, Michael 2008 'The squabbling stops when everybody wins' in Laura Zimmer-Tamakoshi and Jeanette Dickerson-Putnam (eds), Pulling the Right Threads The ethnographic life and legacy of Jane C Goodale, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, IL, pp.123-36.

Zimmer-Tamakoshi, Laura and Jeanette Dickerson-Putnam (eds) 2008 Pulling the Right Threads: The ethnographic life and legacy of Jane C Goodale, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, IL.

Deborah Bird Rose, Professor, Social Inclusion, Macquarie University

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Title Annotation:Obituaries
Author:Rose, Deborah Bird
Publication:Australian Aboriginal Studies
Article Type:In memoriam
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Sep 22, 2009
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