Index of Memorial Resolutions and Biographical Sketches
View in portable document format.
Begoña Aretxaga, a member of the anthropology faculty since August 1999, died at Hospice Austin’s Christopher House on December 28, 2002, at the age of 42. Her untimely death occurred after a graceful and courageous struggle with cancer. Known internationally for her work in political and psychological anthropology, Begoña was active in the Center for Women's Studies as well as the Department of Anthropology. She has a wide circle of friends, relatives, colleagues, and students throughout the world who will fondly remember her brilliant mind, passion for life, infectious good humor, and gift for friendship. Her death is a tremendous loss, and she is sorely missed.
Begoña (or "Bego") was born in the town of San Sebastián, Spain on February 23, 1960. She was the oldest of four children. After completing a bachelor's degree in 1983 (in philosophy and psychology) and a master's degree in 1985 (in cultural anthropology) at the University of Basque Country, she came to the United States for further graduate training. She studied with Professors James Fernandez, Gananath Obesekere, Joan Scott, and Kay Warren at Princeton University, receiving a second master's degree in anthropology in 1988 and a doctorate in 1992. The following year she took a position as lecturer at Harvard University, where she was promoted to assistant professor in 1993 and associate professor in 1997. She taught at Harvard until 1999, when she accepted a position at The University of Texas at Austin, where she was tenured in 2001. She served as a visiting professor at the University of Chicago in Spring 2001.
Her innovative publications on oppositional nationalisms, gender and sexuality, and political violence have won international acclaim. Two books and numerous articles draw on extensive research in two troubled areas of Western Europe: the Basque Country and Northern Ireland. Her 1989 book on Basque separatist funerals, Los Funerales en el Nacionalismo Radical Vasco, is a classic in its field. Her 1997 study of separatist women in Northern Ireland, Shattering Silence: Women, Nationalism and Political Subjectivity in Northern Ireland, has been influential in ethnic studies, European cultural studies, and women's studies as well as in anthropology.
As Professor Kay Warren wrote in the May 2003 issue of Anthropology News,
[Begoña] was interested in the undercurrents of fantasy that animate rational technologies of state control, and the clash of nationalist discourses of citizenship with the lived experience of violent marginalization in democratic societies. As a politically engaged feminist, lesbian, and post-Marxist, Bego was famed for the power and humanism of her ethnographies of political movements and state repression, and for sophisticated theoretical engagement with postmodern literatures on subjectivity, power and the state in the face of intensified globalization.
Begoña's research was supported by prestigious fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation, Social Science Research Council, Mellon Foundation, American Council for Learned Societies, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, among others. An article published in Ethos won the 1993 Stirling Prize of the Society for Psychological Anthropology, and she was awarded Harvard's Hoop Prize for senior thesis advising in 1994. She was invited to participate in numerous international conferences and workshops and served on the advisory boards of the Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies and the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno.
At the time of her death, Begoña was completing important manuscripts on subjectivity and the state, youth culture, and journalistic coverage of terrorism. A major review article, “Maddening States: On the Imaginary of Politics," appeared posthumously in Annual Reviews in Anthropology, Vol. 32 (2003). She had also drafted sections of a book entitled "States of Terror: Radical Nationalist Youth and the Political Imaginary in the Basque Country." Describing the project, Begoña wrote,
this book manuscript examines the cultural formation of state and nation through a second generation of Basque radical nationalists. Engaging in new forms of violence that include sabotage, arsonist attacks and intimidation, this radicalized youth movement has redefined the culture of nationalism in the Basque Country and the social relations that articulate it. Their violent intransigence has created deep fissures in the social fabric producing an antagonism between radical and moderate Basque nationalists and between ‘terrorism’ and ‘the state.’ My book examines the political culture of this movement which has become the fertile ground of new militants for the separatist group ETA. The book pays particular attention to the social articulation of fantasies of nationhood animating separatist violence and sustained by a dynamic of fear and phantasmatic representations of a persecutory state.
Begoña came from a close and loving family. She is survived by her mother, Mercedes Arechaga-Santos, her brother, Koldo, and her two sisters, Arantxa and Amaia. All reside in San Sebastián, Spain.
Memorial ceremonies were held at The University of Texas at Austin and Harvard University in Spring 2003. A major symposium honoring Begoña's scholarship and legacy was held in Chicago in November 2003, in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Former colleagues at Harvard University and The University of Texas at Austin are preparing the symposium proceedings as well as her unfinished manuscripts for publication.
The Department of Anthropology maintains a display case in Bego's honor (EPS 1.128) as well as a web site (www.utexas.edu/cola/depts/anthropology/bego).
Larry R. Faulkner, President
The University of Texas at Austin
Sue Alexander Greninger, Secretary
The General Faculty
This memorial resolution was prepared by a special committee consisting of Professors Pauline Turner Strong (chair), James Brow, and Charles Hale.