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Please Express Your Condolences for Former LSA President Sally Merry

Thursday, September 10, 2020   (61 Comments)
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Dear Colleagues,

The Law & Society community is saddened by the loss of former LSA President Sally Merry. Prof. Merry served as President from 1993-95. She was a preeminent law & society scholar, winning both the LSA J. Willard Hurst Book Prize (2002) and Harry J. Kalven Jr. Prize (2007).

Prof. Merry was widely published and earned numerous awards and honors throughout her career. She was a Julius Silver Professor of Anthropology at New York University and an affiliated faculty member at NYU Law. Her research on human rights, gender violence, colonialism and anthropology & law revolutionized sociolegal scholarship and inspired a future generation of law & society intellectuals. She received the Franz Boas prize in 2019, the highest accolade awarded by the American Anthropological Association. Merry also held terms as president for the American Ethnological Society and the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology. A graduate of Wellesley College (1966), Yale University (1967) and Brandeis University (1978), she was awarded a Doctor of Law degree, honora causa, from McGill University in 2013. 

Whether you knew Prof. Merry personally, spoke with her at a conference or were influenced by her work, we would like to provide this informal space for the LSA community to express their condolences and honor her legacy. If you would like to do so, please submit a comment below. 

We will be adding more tributes to Prof. Merry as they become available. If you come across a tribute that has not been added to this page, please post it in a comment below. 


