In this space on our QRSIG website we remember those past SIG members and friends.
Remembering Egon Guba
Egon Gotthold Guba, (March 1, 1924-March 26, 2008) was one of the founders of our SIG, and a leader in the paradigm shift from a basically psychometric approach to inquiry in Education to opening the vision of inquiry to include qualitative research techniques and methods. It is with great sadness and the feeling that we are missing a part of ourselves that I write this to remember and honor Egon. Egon was born in Chicago and eventually studied physics and engineering at Valparaiso University when he like many individuals of his time joined the US Army to fight in World War II. His service in the 381st Combat Engineers Battalion was something he treasured and referred to regularly. When he returned from the service in 1946 he completed his bachelor’s degree and went on to earn a master’s degree in Education at the University of Kansas. He married Elaine Thompson with whom he had three children, and from whom he was later divorced.
In the midst of all this, he earned a doctorate in statistics and measurement from the University of Chicago, where he also taught for four years. Following that he taught at what is now, the University of Missouri Kansas City, then Ohio State University, and completed 25 years of his career at Indiana University, Bloomington, from which he retired and from which he was named Professor Emeritus. During Egon’s years as a professor he was always available to assist students and many of his students and colleagues are writing about their own memories of Egon at this time. He remains in all our memories as a gifted teacher, a great advisor and mentor, and a superb writer. His wit and wry sense of humor readily and spontaneously enriched our interactions with him. In terms of our SIG, I still recall his impassioned letter to a certain Division which disavowed Qualitative research in their newsletter and which when they refused to print Egon’s response, he sent that letter to many of us who founded the QRSIG and others, to expose the silliness of the disavowers. In the early years of our QRSIG, Egon was most helpful in deflecting mindless criticism and educating others when we could not do so without injury to our SIG. We were once fragile and he helped us become strong.
Egon affected many today who may not be aware of his influence in building a bridge between the quantitative and qualitative paradigms by using the term naturalistic inquiry, from the hard sciences which at the time was about all certain educators could handle. He went beyond that in the struggle to help legitimate qualitative work in many professional organizations as well as writing extensively on the topic. Thankfully, due to Egon and Yvonna S. Lincoln, his wife and colleague for many years multiple and varied approaches to qualitative research were validated and encouraged. Egon was stalwart, determined, articulate, passionate about his work and generous with students and colleagues. He was a maverick at a time when in the field of Education he was trounced by his critics which only made him stronger. In fact one might say that many of us have jobs in our field of qualitative methods due to Egon’s pioneering efforts in forging a new world view and opening the repertoire of techniques for educational researchers to include rigorous, humanistic, qualitative methods. More than anyone of his time, Egon made us aware that all research is based on the researcher’s basic set of beliefs that guide action.
In the history of qualitative research methods in Education and Evaluation, Egon Guba remains with us through the legacy he has maintained. It is one of the reasons, a former student of his now a professor has generously donated money to the QRSIG to help fund our Egon G. Guba invited address every year since 1999. It is a good way to remember Egon each year. He is survived by his wife, Yvonna S. Lincoln, his children and his grandchildren.
Groundbreaking Texts by Egon Guba:
- Naturalistic Inquiry, 1985, with Yvonna S. Lincoln, Sage Publications Inc.
- The contribution of this text cannot be overstated. The crisp, incisive, and brilliant critique of positivism began the earthquake like revolution in educational research which resulted in the growth of qualitative research methods in education.
- The Paradigm Dialogue, 1990, Sage Publications Inc.
- In this text, Egon goes on to call for dialogue and debate on underlying principles of research and discusses the challenges of post positivism, critical theory, and constructivism.
- Fourth Generation Evaluation, 1989, with Yvonna S. Lincoln, Sage Publications, Inc.
- This text is a must read for all evaluators as it explains clearly the ethical, epistemological and methodological arguments for constructivist approaches to evaluation. This text is probably the best argument in favor of constructivist approaches to evaluation to date. It also clearly explains the failures of positivism.
Remembering Clifford Geertz
The field of Qualitative Research lost a remarkable contributor on October 30, 2006, when Clifford Geertz died of complications following heart surgery in Philadelphia. Geertz was born in San Francisco August 23, 1926. Throughout his amazing life as a teacher, writer, scholar, researcher and activist he made us aware of the power of thick description and the value of symbolic anthropology. Geertz earned his doctorate in 1956 at Harvard University and eventually became a professor at the University of Chicago (1960-1970) then Princeton University (1970-2000). He retained the status of Professor Emeritus at Princeton until his death.
During his lifetime, Geertz was honored with Honorary Doctorates from fifteen universities including Harvard and Cambridge Universities. His classic text, The Interpretation of Cultures (1973), opened up a new way of understanding society through description and explanation as well as the use of ordinary language. He did extensive ethnographic work thereby contributing to social and cultural theory. His writings were wide and varied including his writing on Islam, economic development, political and social structures, and family life. At the time of his death he was still working on ethnic diversity and how to interpret that in the current frame of the postmodern world.
Other famous texts of Clifford Geertz include:
- The Religion of Java (1960)
- Peddlers and Princes (1963)
- Islam Observed (1968)
- Kinship in Bali (1975)
- Local Knowledge (1983)
- Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author (1988)
- Available Light: Anthropological Reflections on Philosophical Topics (2000)
Various websites have recorded interviews with Clifford Geertz, discussion of his big ideas, and other information. He will be greatly missed.
Remembering John Ogbu
John Uzo Ogbu, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California Berkeley, died of a heart attack after undergoing a difficult surgery on Wednesday, August 20, 2003. He was 64 years of age. John was a very good friend to the Qualitative Research SIG and, in fact, was one of our invited speakers in the mid 90′s. John Ogbu was a great writer, scholar, thinker, and teacher. He was always ready to assist students and even participated across country on dissertation committees. I will never forget his kindness to one of my doctoral students during my years teaching at Gallaudet University. John worked on a dissertation committee for one of my students from Nigeria and remained a good friend many years later to that student and to me.
His life work on deconstructing race and ethnic differences in school and society will long be remembered. His latest text, “Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A study of Academic Disengagement” (Lawrence Erlbaum, 2003) is already causing many to rethink concepts of race, class, gender, and minority status in schooling. John earned many awards for his work and always remained humble and grateful.
John Ogbu was born in Umudomi, Nigeria in 1939. He started out studying for the ministry and found anthropology or vice versa, anthropology found him. He earned his degrees in anthropology form UC Berkeley and remained there for many years earning tenure there in 1976. He was promoted to full professor in 1980. He loved poetry and wrote poetry himself. He was active in the Nigerian community in Africa and in the USA.
John is survived by his wife and four daughters. He will be buried in Nigeria on September 20, 2003. A memorial is scheduled for Sunday September 7, at the First Presbyterian Church in Oakland, California. We will miss his spirit, friendship, intellectual curiosity and contributions to the study of schooling. His family has requested that donations be made to the John Ogbu Memorial Library Fund, P.O.Box 740, 6114 La Salle Ave. Oakland, CA. 94611. John started this fund to develop a library in Nigeria for researchers and scholars.