Professor Jean Briggs, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Professor Ottar Brox, University of Tromsø (Norway)
Professor Anthony Cohen, University of Edinburgh
Sebastien Despres, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Professor Ørnulf Gulbrandsen, University of Bergen
Professor Ulf Hannerz, Stockholm University
Professor Peter Harries-Jones, York University
Professor Gordon Inglis, Anthropologist
Professor John C. Kennedy, Anthroologist
John Alfred Longlott, St. John's
Dr. David Lumsden,York University
Professor Nigel Rapport, University of St. Andrews
Professor Gerald Sider, City University of New York
Professor John Steckley, Humber College
Øystein Steinlien, The Sami Archives, Kautokeino (Norway)
Dr. Mark Tate, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Professor Trond Thuen,University of Tromsø
Trond Thurn, University of Tromsø (Norway)
Professor Carl Cato Wadel,University of Stavanger
Professor Joseba Zulaika, University of Nevada (Reno)
Professor Jean Briggs
Memorial University of Newfoundland
I'm going to talk a little about the role of Robert in my life and leave his larger roles to other people.
This is an unthinkable moment. One that I never thought could happen. It's the end of an Era, which began for me in 1966, when Robert hired me – raw ABD, fresh from graduate school – on the recommendation of a fellow Oxford graduate, who told him that I travelled by bicycle all around Boston and would therefore be the perfect candidate for him – to join the still tiny joint department of Anthropology and Sociology that he was setting – or re-setting – on its feet at MUN. Robert must have agreed with his friend because he hired me. A link may also have been created by the coincidence that Robert had originally wanted to do his doctoral research with Inuit (my field), and I had originally planned to do mine with Saami (his field).
On my side, several things attracted me to MUN – not least its remote, relatively northern and largely rural location – the sort of environment that has always felt most like home to me. And then there was the bonus of a joint appointment which would allow me to spend half my time exploring exotic worlds, even farther away from the madding crowds – in the Arctic. With Inuit. I wouldn’t even have to wait until I was a full professor to live my favourite sort of life. Wow! Joint appointments were certainly one of Robert’s most brilliant ideas.
But most of all, it was the mind of Robert himself that drew me. It was the opportunity to work with him that made me turn down a mainline job to come here, over the protests of my Harvard mentor – a granddame of anthropology – who thought my decision was utterly foolish. But then she came here to participate in the first Colloquium that Robert organised – appropriately enough on the subject of Friendship –; and afterwards she said to me: “Now I understand why you came here.”
As a student I had met two other remarkable and inspiring anthropologists who had influenced me greatly in different ways (including the one who attended the Friendship Colloquium); but I had never met a scholar who had Robert’s rare and invaluable gift of striking a spark between ethnographic facts or ideas that had seemed to me totally unrelated. I cherished that gift in him and profited from it immeasurably. As I profited also from reading his work, where again I found dots connected in unexpected and exciting ways.
Robert was an anthropologist of the old school. A fieldworker. At his core, he was mistrustful of conclusions that weren’t ultimately based on the researcher’s own conversations with individuals in the field. Survey research was anathema to him. So were theoretical analyses not backed-up by fieldwork. Robert himself was a fieldworker to the end of his days.
My work, in psychological anthropology – an American sort of anthropology – , was very ‘foreign’ to British Robert. I was fascinated by how the emotional lives of individuals, their culturally shaped fears and loves, organised the social worlds of Inuit. Robert was fascinated by the political dynamics of groups – the political goals and strategies that govern social behaviour. In this he followed his British training. But foreign or not, Robert always read what I wrote carefully and with appreciation, and the connections he saw, the questions he asked, insightful and always unexpected, had a kaleidoscopic effect on my thinking and sparked marvelous leaps forward.
He gave me a perfectly free hand, never tried to draw me into an acceptable school of thinking. Perhaps that was because he himself didn’t adhere to a School of Thinking. As a doctoral student he escaped Oxford, and its prestigious and well-funded field sites, as soon as he could and went off to the northern Scandinavian world of Saami (then called Lapps) – physically, financially, and most of all intellectually, on his own. As I recall, his failure to consult his Oxford professors adequately about his dissertation work caused him a bit of difficulty when he submitted that work for the degree of D.Phil. But it was accepted.
After that, he spent a good deal more time in Norway, at the University of Bergen, before turning down the offer of a Headship at the University of Oslo in order to come to MUN. Here he was even more on his own – this time disappointing his would-be-permanent mentor in Bergen, Frederick Barth. Robert invited Barth to visit MUN during one of Robert’s first years here; after which Barth wrote him that his, Robert’s, intellectual potential was head and shoulders above that of any of his young colleagues here, so he had better come back to Bergen. (Robert made the mistake of showing that letter to one of those dwarfs, who has not forgotten it.) But needless to say, Robert ignored that advice in favour of ‘doing his own thing’ again. Thank goodness for that!!!
Robert was a vivid presence here for 45 years, a force to be reckoned with. In my life, as in that of others. He gave generous help to many colleagues; and he gave that help to me from my very first semester, when he and another colleague, now long gone, taught one of my two courses so that I could finish my dissertation. I still miss the stimulation of the Dept Seminars he organised. And I still appreciate his extraordinary conscientious thoughtfulness in nominating colleagues, both inside and outside the department, for local and national recognition. Many have cause to be grateful to him for that.