Related: Law & Society Review - In Memoriam: Sally Engle Merry


Ajay K. Mehrotra says...
Posted Friday, September 18, 2020
We will all miss Sally deeply. She was a tremendous scholar, a generous mentor, and warm and caring person. All of us at the ABF benefited enormously from her guidance as a longtime member (and most recently chair) of our external research review committee. I had the great honor to work with her in that capacity, after many years of admiring and teaching her outstanding scholarship. Getting to know Sally personally over the last few years was a great privilege. Our deepest condolences to Sally’s family. May she rest in peace.
Jack Jin Gary Lee says...
Posted Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Professor Merry's passing has meant that a leading light in our intellectual universe no longer burns in the same way as before. I have always enjoyed teaching her book, Colonizing Hawaii, always marveling when students come away from the experience with a deeper, and more critical, understanding of law's workings in the colonizing process. Her work has inspired more than a few undergraduate research term papers among these students, a sign of the enduring value of the questions that she poses and the new perspectives that her scholarship has made possible. While writing with feelings of sadness and loss at her passing, I know Professor Merry's scholarship will continue to inspire and lead us toward better questions and ways of engaging with the problematic workings of law in our lives. Thank you, Professor Merry. Rest in peace.
Sakiko Fukuda-Parr says...
Posted Monday, September 14, 2020
I am shocked by the news of Sally's death. She was a very special person. For me personally she had a decisive influence in motivating my work for the last 15 years. I remember the first time I met her was when she presented her paper that analysed the controversies over the Human Development Index. I was mesmerised; I could see why what I had been publishing had such distorting effects. She was not only a great scholar but was generous in sharing her time and ideas, and a lot of fun to be with. Deepest sympathy to her family. Sakiko Fukuda-Parr
Konstanze Plett says...
Posted Monday, September 14, 2020
, together with Catherine Meschievitz: Our deepest sympathy to Sally's family. Sally was an integral part of a small Transatlantic conference-and-book project carried out by two post-docs, one from UW-Madison and one from Bremen University (then-Western Germany), under the auspices of the Law & Society Association (with support from the Disputes Processing Research Program and the Zentrum für Europäische Rechtspolitik), in the late 1980s. We can only underline what has been written in this column on Sally's generosity in sharing her ideas, giving selfless guidance and being an inspiration all along. Whenever we met her since then, her openness and kindness in even brief encounters have always been encouraging and delightful. We are saddened by her loss and will miss her deeply.
Kevin Davis says...
Posted Monday, September 14, 2020
Sally was a wonderful person and the epitome of a scholar. I am extraordinarily grateful for the privilege of having been able to work with her, and our collaboration was one of the highlights of my career. What is truly remarkable is how many people could say the same.The only comfort here is that her work will live on, not just in the books and articles but also in the memories of the people whose lives she touched.
Lynette Chua says...
Posted Monday, September 14, 2020
I am deeply saddened by the news of Sally Merry's passing. Her work influenced and shaped generations of law and society scholars. Sally's passing is a devastating loss for our community. My deepest condolences to her family.
John Flood says...
Posted Monday, September 14, 2020
I was shocked to learn of Sally Merry's death. She was a great law and society scholar. May she rest in peace.
Shahla F. Ali says...
Posted Monday, September 14, 2020
I add my deepest condolences on the passing of Sally Merry. Echoing the many beautiful tributes here, her impact has been immense. Her work added important insights into the traversing of law across cultures and its function as a metric and indicator of development. Her example of thoughtful, grounded, fair minded, nuanced, and collaborative work will continue to inspire many.
Reetta Toivanen says...
Posted Monday, September 14, 2020
My deepest condolences to Sally's family! I was struck by these sad news since I had no idea of the vicious illness she suffered. Only beginning of the year I asked her to chair with me a panel at the EASA in Lisbon summer 2020 and she responded so kindly as always telling that she tries to avoid too much traveling. She was so inspirational, always supporting us, for me personally she was the one who made me believe in me and becoming a legal anthropologist (a profession not so well know in Europe end of 1990s). I am so great full for Sally and her academic contribution to legal anthropology is beyond any measures! She will be so much missed!
Posted Sunday, September 13, 2020
I am saddened on this loss to us of a brilliant scholar Sally Merry. My deepest sympathy to Sally`s family. My condolences.
Christopher Zorn says...
Posted Sunday, September 13, 2020
My condolences to Dr. Merry's family, friends, and colleagues. To add to what has been said below: Sally was a hugely valued, integral member of the NSF's Law & Social Sciences review panel during my time there. The combination of rigor, thoughtfulness, and good humor she brought to that charge was unmatched, as were the breadth and diversity of her knowledge about all things legal. She was also unfailingly generous toward and supportive of junior scholars just breaking into the "grants game." She will be sorely missed.
Howard S. Erlanger says...
Posted Sunday, September 13, 2020
Sally was the epitomy of the ideal law and society scholar. A careful and precise scholar who took on the critical issues of our time, and made an impact well past her own field of anthropology. And at the same time, her warmth and kindness always shone through. It was an honor to serve on the LSA board when she was president.
Susan M. Sterett says...
Posted Sunday, September 13, 2020
My deepest sympathy to Sally's family. Her work is so generative; I return again and again to remind myself as I think through new projects, or teach how to reflect on cultures producing knowledge about law. I appreciated her warmth; we would share notes on how our families were doing when we ran into each other.
