Jean Comaroff

Jean Comaroff

Prof. Jean Comaroff in Cape Town, South Africa, February 2009

Prof. Jean Comaroff in Cape Town, South Africa, February 2009
Fields Anthropology
Institutions University of Chicago
Harvard University
Alma mater University of Cape Town
London School of Economics

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.[1] 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.[2]

She received her B.A. in 1966 from the University of Cape Town and her Ph.D. in 1974 from London School of Economics. She has been a University faculty member since 1978.[3]

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. An important recent book that she wrote with John Comaroff is Theory from the South, which among other things covers "how Euro-America is evolving towards Africa."[4]

Personal life

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.[5] Both Jean and John Comaroff were faculty members at the University of Chicago between 1979 and 2012.[6]

For full interview, see 2008 interview with Kalman Applbaum.

Personal quotes

"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


Joint Publications (with John Comaroff):


  1. Archived December 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. "Jean Comaroff • Public Culture". Retrieved 2015-12-29.
  3. "Jean Comaroff". Retrieved 2016-09-28.
  4. Comaroff, Jean; Comaroff, John L. (2015-11-17). Theory from the South: Or, How Euro-America is Evolving Toward Africa. Routledge. ISBN 9781317250616.
  5. "Jean and John Comaroff interviewed by Kalman Applbaum 15th November". Retrieved 2015-12-29.
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