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Jean Comaroff is Professor of African and African American Studies and of Anthropology, Oppenheimer Fellow in African Studies at Harvard University. She is an expert on the effects of colonialism on people in Southern Africa. Until 2012, Jean was the Bernard E. & Ellen C. Sunny Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago and Honorary Professor of Anthropology at the University of Cape Town.
In collaboration with her husband John Comaroff, as well as on her own, Comaroff has written extensively on colonialism,and hegemony based on fieldwork conducted in southern Africa and Great Britain.
Comaroff also serves as a member of the Editorial Collective of the journal Public Culture.
Jean Comaroff was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, shortly after World War II. Her father, a Jewish South African doctor, joined the British Army Medical Corps while studying abroad to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology. Her mother was a convert to Judaism, born to a Lutheran German family that had emigrated to South Africa in the late nineteenth century. Dr. Comaroff's parents returned to South Africa when she was ten months old, settling in the highly segregated industrial town of Port Elizabeth. While the family supported local political unrest, her father kept a low-profile due to his role running a local clinic. Her mother was involved in community work, including running soup kitchens and night-school, and working with the elderly Jewish community.
In late 1960s, she and her husband, anthropologist John Comaroff moved to Great Britain to pursue a PhD in anthropology. Both Jean and John Comaroff were faculty members at the University of Chicago between 1979 and 2012.
For full interview, see 2008 interview with Kalman Applbaum.
"The fascinating thing is that anthropology is anti-hegemonic in many of the questions it asks, and is threatened in many places. But the ideas produced within anthropology are still generative far beyond the discipline." Nov. 2008
- 1985 Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance: The Culture and History of a South African People. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- 2007 Beyond the Politics of Bare Life: AIDS and the Global Order. Public Culture, 19(1): 197-219.
Joint Publications (with John Comaroff):
- 1991 Of Revelation and Revolution Vol I: Christianity, Colonialism, and Consciousness in South Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- 1992 Ethnography and the Historical Imagination. Boulder: Westview Press.
- 1997 Of Revelation and Revolution Vol II: The Dialectics of Modernity on a South African Frontier. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- 2000 Millennial Capitalism: First Thoughts on a Second Coming. Public Culture, 12(2): 291-343.
- 2006 Law and Disorder in the Postcolony (eds.) University of Chicago Press.
- 2006 The Portraits of an Ethnographer as a Young Man: The Photography of Isaac Schapera in "Old Botswana." Anthropology Today. 22(1):10-17.
- 2007 Picturing a Colonial Past: The African Photographs of Isaac Schapera. (eds. w/ D.A. James) University of Chicago Press.
- 2009 Ethnicity, Inc. (Chicago Studies in Practices of Meaning), University Of Chicago Press (July 15, 2009)
- 2009 Dixit: Violencia y ley en la poscolonia: una reflexión sobre las complicidades Norte-Sur, Buenos Aires y Madrid, Katz Barpal Editores, ISBN 978-84-96859-56-2 (En coedición con el Centro de Cultura Contemporánea de Barcelona)
- 2011 “Twenty Years after Of Revelation and Revolution: An Interview with Jean Comaroff”, Social Sciences and Missions (Leiden: Brill), vol.24(2-3), pp. 148–170
- 2012 Theory from the South: Or, How Euro-America is Evolving Toward Africa (The Radical Imagination). [Paradigm Publishers].