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On the passing of Dell Hymes

Written By: daveski on November 19, 2009 3 Comments

No doubt scholars and students far and wide are mourning the passing on November 13 of Dell Hymes, one of the most influential thinkers in folklore studies, linguistic anthropology, and other fields. The University of Virginia published this article yesterday on the news of his death; one of the undoubtedly many tributes online is from the blog of the Chair of the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University, Jason Baird Jackson.

But (and especially in this time of crisis in public higher education in California) it seems most appropriate to go to the words of none other than Dell Hymes himself, who writes on his own homepage at UVA:

What’s interesting is real work. I am always interested in combating elitism and narrowness and the playing of ‘Western mind games’ (as one friend once put it) at the expense of the rest of the world.

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3 Responses to “On the passing of Dell Hymes”

  1. Claire Kramsch on: 19 November 2009 at 10:46 pm

    wonderful quote! The first time I met Dell Hymes was at U. of Indiana in the 80’s at a conference on proficiency. A long conversation on a bench at the airport on the way home showed me what a generous, open-minded and wonderful Mensch he was. Shortly after I got back home, I received from him a whole package of manuscripts of his. He was cleaning his office and thought of me. The last time I saw him was in Reims at an IPrA meeting in the early 90’s. He was standing at the baptismal font in a dark corner of the cathedral in Reims and I told him that this is where I got baptized. He was surprised but not overly impressed, as he rightly thought I was bragging. The last time I heard from him was after a talk I gave at the U. of Utah, that was attended by his wife Virginia. He wrote me a personal handwritten little note, saying he had heard from Virginia that I had mentioned his work and how grateful he was that somebody remembered him. I was floored by his modesty and by the fact that even scholarly giants like Dell Hymes have their doubts about whether their work has had any impact on anyone.
    I still cannot quite grasp the fact that Dell has now entered history and that we’ve got to talk of him in the past tense.

  2. Aaminah on: 8 December 2009 at 7:53 am

    Thank you Dave and Claire! It is nice when we get to see the human side of those scholars we admire.

  3. daveski on: 8 December 2009 at 11:36 pm

    Yeah, it’s amazing how human he seems even in his scholarly writing. Maybe we should have a series of posts on the *other* activities and lives of the people we read….?

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