Robert was a very good and warm friend to me, and an unfailingly loyal and supportive colleague. Friendship with Robert sometimes felt like a roller-coaster ride. But loyalty was a high value for Robert, and he took the responsibilities of loyalty very seriously. Even when warmth was in abeyance for an extended period of time, owing to crimes committed or imagined – even when I imagined warmth would never return – he compartmentalized his sense of injury. It was never visible in the corridors. I admire and cherish him for that, too. And – though I occasionally had to wait quite a while – the warmth always came back.
Robert’s presence will be alive for me, and close to me, for a long time. A very long time.
Professor Ottar Brox
University of Tromsø (Norway)
I have lost a close friend, and an inspiring and critical colleague. 53 years ago, Robert's Coast Lapp Society I inspired me to find out what I should spend my life doing, and just a few weeks before his death, he sent me critical comments to a recent text.
Quite a few Scandinavian anthropologists could contribute the same personal story. Robert always had time for young people entering the field of Saami studies, and especially if they came from Saami families.
His documentation and analyses of Coastal Saami communities under the intensive process of modernisation that came with social democracy and WWII, and his two impressive volumes on pre-snowmobile reindeer nomadism will be of lasting value - to social sciences as well as to the Saami. Moreover, many colleagues, along with me, have made good use of the concepts that he developed for the study of political language, and benefited from his well-balanced contributions to a more productive understanding of the Palestine conflict.
But in spite of his outstanding professional contributions in these and many other fields, my reflections during these sad July days have centred on Robert as a loyal and amusing friend, always welcome as a guest, with his suitcase full of books and his bottle of gin.
He will be sorely missed by me and my family.
ROBERT PAINE, 1926—2010
Robert Paine, who died last July, was an innovative and prolific anthropologist, a scrupulous and committed scholar of rare imagination. He was arguably the doyen of nomadic and pastoralist Saami ethnography, a lifelong engagement which led him also into comparative studies of Aboriginal peoples and their relationships with their dominating neighbours, and even to the contested claims for rights to the occupied West Bank. From his adopted base in Newfoundland, he inspired and mentored the development of northern anthropological research; and cast his anthropological eye widely across the contemporary world.
Following undergraduate studies at Edinburgh and Oxford, interrupted by war service as a commando in Hong Kong, he went on to the Oxford Institute to take a D.Phil., supervised initially by Franz Steiner. Despite resistance from Evans-Pritchard, who he greatly admired, but with Steiner’s support, he insisted on fieldwork in northern Norway and Sweden. To his great frustration, he had to defer his work with Saami-speaking reindeer herders, and, supporting himself as an itinerant labourer, he did fieldwork for his doctorate on Lapps who had become sedentarised on the Finnmark coast. But after this fieldwork, and before returning to Oxford to write his thesis, he went inland, attaching himself to nomadic herders as a herdsboy. He learned to speak Saami fluently, if eccentrically. As well as working with herders, he travelled throughout the north of Scandinavia; and spent some months working for Robert Redfield on the manuscript of The Little Community. By the time his Doctoral thesis was published in the early 1960’s, he was already recognised and valued by his Scandinavian colleagues as an outstanding ethnographer. From the outset, he recognised that the social organisation of nomadic herders had to be understood as grounded in the complex ecology and biology of the herding cycle. He mapped in exquisite detail the routes and tactics used by different and intensely rivalrous herding families over enormous distances. He held a succession of posts in Bergen and Oslo which enabled him to amass a huge store of ethnographic data and experience with the Saami herders. He was to mine this seam for the rest of his life. Sadly, he did not live to see into print the third volume in his exceptional trilogy of herding monographs.
In 1964, he was offered the headship of the Anthropology department at Oslo, but was uncomfortable with the prospect for various reasons, only one of which was that he was wary of the possibility that he would be seen as creating a rival school to Barth’s. They were friends and colleagues, although not always easy with each other, and Paine was to publish (as a RAI Occasional Paper) an important reconsideration of Barth’s transactionalism, Second Thoughts About Barth’s Models (1974).
Instead, in 1964 he moved to the Memorial University of Newfoundland to direct its Institute of Social & Economic Research. He developed Memorial as arguably the leading centre for northern North Atlantic anthropological studies, and built its major publication series. With only a brief interruption following his retirement, he lived in Newfoundland for the rest of his life; resisting approaches for Chairs elsewhere (including Sussex, Edinburgh and McGill), using it as a base for his academic travels as a visiting professor around the world, inter alia Cambridge, McGill, Jerusalem, Duke and Adelaide.
In 1968, Robert secured a large grant to fund and direct a major programme of ethnographic studies of social change in the Canadian east Arctic. Throughout the 1970’s, his writing ranged over both the herding and wider social aspects of his research, generating seminal work on the ‘tragedy’ of the commons, on patronage and brokerage, political rhetoric and the micropolitics of communication. He even wrote, but did not publish, a book on Goffman. He then began to cast his anthropological eye beyond the conventional ethnographic ‘field’, becoming a prolific essayist of exceptional range. He contributed hugely to the development of the Fourth World concept and to the study and practice of anthropological advocacy.
