The Department of Anthropology deeply regrets to learn of the recent death of our emeritus colleague, Dr David McKnight. Dr McKnight was an internationally renowned expert on the Mornington Islanders of northern Queensland, with whom he worked for several decades. One of his last publications, Going the Whiteman's Way: kinship and marriage among Australian Aborigines, was hailed by Claude Lévi-Strauss as adding 'a new, intimate, and subtle dimension to a classical field.'
A short obituary has been prepared by Dr Richard Chenhall, reproduced here. A longer version was published in the October 2006 edition of Anthropology Today.
David McKnight died on 14 May 2006, aged 71.
David arrived in Britain from Canada in the early 1960s, taking degrees in anthropology at UCL and then doctoral research at LSE. He went to Australia in 1966, beginning a lifetime of work with the Aboriginal people of Mornington Island. David maintained regular contact with Mornington Islanders for 40 years, spending over six years in this region during 20 fieldtrips. In 1971, David joined LSE's Anthropology Department, where students would remember his charismatic style and enigmatic lecturers about the Australian Aboriginal peoples.
As well as contributing to our understanding of kinship and marriage systems in Australia, David was an early pioneer in connecting understandings of kinship, marriage and social structure with various symbolic systems. His style was always distinctive.
A prolific author of papers and articles, he took early retirement in the late 1990s to live in Rome and write up his research, and was still writing up to his death. David wrote four books during his retirement: People Countries and the Rainbow Serpent: systems of classification among the Lardil of Mornington Island (1999), From Hunting to Drinking: the devastating effects of alcohol on an Australia Aboriginal community (2002), Going the Whiteman's Way: kinship and marriage among Australian Aborigines (2004), and Of Marriage, Violence and Sorcery: the quest for power in Northern Queensland (2005). He left behind an important contribution to anthropology and for the indigenous people with whom he worked.
David will be deeply missed by his large family and generations of students to whom he dedicated so much of his life.
The Times Higher Educational Supplement and Higher Education Academy "E-Tutor of the Year 2005" national competition gave special commendation to Luke Freeman and Jerome Lewis for their work on the DART project.
Their work focused on creating digital tools and teaching innovations that would challenge students to engage critically with ethnographic texts. One tool simulates the way fieldworkers acquire deeper knowledge over time; another asks them to grow rice according to the cultural logic of Malagasy peasants. Rather than being passive readers of texts, students become active assessors of ethnography.
Maurice Bloch was appointed the 2005-2006 European Professor at the Collège de France.