On 4 March 2016 the Cultural Anthropology Programme at Victoria University of Wellington held a memorial service for Professor Ann Chowning, an ASAA/NZ Honorary Life Member.
Professor Ann Chowning
She came to us from the University or Papua New Guinea where she was Associate Prof of Anthropology and Dean of Arts. She died in Auckland on February 25 2016.
Born in Little Rock Arkansas, Ann attended Bryn Mawr College and received her PhD. from the University of Pennsylvania. She went on to teach at Barnard College, Columbia University before becoming a Senior Research Fellow at ANU prior to assuming her position at UPNG. After retiring from VUW Prof Chowning moved to Auckland where she regularly participated in seminars and other academic activities with a wide group of friends and colleagues in anthropology and related disciplines.
She was, even in the 1970s, a rare and fine example of the American ‘four-field’ approach to anthropology which demanded knowledge of pre-history, culture, linguistics, and physical anthropology. Her expertise in archaeology came from work in Tikal Guatemala and New Britain, Papua New Guinea. Her socio-cultural fieldwork in Molima, Kove, Lakalai and Sengseng (PNG) established her as a respected and accomplished fieldworker as well as linguist of Austronesian languages. She also published on female fertility in her fieldwork sites.
A festschrift in Ann’s honour published in 2005 is aptly titled “A Polymath Anthropologist Essays in Honour of Ann Chowning”. Most volumes of this type contain papers by former students and colleagues from a discrete branch of a subject that make passing reference to the person being honoured. But this book contains papers from archaeologists, linguists, physical and sociocultural anthropologists as well as seven contributions that are about Ann herself and how much she helped and influenced people who went on to become successful anthropologists. Prof Chowning worked tirelessly to promote anthropology in this university and collaborated with colleagues in other departments who shared her wide interests. She leaves a lasting legacy on anthropology in New Zealand, Melanesia, and beyond.
- Hal Levine, Senior Lecturer, Victoria University of Wellington