Richard W. Rottenburg says...
Posted Sunday, September 13, 2020
It is painful to know that Sally is no longer among us. She stood out as a scholar who combined intellectual brilliance with modesty, generosity and mindfulness in a unique way. One could almost coin a new verb that captures her practice, like in "if you could improve your merry-ing, you would become a much better person and also be more successful".
Tamara Relis says...
Posted Sunday, September 13, 2020
I am shocked and so deeply saddened on this loss to us all of such a brilliant, paradigm-shifting scholar, as well as such a kind and giving human being. Sally had welcomed me when I first joined Law and Society from over the pond at the LSE. I was in awe of her works and my PhD supervisor, Professor Simon Roberts, had advised me to connect with Sally for guidance upon my return to North America. From that time, despite her stature, Sally had been consistently supportive of my work, and was so kind to give of her time for advice on my scholarship. I am grateful that Sally's incredible work will live on to enlighten and inspire scholars for generations to come.
Carroll Seron says...
Posted Saturday, September 12, 2020
I was so saddened to learn of Sally’s untimely passing. While her scholarship will continue to shape socio-legal scholarship in a multitude of ways, the first thing I reflected upon when learning of our loss is our early meetings of the Law & Society Association. We were all young, carving out our perspective, and, I think it’s fair to say, a bit bewildered. From those early moments, it was clear that Sally’s star would rise and that she would go on to do great scholarship. Her kindness and generosity to others, particularly younger scholars, is, I hope, something that will also live on as a hallmark of Sally’s contribution to our field. I will miss Sally’s warm smile, her inquisitiveness, and her laugh.
Christopher J. Arup says...
Posted Saturday, September 12, 2020
For many years, Sally was the guiding light in the co-edited Cambridge University Press series, Studies in Law and Society. Working with Finola O'Sullivan and John Berger at the Press, she enabled many socio-legal scholars to publish their original, empirical research studies, very much advancing our knowledge of society and law all around the world.
Taiwo Odumosu says...
Posted Saturday, September 12, 2020
Sally will be remembered for her good works. Everyone speaks well of your exemplary service to humanity. For some of us who did not know you in person but have read and heard about you, we couldn't but agree with their superlative encomiums on you. You will be sadly missed not just by your immediate family but also we, at the LSA. May the Lord accept your soul.
John Comaroff says...
Posted Saturday, September 12, 2020
I am deeply saddened by Sally's passing, saddened beyond measure. It brings to an end a friendship and close collegial relationship that extended back for more than thirty years. Sally's extraordinary scholarship speaks volumes for itself. It speaks for the breadth of her intellectual vision, for her critical acuity, her erudition, her capacity to take on tough issues and say something new and important about them. She was, as everyone knows, an extraordinarily generous, and insightful, interlocutor, one from whom I learned an enormous amount. But even more than this, she was an exceptional human being, known for her empathy and sensitivity, her warmth and other-centeredness. And her (often slightly wicked) sense of humor. At the same time, as I know from personal experience, Sally never drew back from a challenge. She showed courage where others feared to tread. I shall miss her, as will everyone who knew her. She has left a large footprint, a legacy in which we can all revel.
Vilma Santiago-Irizarry says...
Posted Saturday, September 12, 2020
I first encountered Sally's work as a graduate student in anthropology, when I began to specialize in the anthropology of law. As a former practicing attorney and litigator, her work spoke to me in a way that other people's didn't. I quickly became a fan. Several years later, when she was invited to Cornell, where I was junior faculty, to talk about the then new Colonizing Hawai'i, I was invited to be her discussant, a task I approached with great excitement, pride, trepidation, and respect. Her kindness, collegiality, even modesty and friendliness were inspiring. From then on, we'd touch base at the American Anthropological Association meetings and despite her renown in the profession, Sally remained the same unassuming colleague. One of my pleasures through the years has been to introduce students, both graduate and undergraduate, to Sally's work especially as it evolved and moved in step with developments in the subfield. Her death is a sad and profound loss to all.
Yael Berda Berda says...
Posted Friday, September 11, 2020
I encountered Sally Merry's work when I was a lawyer representing Palestinians in military courts. My legal training, especially on human rights, or due process, seemed not to provide any explanations for how things worked in these courts, which at times seemed like a circus and at others seemed like a bad version of a sci fi film. Then I read about law, culture and power in Merry's work. It was both a relief to read (because it provided some explanation to my cognitive disonance, and a terrible ache, to know more about that relationship between that trinity of law, culture and power. Rest in Peace
Kimberly D. Richman says...
Posted Friday, September 11, 2020
The first time I met Sally was as a grad student in Budapest, at the LSA meetings in 2001, introduced by one of my mentors, Kitty Calavita. She was very kind in talking to me and listening to my ideas. Her book, Getting Justice and Getting Even, inspired and provided the framework for the first article I ever published, while in grad school. This is indeed a monumental loss of a great scholar and person.
John M. Halushka says...
Posted Friday, September 11, 2020
I met Sally when I was a naive first-year graduate student in NYU’s (now defunct) Law and Society Program. With no background in socio-legal studies, I had no clue that she was such a giant in the field. She certainly didn’t act like it. She was incredibly warm, kind, and generous. She gave freely of her time and was always willing to listen to my ideas and take them seriously (even though in hindsight they were the half-baked ravings of a clueless first year student). Sally never talked down to me or reminded me of the incredible status gulf between us. She made me feel like I belonged in graduate school and gave me the confidence to pursue my ideas. We have not only lost a luminary of the field, but also an incredible mentor.
