Cohn, Bernard S., 1928-2003

Alternative names
Birth 1928-05-13
Death 2003-11-25

Biographical notes:

Bernard Cohn (1928-2003), anthropologist, spent the bulk of his professional life at the University of Chicago. Cohn first came to the University of Chicago as a postdoctoral fellow in 1957 and returned in 1964 to join the faculty. In the intervening years, Cohn conducted research in India and served as chairman of anthropology at the University of Rochester. An expert on British colonialism in India, Cohn was among the first anthropologists to integrate historical study into his ethnographic research. The Bernard Cohn Papers consist mainly of materials related to his writings, both published and unpublished. These materials include: drafts and typescripts, research notes, and a small collection of related correspondence.

From the description of Bernard Cohn papers, 1942-2000 (inclusive) (University of Chicago Library). WorldCat record id: 605064791

Bernard S. Cohn (1928-2003) spent the majority of his academic year with the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. Born in Brooklyn, Cohn took a B.A. in History from the University of Wisconsin (1949) and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Cornell University (1954). Upon graduation, Cohn served for two years as a research assistant specialist with the U.S. Army in Fort Benning, Georgia. In 1960 he accepted a post as chairman of Anthropology at the University of Rochester and remained in that position until joining the faculty of the University of Chicago in 1964. Cohn spent the rest of his career at the University of Chicago, retiring in 1995.

Cohn was an expert on British colonialism in India and pioneered the integration of historical study into anthropological research. Morever, Cohn was one of the first researchers to focus on the lower castes in India, arguing in his dissertation that while the caste system had predated the arrival of the British it had been solidified and influenced by colonial rule.

Well respected in his field, Cohn published widely on a range of topics, both concrete and theoretical. His seminal works include: Colonialism and its Forms of Knowledge (1996), An Anthropologist Among the Historians and Other Essays (1987), and India: The Social Anthropology of a Civilization (1971).

Cohn died in Hyde Park in 2003 and was survived by his wife, Rella; four children; two granddaugthers; and one brother

From the guide to the Cohn, Bernard. Papers, 1942-2000, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)


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  • Anthropology


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  • India (as recorded)