Both as a research director and in his own work Paine always insisted on anthropology’s obligation to be socially responsible and responsive to contemporary issues and events. In the 1980’s, he became active in the controversy over the Norwegian government’s plan to dam the Alta River, a project that would destroy nomadic reindeer herding. He produced a brilliant report for the Norwegian Supreme Court on the implications of the project, later published by the IWGIA, and a series of dazzling articles analysing the symbolic content of the Saami protests against the project. He returned later to document for the government the consequences for reindeer pastoralism of the Chernobyl disaster. Following an invitation to teach in Jerusalem, he undertook a twenty-year effort to understand and describe conflicting attitudes to the Zionist project, especially on the West Bank. With no previous background in Judaism or Islam, he steeped himself in texts; repeatedly travelled throughout the region, interviewed extensively, and tried to use anthropology to make some sense of it all.
He was a man of great passions, enormous energy, discipline and industry, and absolute scholarly integrity, capable when writing of amazing concentration; extraordinarily well-read and open-minded; genuinely fascinated by people he met everywhere; and a dedicated estuary ‘twitcher’. He could be rumbustuous, with a vivid personality, a man about who wonderful and extravagant stories were told, some of which were true. Although his personal life was repeatedly touched by misfortune, he was entirely lacking in self-pity.
Robert enriched the lives and work of anthropologists around the globe – he was outstanding in seminar, and had an extensive network of close friends and interlocutors among who he circulated successive drafts of his writing. To all of us he was an irreplaceable friend, and an unfailingly honest, generous and constructive critic, quite without conceit. He was honoured in Canada, the U.K. and Norway: inter alia, the Order of Canada, Royal Society of Canada, honorary Life Fellowship of the RAI and the Norwegian Academy of Sciences, and honorary degrees at Tromsø, Edinburgh and Memorial. He was an endlessly interesting and interested man, and an authentic pathbreaker in anthropology.
(**As published in the October issue of Anthropology Today)
I met Robert while I was still relatively new to St. John's. Having acquired a ticket to the Newfoundland Symphony concert, I ended up getting a seat next to a smiling stranger, on the front row of the balcony of the Arts and Culture Centre. In spite of the fact that the concert was about to begin, this stranger and I managed to get into a number of deep discussions, covering issues in ethnographic fieldwork, the music of the Saami, and even the supposed existence of pyramids in Bosnia (which we both decided was a little far-fetched). To my surprise, I bumped into Robert on a regular basis from then on (as I said, I was still new to St. John's), and I had the pleasure of continuing these multiple trains of thought with him. It was only after the our third or fourth such meeting that we "officially" introduced ourselves and that I discovered he was an anthropologist - a fortuitous coincidence, I'd thought at the time, since at this point, I'd just begun my first term as a Ph.D. student in the discipline. Over the next years, we got to know each other better and better, and I looked forward to talking about everything and everything with him (I'm aware that the expressions goes "everything and nothing," but with Robert, I always felt it was impossible to talk about "nothing"). When I last saw Robert, it was less than a week before I was leaving to go conduct my Ph.D. fieldwork in Bosnia. After jokingly bringing up the topic of the Bosnian "pyramids" (which we managed to insert into almost every conversation), we talked about keeping field journals, about talking to locals, and about interviewing research participants.
I am writing this last part because It was only when I had heard of Robert's death that I thought about how I'd approached my fieldwork and began to get an inkling of the impact that Robert has had on my way of "thinking anthropologically." I am thankful for having had the opportunity to rub shoulders with a man of such vivacity, humour, depth, and curiosity. I'll certainly miss him!
Professor Ørnulf Gulbrandsen
Professor of Social Anthropology
Department of Social Anthropology
University of Bergen (Norway)
I have received the sad news that Robert has passed away ... (P)lease convey my department's and my own sincere condolences to the family.
Remembering Robert Paine
I first encountered Robert Paine when he was one in the close-knit group of people, of varied backgrounds, who had come together at the University of Bergen to develop social anthropology there – they were, in the 1960s, a major inspiration to young colleagues all over Scandinavia. Then after he left for Canada, we continued to meet at a variety of places. I remember a long conversation one night at a diner in Washington, a few blocks away from the black neighbourhood where I was doing field work, and I also remember our walking together, some thirty years later, through the rainy streets of Rio de Janeiro. There was an exchange on the telephone, another time, when Robert exclaimed, “You did WHAT?”, as I told him I had invited the chief rabbi of Stockholm for a seminar that he was going to offer in the department in Stockholm, on his recent research in Israel. And then Robert relaxed, as I told him that the rabbi was also the husband of an anthropology graduate student whom he already knew. (It turned out to be a very enjoyable seminar for everybody.)
But then certainly there are also the writings that remain in my mind. I was never a Saami specialist, so although Robert’s work in this area is obviously central, it actually mattered less to me. His more theoretical articles and chapters on varieties of social and personal relationships, however – on patronage and brokerage, for example, and on friendship – show him as a sharp observer and analyst, and count for me as classics of the discipline. I will remember Robert warmly, for his scholarly contributions, for his personal concern, and not least for his temperament.