Joachim J. Savelsberg says...
Posted Friday, September 11, 2020
Sally Merry was an inspiring scholar, and I experienced her as a kind person and colleague. I am sorry that she had to leave us prematurely. I send my condolences to those who were close to her.
Sindiso Mnisi Weeks says...
Posted Friday, September 11, 2020
I, like others, am shocked and saddened by the news of Prof. Merry's passing. She was always so generous – which I experienced meeting her as an intimidated recent PhD nearly a decade ago right through to the encouragement she shared in our recent email exchange. My scholarship is richer for knowing her work as the brilliant scholar she was; and my confidence as a scholar is greater and my character as a person better for having known her even just a little as a human being. What an unbelievable loss! May her soul rest in peace.
Antonio Pe�a-Jumpa Sr. says...
Posted Friday, September 11, 2020
Es una noticia muy triste. En Perú, recordamos a la profesora Merry por su contribución en la antropología del derecho. Su texto “Legal Pluralism” es un ejemplo de completa sistematización que ella hizo sobre el tema hasta 1988. La seguiremos recordando. -------- It's a very sad news. In Peru, we remember Professor Merry for her contribution in the anthropology of law. Her text "Legal Pluralism" is an example of complete systematization she made on the subject until 1988. We'll keep remembering her.
Michael C. Musheno says...
Posted Friday, September 11, 2020
I knew Sally for over 30 years. Her early work on mediation and the everyday of conflict inspired me as a field researcher and taught me added skills for embedding inquiry in local settings, both organizations and communities. I continue to use chapters of Sally's Getting Justice, Getting Even in my graduate seminar on Conflict. I often met up with Sally at the book exhibit of the Law and Society Meetings. We would peruse the book displays, talk about our respective projects, and just catch up on our lives. She will live on with my students and I am holding onto those sweet moments when I would approach her at the book exhibits and she would offer a hand and that inviting smile as we began our chats. -- Michael Musheno
Mark Fathi Massoud says...
Posted Friday, September 11, 2020
Sally Merry believed in me. Over the last 15 years she taught me about believing in myself and helping others do the same. Our community of scholars of law and society is stronger because of her. -Mark Fathi Massoud
Gabriele Wadlig says...
Posted Friday, September 11, 2020
I will always remember Sally as an amazing scholar and mentor but, first and foremost, as a uniquely warm, kind, supportive, and incredibly inspiring human being. There were countless times over the past couple of years that I sat in her office ready to give up on my dissertation but Sally encouraged me to go on - to maybe focus on more feasible issues, but to not give up. Every time I met with her to discuss, I left with renewed motivation. Every time I attended any of her lectures, or classes, I left with new inspiration and a renewed sense of why I am in this field - and what it is that is so fascinating about law. However, maybe more important than her academic brilliance, is that Sally was just a terrific human being. Everybody who has met her will know what I am talking about. She was kind and warm and at the same time candid and honest. If I had to name one person, I consider a role model, it is her. RIP Sally - You will keep inspiring us with your brilliance and compassion!
Smadar Ben-Natan says...
Posted Friday, September 11, 2020
I was deeply saddened by the news on Sally Merry's passing, although I did not know her personally. Her work fundamentally shaped how I look at law in society, at legal pluralism, colonial legal systems and their parallels in our colonial present. Such a groundbreaking scholar and an inspiration. May she rest in peace, she definitely left a mark on so many of us.
Margaret Woo says...
Posted Friday, September 11, 2020
I was so saddened to hear of this news. Sally Merry was a wonderful scholar, mentor and role model. She always had time for me when I was a young scholar, and I recall wonderful lunches with her. Her work on gender equality, human rights and global governance was ground-breaking. I will miss her. Margaret Woo
Michael W. McCann says...
Posted Friday, September 11, 2020
I was deeply distressed to hear this tragic news. Sally Merry was one the greatest scholars in the sociolegal tradition. I have long taught her writings to students at all levels and insisted that graduate students (including political scientists) immerse themselves in her work. She was a wonderful person with whom I had the great pleasure and honor to work in many ways. We will miss her brilliant and inspiring presence among us.
Matthew Erie says...
Posted Friday, September 11, 2020
Although I was never formally a student of Prof. Merry’s, after annual meetings at the AAA conferences and countless emails in which I would seek her advice and thoughts - I began to think of myself as her student. We first met in 2005 at Cornell during a class she guest lectured for Prof. Vilma Santiago-Irizzary. I remember being awe-struck by the breadth of her work, from her pioneering fieldwork with working class laborers in Massachusetts in Getting Justice and Getting Even (1990) to her archival work on law and colonialism in Colonizing Hawai’i (2000) to her newest work, Seductions of Quantification (2016), Prof. Merry set an ambitious and exhilarating agenda for the anthropology of law. From legal pluralism to legal consciousness and from indicators to human rights, Prof. Merry found inventive and indeed ingenious ways to apply anthropology theory and methods to legal questions and problems. What is perhaps more remarkable is that she did so with intense warmth and compassion.
Francis Snyder says...
Posted Friday, September 11, 2020
A great loss to us all. Sally was a brilliant pioneer in research on legal anthropology, legal pluralism and colonialism and an inspiration to her colleagues, including me, and to her many students all over the world. A beacon in our many intellectual worlds, she will be sorely missed.
Aaron Fellmeth says...
Posted Friday, September 11, 2020
What a loss to the world. Prof. Merry was a very talented and insightful anthropologist and a wonderful human being. She will be missed.
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