JOAN M. GERO
The world became a lesser place with the passing of Professor Joan Gero on 14th July, 2016.
Professor Gero was an eminent scholar in the socio-politics of archaeology, the archaeology of gender, archaeological ethics and South American archaeology. With Margaret Conkey, she co-edited the seminal volume Engendering Archaeology: Women and Prehistory, published by Basil Blackwell in 1991 and re-printed six times. Her most recent publications include ‘The Evolution of Happiness” (with Stephen Loring), published in Archaeologies: The Journal of the World Archaeological Congress and Yutopian: Archaeology, Ambiguity and the Production of Knowledge in Northwest Argentina, published by the University of Texas Press in November 2015.
At the time of her passing Joan Gero was Professor Emerita, American University, Washington, D.C., and a research associate with the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution. Prior to this she taught at the University of South Carolina, USA. She has held visiting professorships at Cambridge University, U.K., Universidad Nacional de Catamarca, Argentina; the Universities of Umeå and Uppsala, Sweden; and the Universidad Nacional del Centro de Buenos Aires, Olavarría, Argentina.
Professor Gero worked tirelessly for WAC over many decades. She was the nationally elected senior North American representative for WAC from 1999 to 2008. When the arrangements to hold WAC-5 in Brazil fell through due to a major change in the economic circumstances of the country, Professor Gero agreed to take it on herself. WAC-5 was held in Washington, D.C., in June, 2003. It supported some 230 participants from Indigenous groups and low-income countries and provided a surplus that put WAC on a secure financial footing for the first time. From 2003 to 2008, Professor Gero was Head Series Editor of the One World Archaeology book series, published by Left Coast Press. In 2003 she became a founding member of the Advisory Board for Archaeologies: The Journal of the World Archaeological Congress. From 2007, she was a member of WAC’s Standing Committee on Ethics.
In all of these roles Professor Gero saw, and understood, the complexities of every situation. The ironies, the contradictions, the ethical dilemmas. She did not make decisions easily or lightly. She considered issues deeply, looking for cracks in the logic, alternatives that had not been considered, ways of improving the process or the outcome. We will miss her critical mind.
In the last months of her life, Joan Gero continued her service to WAC through supporting the possibility of a bid for WAC-9 in Cuba. She continued her efforts to obtain a fairer world for all through her active support of Bernie Sander’s campaign to become the Democratic nominee for the 2016 Presidential elections in the USA. She passed away shortly after returning from Argentina and a continent that she loved. She was looking forward to attending WAC-8 in Kyoto, Japan.
The World Archaeological Congress has been greatly enriched by the efforts, vision and generosity of Professor Joan Gero over many decades. Her work continues through the people she inspired, supported and loved.
28 July, 2016
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Joan Gero with her husband Stephen Loring, Sonora, Arizona, USA, December, 2012