LSU Community Mourns the Loss of Renowned Anthropologist Miles Richardson
By Kent Mathewson, LSU Department of Geography & Anthropology
BATON ROUGE – Miles Edward Richardson, anthropologist and former Doris Z. Stone Professor of Latin American Studies in the LSU Department of Geography & Anthropology died Nov. 14 in Baton Rouge from complications of on-going illness. He was 79.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Nov. 19, at 10 a.m. at University Presbyterian Church, located at 3240 Dalrymple Drive in Baton Rouge.
Richardson was a native of Palestine, Texas. He graduated from Stephen F. Austin State College, in Nacogdoches, Texas, in 1957 with a degree in biology and history. He entered the anthropology master’s program at LSU in the fall of 1957, but after a year transferred to Tulane to pursue a Ph.D. in anthropology, which he earned in 1965. His dissertation resulted in a study of small-town life in Colombia. It was published as a monograph and widely adopted for use in anthropology courses.
While writing his dissertation, he accepted a teaching position at Indiana State College of Pennsylvania, rising to the rank of associate professor after one year. Dissertation awarded, he was called back to LSU in 1965 to a tenure-track appointment as assistant professor. In 1969, he was promoted to associate professor and to full professor in 1972. He served as departmental chair from 1970-1972 and acting chair from 1986-1987. He held the Fred B. Kniffen Professorship prior to the Doris Z. Stone Professorship.
Professionally, he was primarily known for his advocacy of humanistic approaches to research and teaching in all four fields of anthropology – cultural/social, linguistic, archaeological, and physical. He was one of the founders of the Society for Humanistic Anthropology, serving as its president, treasurer, and editor of its journal, Anthropology and Humanism Quarterly, edited at LSU during his editorship. He was also an active field researcher in Latin America and the American South. His many field seasons in Latin America took him to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Colombia, along with sites in Louisiana and Texas. He investigated many aspects of daily life in the places he did field work, but paid particular attention to both the material and symbolic dimensions of religious expression.
He authored a number of books, book chapters, journal articles and book reviews. His publications were well received, exemplified by his being chosen to write the lead article for the centennial number of the American Anthropologist, the lead journal in the field. His edited book “The Human Mirror,” published in 1974 by LSU Press, was a groundbreaking contribution to humanistic anthropology and his two autobiographical books, “Cry Lonesome and Other Accounts of the Anthropologist’s Project,” published in 1990 by SUNY Press, and “Being-In-Christ and Putting Death in Its Place: An Anthropologist’s Account of Christian Performance in Spanish America and The American South,” published in 2003 by LSU Press, solidified his place as one of the genre’s most original and accomplished practitioners.
In the classroom as in the field, Richardson’s approach was highly effective, and he developed a devoted following of both undergraduate and graduate students. His pedagogy and personality were both well crafted, sui generis and not easily separable. He produced memorable moments in and outside the classroom. He was an energetic and conscientious advocate of various causes, but all linked to his fervent conviction that greater understanding of the human animal would lead to fuller lives. At death, he was hard at work on a new book, “Hominid Evolution: The Trajectory of You and Me.”