Michael Banton

The articles by Ralph Grillo, Rohit Barot and Sandra Wallman show that Michael Banton was a central figure not only in debates about race and ethnicity after World War II until well past his formal retirement, but also in numerous national and international institutions.
As well as serving as the RAI’s President between 1987 and 1989, Michael played an important part in the Institute’s life for many decades, especially in contributing frequently to its journals. He was the keynote speaker in a conference on “Teaching about prejudice” co-organized by the RAI with Minority Rights Group, held at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park in February 1983. The papers were published as a MRG report, edited by Ben Whitaker, which was reviewed in RAIN no. 59, December 1983, by John Corlett. His presidential address, “Which relations are racial relations?”, given in June 1988, was published as a pamphlet.
Before Michael’s presidency, which was calm, there was disagreement within the Council on the subject of anti-racism. Various articles were published in RAIN and Anthropology Today and an Education Committee was formed in 1982. Michael, together with Geoffrey Ainsworth Harrison, lent his authority to the proposal that the Institute should declare its opposition to discrimination, supported by anti-racist teaching. In the event, the Council overrode the Education Committee’s recommendation, persuaded by the argument that the RAI’s scholarly seriousness could be put at risk by people who had a political agenda. The educationalists dropped away in 1985 and the Education Committee lapsed until it was revived under Hilary Callan’s directorship, focused more on the secondary school curriculum. (This episode is described in an interview with myself published by David Mills in Teaching Anthropology, Vol. 6, 2016, pp.37–39 https://www.teachinganthropology.org/ojs/index.php/teach_anth/article/view/442/551).
Michael’s considered position on “race relations” (a term he strongly deprecated and would have liked to put an end to) is set out compendiously in an article with that title in the Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology (ed. D. Levinson and M. Ember, Henry Holt and Co., 1996). “Since many of the errors about race were generated within anthropology”, he wrote in 1985, “anthropologists have a special duty to help set the record straight”. He did his utmost to achieve that goal in a contentious field of research and advocacy, but never, to the best of my knowledge, losing his equanimity or stooping to personal polemic.



To cite this article:

BENTHALL, JONATHAN. 2018 'Michael Banton'. Obituaries. Royal Anthropological Institute, June 2018. (available on-line: https://therai.org.uk/archives-and-manuscripts/obituaries/michael-banton-2)


GRILLO, RALPH. 2018 'Michael Banton, 1926-2018'. Obituaries. Royal Anthropological Institute, May 2018. (available on-line: https://therai.org.uk/archives-and-manuscripts/obituaries/michael-banton)

BAROT, ROHIT. 2018 'Professor Michael Parker Banton 1926-2018'. Obituaries. Royal Anthropological Institute, June 2018. (available on-line: https://therai.org.uk/archives-and-manuscripts/obituaries/professor-michael-parker-banton)

WALLMAN, SANDRA. 2018 'Prof Michael Banton: A Short Thought'. Obituaries. Royal Anthropological Institute, June 2018. (available on-line: https://therai.org.uk/archives-and-manuscripts/obituaries/prof-michael-banton)