John W. Burton, professor of anthropology and for many years director of the African Studies program at Connecticut College, passed away in December, 2013.
He earned his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Professor Burton taught courses on social and cultural anthropology, ethnology of sub-Saharan Africa, anthropology of sex and gender, and a course on the relationship between natural languages and systems of symbolic classifications. He is internationally known for his research on the Nilotic-speaking peoples of eastern Africa and was the author of A Nilotic World: The Atout Speaking Peoples of the Southern Sudan and God's Ants: A Study of Atout Religion (1987; 1981). His published work addressed the impact of capitalism on non-market economies; traditional religious practices and beliefs; possession and healing; initiation ceremonies; changing patterns of marriage and ethnic identity; and the implications of state-sponsored genocide on indigenous peoples. His book, An Introduction to Evans-Pritchard, addressed concepts and paradigms in the history of anthropological thought, focusing on the work of the late British anthropologist Sir E. E. Evans-Pritchard. His latest book was Culture and the Human Body: An Anthropological Perspective (2001).
Burton published numerous articles and book reviews in professional journals including the Journal of Asian and African Studies, of which he was co-editor. He organized symposiums for annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association and presented his work at these and other professional meetings throughout the United States and at Oxford, where he was a graduate research student in social anthropology.
Burton worked with student researchers and his departmental colleagues to develop a new course in the anthropology department as part of a college-wide effort to include underrepresented perspectives in the curriculum.
Burton was the recipient of multiple grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Mellon Foundation. Several grants funded his research experience in Nilotic-speaking Alout in southern Sudan; archival research on British administration in the southern Sudan from 1898-1956; and field work in St. Vincent, West Indies.
A memorial service for John was held on February 15, 2014, in Harkness Chapel, Connecticut College.
His family created a memorial website where people can read more about his life and leave their personal tributes.