Professor Peter Harries-Jones
Emeritus Professor of Anthropology
The thing most endearing to me about Robert is that in any given time that I have met him over the years, the visit with him would turn out to be a memorable one, a highlight in July 12, 1986 when he was best man at my wedding to Rosalind Gill at Trinity, Trinity Bay; a total tragedy when he left me and the rest of the anthropologists he knew at a conference at Brock University to return home that night to Lisa Gilad, and she had died on the way to take him home from the airport; the wildest party I ever had laid on by the captain of one of the ships of the Portuguese White Fleet which after five courses and five different varieties of Portuguese wine left me, Robert, the ship, the gangplank and St. John's harbour wall in a very confused relationship with each other and terra firma was definitely terra nova.
And, of course, all the idiosyncrasies in between. One needed elementary training in martial arts to negotiate the dogs and sit down with him on the back porch. Worse still was the cat in his beautiful Bond Street house. I once went to visit and he put me on his top floor with that glorious view of the Narrows. No bed, mind you, but he assured me that he had a comfortable sleeping back and a camp mattress. It was a comfortable sleeping bag, except that the cat had been there many times before. Eventually, after the third night I felt I could reasonably raise the question, and he replied that he had never noticed the smell before. Besides which, he pointed out, there were more important things to do and he had a manuscript he wanted me to look over, and the rest of the visit was spent copy-editing.
I first met Robert an age ago, when anthropology was an entirely different discipline than it is today. I was a student at Oxford, and Robert, straight from his fieldwork among the Saami in Norway, dropped into the Institute of Social Anthropology on Keble Road. It was a Friday, very distinctively a Friday because the Social Anthropology Department had tea or coffee in the morning, usually with Evan-Pritchard presiding" and a open seminar in the afternoon given either by luminaries or by people just in from the field. I say that anthropology was a different subject at that time because there were only 35 academic anthropology posts in Great Britain and student-staff ratios enormously favourable to the students. For example, my year, the first time I met him, there were six students and seven lecturers to teach us in social anthropology and three or four more lecturers to teach us physical anthropology.
Everyone in this circle of students and lecturers was under tight inter-personal scrutiny, and I remember that Robert was looked upon as a kind of oddball because the forerunner of the SSRC in Great Britain was the CSSRC, in other words the Colonial Social Science Research Council, and Robert had chosen to do his fieldwork in a non-colonial area where research funds were hard to come by.
The battleground of discussion was always that of which direction anthropology should go, either as a subject with practical applications in development of Third World countries, advocating on behalf of societies undergoing social change or remaining a theoretical subject. The countries concerned, were, of course, those within the purview of the CSSRC. As I came to know Robert at a later time, those were not his battles, rather he saw the taking down of the theoretical legacy of structural-functionalism, on the one hand, and cultural advocacy, on the other, as a joint enterprise. And he also knew that cultural advocacy was necessary not only for societies that were in direct conflict with the state or with a colonial centre, but that local cultures could be marginalized even when the central state was in its own way of thinking co-operating with local cultures.
I think that was one of the main messages of his own contribution to Advocacy and Anthropology, a conference he organized, subsequently guided into an ISER publication and then found himself having to defend his position in the major journals. That conference was another of my memorable visits to Robert.
Finally, one more anecdote from Oxford days, not because they are the most important in his life but because they are gone. Many of those holding anthropology posts during that period of time had fought in the Second World War. Robert was no exception. Reflection on the experiences they had during the conflict definitely shaped their attitude to events after the war. Rodney Needham usually found occasions at the Institute when he could display his medals, while Evans-Pritchard had a whole host of stories against the military and what he regarded as their stupid understanding of the culture of the people whose land they were fighting upon. Robert never mentioned his part in the war to me until a couple of years ago. I do not know whether my experience is the same as that of others, but he began talking of the fact that he had been a member of the British parachute regiment that had landed to take back Hong Kong He spoke of the impregnability he and others in his regiment felt though wearing a green beret.
But then he never really raised the subject of his being a member of the Order of Canada. A remarkable individual indeed, and I have lost a true friend.
Professor Gordon Inglis
Memorial and St. John's without Robert Paine is unthinkable. To all who mourn his passing we offer our condolences. To Robert himself, we say Godspeed. Gordon and Dorothy Inglis.
Professor John C. Kennedy
When I first came to St. John's, in Feb. 1971 to interview for a position to restudy Shmuel Ben-Dor's classic study of Makkovik, Robert Paine, then Director of the Killam project on the East Arctic, was the person interviewing me (I also met Milton, Jean, and others). Robert wanted to restudy Makkovik himself, but a book contract prevented this. I recall being both fascinated and intimidated by Robert and his anthropology. I met with Robert during one or two brief trips to St. John's during the Makkovik fieldwork and was always impressed by his ability to listen and learn about one's fieldwork and then ask fascinating questions. The conversations that followed often led to unexpected interpretations of field data. During my years in anthropology, Robert was by far the most insightful colleague with regard to seeing/unraveling anthropological data.
During the 1970s, our Anthropology' s and ISER's first Queen's years, Robert took time from his beloved ISER books to organize a truly exciting and interdepartmental series of seminars, remembered as the Queen's Seminars. He was always ready to try out his many new ideas in these seminars, and eager to question and offer encouragement following papers presented by others. Robert sought and found community during those early Queens College years.
