Those of you who periodically read “From the Field” will have noticed that I have not posted in some time. Since my return from Baghdad and al-Najaf, and later England, I have been up to ears in a variety of projects, in additional to tending to my students. I will try to resume a more active rhythm in the coming weeks, including a long-promised post on the Hawza, and a reflection on the important Nasrallah programmatic statement.
More urgently, I would like to comment on the horrible news that Richard Antoun has been murdered in his office in Binghamton on November 4, 2009, reputedly by a graduate student who he had worked with some time. I did not know Antoun well enough to count him as a friend, but he did have a formative impact upon me. When I was a graduate student at the University of Chicago, more than 30 years ago, he was a visiting professor in anthropology. While I was studying political science at the university, I did foray from time to time into the anthro department (and, of course, I now spend a good part of my professional life in an anthropology department). I fondly recall his wonderful course on Middle East culture, for which I wrote a long paper on conflict resolution that I later drew upon during hot moments in Lebanon. I recall Professor not just as a gentleman, but as a gentle, soft-spoken person who was always sensitive his interlocutor’s feelings. It is hard to imagine him saying anything offensive or cruel. In many ways he always impressed me as content to return to an idyllic Jordanian village far away from the mayhem and corruption of urban life. He was unquestionably a leading figure in Middle East studies. I join, as I hope you will his wife Roslayn in remembering his life and his work.