Jean Comaroff focuses on the intersection of anthropology and history to theorize the ways in which large-scale forces—such as colonialism, globalization, and the making of modernity—occur in particular local contexts and practices. Her books include the classic Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance, written while she was a Bunting fellow at Radcliffe College in 1981–1982, and the prize-winning two-volume Of Revelation and Revolution, coauthored with John L. Comaroff. Recently, the Comaroffs edited a special issue of Public Culture, titled “Millennial Capitalism and the Culture of Neo-Liberalism,” which won the Best Special Issue Award of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals in 2000.
At the Radcliffe Institute, Jean and John L. Comaroff are collaborating on a book that seeks to understand the “metaphysics of disorder” that threatens to overwhelm the fledgling democracy in post-apartheid South Africa. At issue is an effort to restore a sense of social order, law, and legitimate force, although the state seems increasingly unable to guarantee the security of its citizens or to underwrite their hard-won freedom.
Comaroff was raised in South Africa and earned her PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has received numerous grants, fellowships, and prizes for excellence in teaching and has lectured around the world. She is the Bernard E. and Ellen C. Sunny Distinguished Service Professor in Anthropology and in the College at the University of Chicago. Comaroff will be the Radcliffe Institute’s Matina S. Horner Distinguished Visiting Professor during 2003–2004.