May 8, 2019

Professor James Peacock: Remembering Dottie Holland

Dorothy Holland has been a friend to Florence and me since the late sixties when she was a graduate student at UNC and we had just moved here. After she did a master’s thesis, on Shango cults in the Caribbean, supervised by Julia Crane, I believe, she moved to the University of California at Irvine where she did her doctorate. She returned as a faculty member soon after and became chair of anthropology. Like the prodigal daughter she returned from the den of iniquity in California where she mastered the evil specialty of the sixties, ethnoscience, taught by Kim Romney, Nick Colby, and others. Dottie was very good at that as at many things because she was good at mathematics and good at thinking period. Terry Evens, also a good thinker, once advised, don’t get in an argument with Dottie. For a while Dottie focused on methodology and linguistics, teaching in those fields, then she moved beyond her early focus toward broader and deeper work. With Joe Harding she did many projects in applied anthropology and applied social science, addressing real life issues by careful research. With Margaret Eisenhart, she wrote a ground-breaking book EDUCATED FOR ROMANCE. Based on systematic research she showed that young women who were good at science often gave it up to get married. I remember Mary Ellen Jones, an eminent biochemist for whom a building is named at UNC, coming over to Alumni building to hear Dottie’s talk on the subject. She then recounted in a talk she herself gave her own experience as a woman at Yale, the only one among biochemists who were all male at the time, and as a teaching assistant who was paid less than the men. Later Dottie, often with Bill Lachicotte and others, pioneered in theory as in her books on intentionality and her Cambridge University Press book with Naomi Quinn on cultural models. She was superb to teach with and write with.

Many can tell of great expeditions and adventures with Dottie, like in Nepal. Mine are very trivial, such as smuggling bottles of wine into a room at the anthropology meetings in Houston or Colorado or our never-ending argument about which of us owed the other five dollars when we shared paying for a visitor. Our department was so poor that we would split the cost of taking a visiting speaker out for a meal. Dottie as chair was an excellent administrator. Even as she became ill she developed with Pat Parker, Geni Eng, and others, a certificate program to motivate community participatory methods across campus—integrating public health, anthropology, and many other departments. Recently the Retired Faculty Association in collaboration with UNC Press published a study by Dottie and colleagues documenting integration of schools in Durham. This study that resonates with the new film “The Best of Enemies” which captures a dramatic prelude to that time by showing how a Ku Klux Klan “dragon” and an activist African American woman evolved from enemies to friends as segregation gave way to integration in Durham. Dottie’s field research probed that momentous process, one more example of her quiet determined work to analyze and address compelling issues in society.

Those achievements aside, let us simply remember her as a remarkable friend.

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