Finally, and believe me, I could go on, Robert and I had some disagreements concerning the inevitable shortness of my fieldwork in north Norway, and of course strictly speaking, Robert was absolutely right. Beginning in the early 1950s, Robert spent years in Norway, learning Norsk and Saami, and spending long periods in the field, first amongst the coast Saami (Coast Lapp I and II) and later the reindeer Saami (Herds of the Tundra; Camps of the Tundra). Robert's research and publications were respected by Norwegian and Saami academics. For example, during my brief time in the Saami town of Kautekeino, Easter 1995, a Saami PhD student told me that Robert's book Herds of the Tundra was being used at the Saami Institute to teach younger Saami about the culture of their parents/grandparents! Few could match Robert's excellence. It was then with some trepidation a few years ago that I gave Robert a copy of my own small book on north Norway. Robert's extremely supportive comments about the book arrived in a card a couple of months later.
Like many of you, I have lost a friend and esteemed colleague. Canada (and Norway) has lost a truly great anthropologist. I offer my condolences to Robert's family and friends.
The Cormorant: in memory of Robert Paine
I’ve known Robert Paine for about 5 years, and have lived in his home for almost 3 years.
Robert was different things to me at different times. Early on he was my student of email and ‘Microsoft Word’ and personal computing, sometimes he was my hiking buddy, sometimes a companion to share fine music, food and drink with, sometimes he was a counselor, sometimes a helper to share the maintenance of his house with, a lover of people, birds and dogs, a celebrated anthropologist, and the man I paid my rent to, but always, a terrific housemate and friend.
Once when I used the expression "perfect" in reply to his queries, Robert replied: "perfect – that which cannot be improved upon"... etc. etc. and the inevitable banter would ensue.
Robert was always supportive and inquisitive about what I had on the back burner with music, film and especially, employment.
He allowed me to use 44 Empire Avenue as a location for a film I was making. I failed to envision what that reality would look like and on the day of the shoot I emerged from the basement to find Robert eating his evening meal, head just poking up above stacks of road cases, and lighting gear, and then weaving his way through the miles of cables.
He never so much as complained or uttered a single concern. Much to the contrary, he seemed to enjoy laughing it up with all the people in the house.
Robert always complimented my yard work, and often had a cold gin & tonic waiting for me on the deck, when I’d completed cutting the grass. Then we’d have a drink and a chat.
I would come home and show him a Harris Tweed coat I’d purchased at the thrift store and ask him to guess what I’d paid for it. I’d tell him: "$6.50 – I got it at the Salvation Army," and he’d say: "You’re not POOR!"
This became an ongoing joke: I’d come home from Dominion and say "Oh I was just out getting some groceries", and he’d say questioningly, "You didn’t get them at the Salvation ARMY?".
After several of my troubleshooting events on the phone with the M.U.N. computing centre, they gave him word that his state of the art DOS dial-up modem computer would no longer work with their system. He expressed what a quandary he was in over this: "How will I get email?!"
After he had made a few excursions to Mocha Café’ to get his email, I offered to help him purchase and learn an updated system, get back up and running, and learn the ways of the internet.
He put the computer in the living room of my apartment just down the steps from his kitchen, so we could both use it. This was very generous, as he was always analyzing a thesis, or writing his own books etc.
In return I made a concerted effort to respond as lovingly as possible to: "oh Jesus Christ" – and -"this G_d-Damn computer!", and: "it’s simply disappeared, John, I didn’t do a thing – where did it go!?", me, leaning over him in my pajamas, often with a plate of eggs or a bowl of oatmeal, or coffee in hand.
When I could make the things that disappeared REAPPEAR, or retrieve them from down on the system tray at the bottom of the screen, or when I was able to open a link from Norway or some far-off place, or when I helped him retrieve and ship images for his books to and from the Smithsonian Press for editing, Robert would say, "AHAHAA! You’ve done it man! How do you do it, John! It’s miraculous! Thank you very much, I’m grateful. No, really, John. Now you must show me how you’ve done this. – No, I need you to write it down, step by step!"
On a couple occasions I surprised him by placing in his freezer, as he put it in an email: "THE Haagen Dazs ice cream for which I would run a country mile", or I’d buy him a piece of Stilton Cheese, which he considered expensive and didn’t regularly purchase for himself.
When I’d bring a lady friend around he’d say: "That lady-friend you were with the other day, what was her name, Nora?"
I’d say: "Oh you mean "Nancy?" "Yes, yes, how are things with you and Nancy?"I’d say: "Oh we went to a movie together, and we’re having a picnic today." etc. etc. Robert would say: "Civilized, very civilized."
The experience of living in Robert’s house was fun, dynamic, and extremely human. Some nights, after his six o’clock gin he’d be on the computer in my living room, and he’d ask me to help him fix something in a document, and often we’d change places so I could sit and work on it for him. On these occasions he would huddle in close with a warm hand on my shoulder and his hot gin breath on my ear and jaw, trying to examine each step of the process.
He loaned me books and articles he thought I might be interested in. He would give excited, capsulised reviews of the concerts he and Moyra had attended, other times he’d simply complain about a long boring thesis he was trudging his way through - all of this as he passed through my apartment on his way to his office, or the deck, or to the laundry room where he would hack Dura-Flame starter logs in two with a giant cleaver, always apologizing for the noise.
He and Moyra demonstrated the sweetness of companionship. They will always and forever be: family.
I miss the rhythm of his days, the rhythm of his life.
