|Alma mater||University of Cape Town|
London School of Economics
|Institutions||University of Chicago|
|Part of a series on|
|Social and cultural anthropology|
Jean Comaroff (born 22 July 1946) 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. 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.
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.
A lawsuit was filed in February 2022 against Harvard University for a pattern of ignoring reports of sexual harassment against students by her husband John Comaroff, alleging that Jean Comaroff was an enabler of her husband's behavior. It also claimed that Jean once said that women should "roll with the punches" instead of reporting sexual harassment.
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."
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. Both Jean and John Comaroff were faculty members at the University of Chicago between 1979 and 2012.
"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