In memoriam Jane Guyer

We mourn the death of Jane Guyer in Davis, California on the 17th of January, at the age of 80. Endlessly inventive and singularly esteemed, Jane Guyer reshaped the landscape of economic anthropology over several decades with her unexpected combinations of economic theory and in situ social research. She could make subfields and the bridges between disciplines flourish with a single lecture or case study, exemplified by her major work Marginal Gains (2004) delivered as Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures.

Launching her ideas into multiple intellectual spaces from her initial fieldwork in the rural areas around Yaoundé and Ibadan, and later from Nigeria as whole during periods of structural adjustment and military rule, Guyer’s findings were magically precise and offered insights into practically every detectable element in economic thinking and acting elsewhere. The “Guyer view” fostered an open and relatable grasp of the imperial and postcolonial economy, capturing the precision, chaos and poignancy of many eras, and the paradox that despite learning and cognitive yearning, new economic horizons could barely be grasped.

Her careful and affirmative writings on the history and epistemology of anthropology are revered amongst those who hope and try to know ethnographically as well. HAU celebrated her intellect and tried to share it by publishing her Munro Lecture (“The Quickening of the Unknown,” 2013) and Frazer Lecture (“Aftermaths and Recuperations in Anthropology,” 2017). Her first edited collection on money, Money Matters (1994), catalyzed a highly productive field of study, and we wish her co-edited collections published in HAU, including “A Joyful History of Anthropology” (2016) and “The Real Economy” (2017) the same fate. Also her translations of Marcel Mauss, especially “Joking Relations,” and her authoritative expanded edition of The Gift (HAU Books, 2016), are treasured contributions. Colleagues and friends worldwide will fondly remember Jane Guyer for her deep commitment to deciphering human economic behavior, and her keen nurturing of a next generation of scholars. She was a tireless networker among younger anthropologists from the Global South, especially those from African and Latin American regions. Her legacy will be real and undoubtedly continue to shape and inspire many fields of study for generations to come.