He taught me to stay involved and motivated, and to keep moving, and that some opportunities must be seized, and some must be created.
"Old age should burn and rage at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light," – indeed.
(From: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, New Directions Publishing Corp., 1957.)
Sometimes he was in emotional pain with the issues of life and would ask for advice. When he was wrong and knew he was, and when he felt that he’d hurt someone deeply he apologized, and he was truly sorry – he was truly sorry.
I miss hearing his morning phone calls with the handset to his ear, speaker-phone blaring so all could hear the caller on the opposite end of the line.
I miss his chat about birds he’d seen at Logy Bay:
"... and there he was: The Cormorant! – Magnificent, John! I didn’t think he’d make an appearance, but, haaAah!" Robert mentioned the cormorant to me many times.
Here’s a poem I think he’d like. I hope you like it too.
The Cormorant in Its Element, by Amy Clampitt
That bony potbellied arrow, wing-pumping along
implacably, with a ramrod’s rigid adherence,
airborne, to the horizontal, discloses talents
one would never have guessed at. Plummeting
waterward, big black feet splayed for a landing
gear, slim head turning and turning, vermilion-
strapped, this way and that, with a lightning glance
over the shoulder, the cormorant astounding-
ly, in one sleek involuted arabesque, a vertical
turn on a dime, goes into that inimitable
deep act which, unlike the works of Homo Houdini,
is performed for reasons having nothing at all
to do with ego, guilt, ambition, or even money.
(From: Peter Steele, "The Creatures and their Words," Eureka Street, July 06, 2006 http://www.eurekastreet.com/au/article/aspx?aeid=1300)
Dr. David Lumsden
Head of Anthropology
Thank you for advising us, via Malcolm Blincow, of the passing of Robert Paine, a regular visitor in our midst in years gone by, a friend of our senior generation of colleagues, and not least, husband of our alumna, the late Lisa Gilad.
Robert was an outstanding and exemplary Social Anthropologist. He was a very fine fieldworker among the Scandinavian Saami, and in Canada's Eastern Arctic. He was an influential author and critic -one immediately thinks of his deconstruction of Fredrik Barth's 'Models'. Our Department emphasizes as you know, 'making knowledge count', and Robert's attention to 'Advocacy' Anthropology was of note. Very important too was his guiding role in your landmark ISER: the Institute of Social and Economic Research, with its stream of compelling ethnographies.
But you will know of all this better than I can say. Anthropology in Canada has lost a leading figure. Please convey to your colleagues and friends, condolences from and the deep sympathy of, the Department of Anthropology of York University.
Professor Nigel Rapport
Professor of Anthropological and Philosophical Studies
University of St. Andrews
A MOMENT OF ROBERT
I want to recall downtown St. John’s in the mid-1980s and a vibrant intellectual community in which Robert is integral. Robert and Lisa are in their Bond Street townhouse, with Kelly the cat. There are parties in the roof-top room overlooking the narrows, people gathering on scatter cushions; Robert stands and drinks and chats and laughs, using his proud mop of grey hair for emphasis. Robert has just delivered a Queens College seminar on the Ingmar Bergman film Fanny and Alexander, exploring its structure and symbolism (I learnt to love the way Robert’s anthropological eye took in everything in his life: his intellectual discipline was also his politics, his recreation and his affection). Not far down the hill live Viktor and Volker and Ron; Judy is nearer the narrows. They and Robert enjoy mushroom soup after a day’s picking in the woods round the bay. Then there is a new CODCO satire at the LSPU Hall to witness, followed by a drink at the Ship. I try to keep up with Robert as he prances back up the steep hill to home, analysing the view still.
Professor Gerald Sider
Professor Emeritus of Anthropology
City University of New York
I want to remember a part of Robert that was special to me and to him, and that I think he did not easily show to people. By way of a background: we had started arguing theory in the early 1970s, taking much pleasure in teasing each other about our differences, when we met again at the annual US anthropology convention in San Francisco, 17 years ago. We went out for a beer and to escape the tension of the convention, and there I told him I was having a hard time in life because my wife, Francine, wanted a child and I felt I was too old to be a father – I was 54 at the time – and I had been through some very difficult times trying to be a father to my older children after a divorce and a separation of quite some distance.
Just to begin, Robert encouraged me, decisively, to have the courage to do it. But what was special was the way he encouraged me. He shared my sense of the difficulty of being a good parent, and an older parent, and a parent of a distant child – his son, in that case – but in the midst of our sharing of the work and the pain of distant parenting he also taught me what I would call a partial optimism, an honest optimism about the possibility of doing it right, an honest optimism, a guarded optimism about the gains, the continuing issues, and the losses.
That’s what I learned to love about Robert – underneath all the theatrics of academia, the self and career absorption that go with the tensions of the job, underneath all of the flamboyance that goes into making a career – for brilliance and hard work, both of which he had fully, are never quite enough – underneath all this cover there was a core of honesty about life, about what it took to try and live a good life as a spouse and parent, knowing that we made and make major mistakes, but nevertheless continuing to try. It is that honesty, and more: that way of engaging the world, that way of living life fully both in the midst of our limits and our mistakes and against our limits and our mistakes, that way of trying to be in the world for others, living on the fine line between optimism and reality, all that is what I got from Robert and I cherish him for it. For all that, even more than what I learned from him professionally, he still lives as a part of me and as a part of my children.
