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Social anthropologist Fredrik Barth dead at 87

Fredrik Barth was considered the most renowned social anthropologist from Norway, and founded the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Bergen (UiB).

FOUNDER OF THE BERGEN SCHOOL OF ANTHROPOLOGY: Social anthropologist  Fredrik Barth established a strong research environment at UiB, and became the university’s first professor from the social sciences.
FOUNDER OF THE BERGEN SCHOOL OF ANTHROPOLOGY: Social anthropologist Fredrik Barth established a strong research environment at UiB, and became the university’s first professor from the social sciences.
Photo:
Marit Hommedal

Fredrik Barth died on 24 January 2016, 87 years old. Barth was a social anthropologist who put a strong mark on the Norwegian research community. Internationally, he was one of the most cited Norwegian social scientists of all time.

“Barth was one of Norway’s most internationally renowned academics. His contribution has been crucial for the establishment and development of modern social anthropology at the University of Bergen and in Norway,” says Dag Rune Olsen, rector of the University of Bergen.

Barth received his doctorate at the University of Cambridge in 1957. In 1961, he joined the University of Bergen, and received a professorship in anthropology in 1965, making him the first professor of social sciences at the university. He built a strong academic environment at UiB, and was central to the creation of the so-called Bergen School of Anthropology.

“He was very important for the department. For my own part, he was my professional "grandfather", seeing as he was my teacher's teacher. Barth’s ideas and theories are still making their mark on the department,” says Ståle Knudsen, head of department and professor at the Department of Social Anthropology.

Several researchers in the Norwegian anthropological community have been educated under Barth’s guidance, and his research formed the basis for several research fields in Norwegian anthropology. Barth led the department for 12 years, before becoming manager of the Ethnographic Museum in Oslo and professor of ethnography at the University of Oslo in 1974. In 1985, Barth received a lifetime government grant.

In 2008, Barth was made an honorary PhD by the University of Bergen for "his important contributions to the establishment and development of modern anthropology in Norway and for his pioneering and, internationally influential scientific contributions since the 1950s until today." That same year he was also conferred the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav "for his efforts in anthropology."

In 2015, the Department of Social Anthropology established The Fredrik Barth Honorary Lecture, to mark the 50th anniversary of the department.