Mattison Mines

January 18, 1941–February 25, 2016

I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my friend and teacher, Mattison Mines on February 25, 2016.  More than anyone else I knew at University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) in the late 1980s, Mines understood the impermanence of life, about which we talked often, usually when discussions took us to issues related to Buddhism.

Mines was born on January 18, 1941, and studied anthropology at University of Washington in the early 1960s. He received his PhD from Cornell University in 1969. He joined the Department of Anthropology, UCSB in 1970. During his career, Mines also worked at Cornell University, Washington University, and the London School of Economics, in addition to his many stints of fieldwork in Tamil Nadu, India. From 2001–2003 he was an honorary fellow in the Faculty of Social Sciences at Edinburgh University, while acting as director of the University of California’s Education Abroad Program. His major publications included The Warrior Merchants: Textiles, Trade, and Territory in South India (1984) and Public Faces, Private Voices: Community and Individuality in South India (1994), both of which were important parts of the initial anthropological lore I acquired on entering the PhD program in anthropology at UCSB in 1986.

In addition to his research, writing and publishing, Mines shouldered a heavy teaching load which varied from large “Introduction to Anthropology” classes with over 600 students to smaller seminars on caste and class in India and South Asia. It was as a teaching assistant for his introductory classes that I first learned the intricacies of teaching, dealing with students, and the ethics of being fair and patient as a teacher.

Within two days of arriving in UCSB, I was told by many that if you go to meet Mines in his office, he will confuse beyond redemption! Listening to his long-winding discourses on anthropology in general and South Asian society and culture more particularly, I initially thought that the warning was sound. But I soon realized that one had to learn how to decode Mines, and then everything fell into place and made perfect sense. In retrospect, it is clear that these long informal conversations provided an essential part of my training.

Mines was the main reason for my travelling half way across the world to UCSB. Mines, his wife Jill, and their family acted as my initial guides to the cultural intricacies of California. Their home was my home away from home. This was the same for all overseas students and faculty who worked with Mines.

These recollections and the things Matt Mines taught me will always remain an integral part of my memory and professional practice. I wish him nibbana, the eternal state of bliss devoid of suffering in the Buddhist scheme of things. (Sasanka Perera)

Cite as: Perera, Sasanka. 2018. “Mattison Mines.”  Anthropology News website, February 21, 2018. DOI: 10.1111/AN.779

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