Thursday, April 9, 2009
OU's Judith Brown awarded with distinguished professor title
By Dave Groves, staff writer
|Judith Brown accepts a certificate acknowledging her recognition as a distinguished professor from OU President Gary Russi.
The Oakland University Board of Trustees has unanimously approved an administrative recommendation to honor a highly accomplished and internationally recognized faculty member who for 45 years has engaged and demanded a great deal from her students, contributed significantly to the anthropological study of women’s lives and broadened Oakland University’s visibility in the academic communities of the United States and Europe.
Judith K. Brown, a professor of anthropology who is seen as a pioneer in the field of feminist anthropology, has been awarded the title of distinguished professor. The honor is bestowed upon faculty members credited with outstanding achievements in teaching, intellectual contributions and service.
“Dr. Brown has been a dedicated teacher at Oakland University for over four decades. She has been an extraordinary mentor and role model to scores of students over many years of teaching,” said Virinder Moudgil, OU’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost.
He added, “Professor Brown’s vital contributions to the field of feminist anthropology, her dedication to teaching and mentoring, and her service to national professional organizations and to Oakland University merit the rank of distinguished professor.”
Reacting to having been presented with this honor, Brown modestly noted that much of the work she has done was motivated by curiosity and the joy of broadening her own understanding.
“I’ve always been able to follow my own interests in pursuing my research,” she explained. “It is exciting and rewarding to discover something new – something that no one had ever known before.”
Brown joined the OU faculty as a part-time teacher in 1964, began teaching full time in 1969 and was appointed full professor in 1983. She has co-edited five books and written dozens of scholarly articles, book chapters, reviews and papers.
“Brown’s reading of the division of labor set the tone for much of the theorizing that would follow in feminist anthropology, but also is in sync with theories of gender that have predominated across the disciplines,” wrote Ellen Lewin, editor of “Feminist Anthropology: A Reader.”
As a pioneer in her field, Brown helped lay the foundation for women’s and gender studies, a discipline now commonplace in academic settings. Moudgil noted that her cross-cultural research on division of labor by sex, women’s life course, female hierarchies based on age and domestic violence has laid the foundation for vast inquiry into the issues of sex and gender. She also is among the first anthropologists to publish on the subject of women’s lives after child bearing and on the subject of domestic violence as a cross cultural issue.
Complementing all of her scholarly accomplishments is the fact that Brown helped forge a turning point in the history of the profession. At the time Brown began her anthropological research in the late 1950s, the field was heavily dominated by male colleagues.
“You knew the rules of the game,” she explained. “You had to work twice as hard to get half as far.”
But Brown said she did not see this as an obstacle. With considerable support from a professional mentor who helped showcase her work and a supportive husband who strongly encouraged her studies, Brown garnered wide attention for the ideas and cross-cultural research findings she presented. Highlights of her career include interviews focusing on older women with Diane Sawyer of ABC News and with Newsweek Magazine.
As a distinguished professor, Brown joins a group of just 13 preeminent faculty members who also have advanced not only the goals of their college or school, but the mission and long-range vision of Oakland University.