In this way also, and not just in his many professional accomplishments, Robert’s history stretches well into the future, and he has well earned the tribute that lives in the lives of his friends. I hope that it will also live in the lives of his own children, for he cared greatly.
Professor John Steckley
Liberal Arts and Sciences
Robert Paine was my professor as a guest lecturer at York University. It intrigued me that he was always thinking as he taught, not just delivering a prepared package as others did. He was one of the main reasons why I came to MUN to study, then to teach. He made anthropology a dynamic discipline, the department a place for creative ideas to flourish. his impact carries on in the students that I teach. He will be missed.
The Sami Archives
I am sad to hear that Robert Paine has passed away.
For me Robert was a most precious colleague and a good friend.
He was a guide in my professional anthropological career, and I have never forgotten how he looked after me during my stay as a visiting scholar at Memorial University.
I would like to offer my condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.
Dr. Mark Tate
Head of Anthropology
Memorial University of Newfoundland
It was in the late 1970s when I first attended a talk by Robert Paine. He was the guest speaker at the Department of Anthropology, York University. He was already a famous anthropologist and his work was required reading for undergraduate students of anthropology like me. So all of us, including my friend Lisa Gould, were very keen to hear what he had to say. The last talk I heard him give was a few months ago. He was the speaker at the Department of Anthropology, Memorial University, the very same department he founded over four decades ago. After the talk he told me he wanted to learn how to do Power Point presentations. I told him I did too.
In the early 1990s I got to know Robert a little by joining him on his daily walks with his beloved dogs in the hills around St. John’s. Robert always made these walks sound as if they were going to be short and easy. They never were. His rather chaotic relationships with his dogs made the steep climbs an adventure. But eventually I came to see that they were his way of recharging his batteries, so to speak, a time for him to reflect on his work or current events in the world or the apparent direction of the university.
As we all know, Robert’s career at Memorial University began in the mid 1960s, which was a time of considerable growth and development in the institution. He made a lasting contribution to those developments through the Institute for Social and Economic Research. His service to the university did not mean, however, that he was always on board with the policies and decisions of the administration. For example, he described the termination of MUN’s Extension Service in the early 1990s as “incomprehensible” and “unforgiveable” (Paine 1997: 62). Although he was a Social Anthropologist trained at Oxford University, his thirst for knowledge was not bound by any discipline or school of thought. In that sense he was a maverick. His contribution to the academic world earned him a number of distinctions during his lifetime. In 1996 he was named to the Order of Canada. At the university his leadership laid the groundwork for social science research throughout Newfoundland and Labrador and stimulated the scholarly careers of generations of young men and women.
One more thing: Robert loved to debate ideas, particularly “his” ideas. His remarkable dedication to his work reflects perhaps something else about the man: a passion for discovery about the world and the peoples who inhabit it – a passion for life. So whether you are a student of anthropology like me or something else, Robert has left us a legacy – a thirst for knowing our world – that will be remembered and, I hope, emulated.
Professor Trond Thuen
Department of Archaelogy and Social Anthropology
University of Tromsø (Norway)
On behalf of friends and colleagues in Tromsø:
It is with great sorrow we have received the message that Robert has passed away so suddenly. We will miss him deeply for what he meant to every one of us, on an academic as well as on a personal level. On his many visits to Tromsø, and not least during his period as an adjunct professor here, he inspired us with his friendly inquisitiveness and indefatigable curiosity about Saami and other issues, and also included us in his own work in progress through seminars and informal discussions. His death is a great loss to all of us, and we feel deep sympathy for his family and his friends in St. John's.
A nestor within the field of Saami studies and the discipline of social anthropology has passed away. Robert Paine died in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, on 8 July 2010 at the age of 84. The main bulk of his comprehensive authorship concerns Saami issues. It is fair to say that he was the one who made the greatest contribution to putting anthropological knowledge of the Saami on the international ethnographic map, covering both coastal and pastoral livelihoods. On that basis he was awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Tromsø in 1998. He was also an honorary doctor at the University of Edinburgh and at his own university, the Memorial University of Newfoundland, in St. John's, Newfoundland.
Robert Paine was born in England and started his anthropological studies at Oxford University with Evans Pritchard as one of his teachers. Pondering where to start his fieldwork (but with a strong wish to go North), he decided to join Saami reindeer herders, but ended up in the small coastal community of Kokelv, western Finnmark, in 1951. The fieldwork laid the basis for a two volume monograph, Coast Lapp Society I (1957) and Coast Lapp Society II (1965), portraying a coastal Saami community in peripheral north Norway on the brink of economic and political integration in the wider society. His subsequent fieldwork with the nomadic Saami produced an extensive number of articles from the 1960s and onwards. In 1965 he was offered a position at the University of Oslo, but opted for Memorial University in St. John's, where he started the building of an anthropological community at the Institute of Social and Economic Research. This community attracted a large number of Norwegian anthropologists as visitors from the 1960s until today. In Canada his main focus was the northern indigenous peoples, the Inuit and Indians, and notably with a critical view of the paternalist policies of the government which he labelled ''welfare colonialism''.
