Doren L. Slade, born January 17, 1945, died at age 74, on June 11, 2019, in Unadilla, New York.
Slade received her BA in psychology from George Washington University in 1966. The next year, armed with a National Institute of Mental Health grant, she pursued graduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh’s Anthropology Department, where she studied under several luminaries, such as George Murdock and John Gillin. Yet the professor who mentored her the most was Hugo Nutini. As she was fond of telling, she got “hooked” on Mesoamerican studies thanks to her first on-site exposure under Nutini’s tutoring in the summer of 1967 in Central Mexico.
Slade returned to Mexico in 1970 for field research among the Sierra Nahuat of the state of Puebla, focusing on their cosmology, a corpus of beliefs that had endured since the time of the Conquest. She rode a horse around the area in her quest for informants’ accounts and church archival documentation, as Jean Nutini informs me (she and husband Hugo visited Slade in the field several times). Despite some initial animosity from certain local male religious advocates, Slade was soon accepted locally, developing lasting compadrazgo ritual kinship ties.
She earned a University of Pittsburgh Provost Development Fund Award in 1972 to finish her dissertation, receiving her PhD in 1973, and further served as a postdoctoral Mellon Fellow in 1974. It was during this period that she patiently mentored the newer graduate students, including me. Some of us maintained contact with her for the rest of her life.
Between the late 1960s and mid-1970s Slade taught at various institutions, including the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the City University of New York’s Queens College and Lehman College. In the early 1980s, as she was facing some health challenges, she became enticed by psychoanalysis. She obtained her psychoanalysis license in New York State in 1986 (becoming one of the few anthropologists licensed to practice psychoanalysis in the United States). She developed an impressive clientele in Manhattan, where she resided most of her life, and maintained that her anthropology background prepared her superbly for her new profession.
Slade presented papers at anthropology and psychology conferences, contributed book chapters to edited volumes, and authored scholarly journal articles. In 1992, she published a celebrated book based on her dissertation and additional research gathered for two decades in Chignaulta, in the state of Puebla, Making the World Safe for Existence: Celebration of the Saints Among the Sierra Nahuat of Chignautla, Mexico. This ethnographic volume consists principally of an in-depth description of the local cult of the saints, into which she wove her later psychoanalytic insight. It further dwells on the cosmological premises of vengeance, justice, respect, reciprocity, balance, and harmony that intertwine to organize the village’s beliefs and ritual practices. The book is also credited with clarifying the concept of secularization in the Mexican context.
Slade is survived by her spouse, Lisa Moskowitz Slade, as well as a brother and sister-in-law, nephews and nieces, cousins, colleagues, patients, former students, countless friends, and long-standing Mexican informants and ritual kin.
(Roland Armando Alum)
Cite as: Alum, Roland Armando. 2021. “Doren L. Slade.” Anthropology News website, February 1, 2021. DOI: 10.14506/AN.1580