Esther Newcomb Goody, 1932 – 2018

At this moment of remembering the impact Esther Goody had on her students and colleagues, I contribute a small instance. Not because so much more couldn’t be said but because it remains one of the highlights of my life; expanding on it would only be diminishing. First week of teaching, Michaelmas Term, 1961. With my supervision partner from New Hall (as was), Anna Craven, I find my way to the cottages in Shelly Row where Esther and Jack lived. All I know is that my Girton Director of Studies, Doris Wheatley, was sending me to Mrs Goody (she completed her PhD that year) as my second year supervisor. This is the moment that Archaeology and Anthropology is to morph into Social Anthropology. Despite my loyalty to archaeology and teenage years of digging, I have always known that I want to specialize in anthropology, of the social kind. Over the following weeks the room where we sat was to become familiar, and Esther’s daughters (then toddler and baby) often kept us company. What I shall remember is what happens at the end of that first supervision. It was nothing unique – Barbara Bodenhorn, for example, recalls a similar experience more than 15 years later. For me, it was electrifying. Simple enough from her point of view, Esther set an essay topic for the following week (I think Anna and I may have had different topics). It was about the practice of research methods, methodology in the original sense of the term. The task she devised was to show my understanding of Durkheim’s method of demonstration [as in Suicide], not through describing what he advocated but using his method to work through an imagined example. (I made up a scenario about differential achievement in school in relation to what we would now call gender and postcodes, as well as class and other factors.) It was that moment of being set the topic that was galvanizing. I practically ran to the University Library filled with the eye-opening exhilaration about social anthropology that she had given me.

University of Cambridge

This article first appeared as part of a tribute to Esther Goody published on the webpage of the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge. Reproduced with permission.
To cite this article:

STRATHERN, MARILYN. 2018 "Esther Newcomb Goody, 1932-2018". Obituaries. Royal Anthropological Institute, March 2018. (available on-line:


HANN, CHRIS. 2018 'Esther Goody 1932-2018'. Obituaries. Royal Anthropological Institute, February 2018. (available on-line:

HART, KEITH. 2018. Esther Newcomb Goody (1932-2018). Anthropology Today 34, 2: 25


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