His commitment to the Saami indigenous cause, and in particular his knowledge about reindeer nomadism, bred a strong engagement in the Alta case of hydro-electric dam construction in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He gave expert evidence to the Supreme Court and wrote the report Dam a River,Damn a People? in 1982, emphasizing the significance of reindeer pastoralism for Saami cultural survival. During the 1990s he continued analysing his rich field material on reindeer pastoralism in Finnmark and published Herds of the Tundra in 1994, followed by Camps of the Tundra shortly before he died. Here, the intricate interrelationship between animals, humans and landscape is revealed in great detail, illustrating the rationality of herding within an environment that also includes the governmental authorities' conceptualization of reindeer husbandry, which demonstrates a type of rationality that at times contrasts strongly with that of the pastoralists.
Robert Paine's scope of interests was wider than that of the Saami and the Canadian north, however. Through visits to Israel and interviews with Jewish settlers on the West Bank he illuminated the Jewish biblical conceptualization of causation and legitimacy of land claims. In a number of influential articles he engaged in discussions of general themes such as friendship, identity, nationalism, risk, power, and many more.
Robert Paine was highly appreciated by a large number of people, not only for his intellectual support and encouragement as a colleague, but also for his friendship. He visited the anthropological community at the University and Museum of Tromsø a number of times and notably in the years 1998-2000 as an adjunct professor. He nourished close relations with Saami friends and shared his analytical work, particularly on reindeer nomadism, with them for input and corrections. His curiosity and candour concerning the work of colleagues and his pointed and encouraging comments were highly appreciated.
He inspired a wide international network of anthropologists, but he was especially important within the Norwegian, the Nordic and the Saami academic communities of Saami studies. With his passing we have lost a colleague who in a very exceptional and remarkable sense combined intellectual and emotional qualities in his friendship.
(**As published in Vol 27(2) of Acra Borealia)
Carl Cato Wadel
Associate Professor, Dept. of Social Sciences
University of Stavanger
I have many great memories of Robert. They go all the way back to 1966 when, as a six year old blond Norwegian boy, I came to St. John's for the first time. It was Robert that got my father to come from his studies with Barth in Bergen to work at Memorial. We had three and a half years in Nfld. which were wonderful and a very important and memorable time in our lives.
We often visited Robert and his family back then, and I especially remember playing with [Robert's son] Michael. He had so many more toys than I had.
Since then I have visited St. John’s several times and have met Robert on some of his trips to Norway. On my visits to St. John’s Robert always took good care of me. I enjoyed our many talks and walks. When I was working on a project for the Norwegian Fishery Council in the Notre Dame Bay area in 1993, Robert gave me a place to stay when I came to St. John’s. He introduced me to interesting people and organised a seminar at Memorial where I got to present my observations from the outports during the moratorium. During that stay I also enjoyed getting to know [Robert's wife and daughter] Lisa and Jessica.
Robert got to know my wife and children when we visited Nfld in 1998 and 2008. We had some lovely dinners and nice walks together on those occasions. Robert and my seven year old son Jakob developed a special friendship. Ever since they first met in Flekkefjord [the Wadels' home in Norway] in 2007, Jakob has always talked a lot about Robert.
Dear Robert! We will all miss you very very much. We are so grateful for having had you as a friend and we will look back at the moments we have had together with great pleasure. My parents Cato and Synnøve Wadel would also like to thank you for a long and valuable friendship.
You will always be in our hearts. We send our thoughts to you and your beloved ones on this day [July 12]. We wish we could be there to celebrate your life.
With love from Jakob, Cato, Synnøve, Carl Cato and the rest of the Wadel family in Stavanger and Flekkefjord, Norway.
Professor Joseba Zulaika
Professor and Co-Director of Center for Basque Studies
University of Nevada, Reno
As a young man, trying to escape Franco and my own Basque homeland, in the Fall of 1975 I traveled to St. John’s, Newfoundland, to do a Masters in Anthropology. I was shy, could barely speak English, and was ignorant of what Anthropology had in store for me. All I knew was that I was an ocean away from home and that I had to reinvent myself.
I was in the right place for this, I soon realized. Robert was one of the reasons why. He became interested in my work and spent many hours discussing my M.A. thesis on Terranova fishermen. He published that work in ISER and ISHI. With letters from George Park and Robert I was later accepted [as a PhD student] at Princeton University. Robert's work on political rhetoric and metonymy became for me a letter of presentation to my new mentor James Fernandez, who specializes in metaphor.
Robert was the kind of mentor who taught his students turned friends what is relevant about anthropology. He wrestled with theories and ethnographic situations that are decisive in shaping our own biographies. In the tradition of British anthropology, he emphasized ethnographic context but also knew about the importance of epistemological issues.
As I look back to these years, one thing that strikes me is Robert’s extraordinary generosity. I don’t know how many letters he must have written on my behalf. He had a sense of intellectual duty to foster the careers of the people he cared for. He is one of the three or four people [to] whom my career owes the most.
Another thing that stands out is his enormous capacity for friendship and the singular enjoyment he brought to it. A conversation, a debate, a trip with him was always informative, witty, pleasurable. Receiving a newspaper clip or a Christmas postcard from him, as I did this past year, was for me such a present. This Spring I called him on three different occasions and left messages wishing him well. He did not reply. Even his non-calls and non-letters will be for me acts of friendship that will cheer me endlessly.