John Palmer obituary


My buddy John Palmer, who has died aged 69, was an anthropologist whose life was endlessly modified when he met the indigenous Wichí individuals of South America’s Gran Chaco area.

John was instructing English in Argentina as a niche 12 months scholar in 1974. Intent on seeing each nook of the nation, he travelled to the far north, and located himself within the Wichí’s homeland, an space little identified even by most Argentinians. Within the Wichí – who’re so softly spoken their dialog is extra like whispering – he encountered individuals whose qualities he vastly admired. He returned there in 1978, after college, for 2 years of doctoral fieldwork, dwelling within the tiny group of Hoktek T’oi (“Stunted Lapacho Tree”). It was to turn out to be his religious residence.

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John Palmer with Wichí individuals in Hoktek T’oi, in a nonetheless from a movie by the documentary-maker Ulises Rosell

Born in Sheffield, John was the son of Michael, an engineer, and Mary (nee Wilton); the household moved to Devon when he was 4. After attending Clifton Faculty, Bristol, and after a niche 12 months, he took a level in trendy languages on the College of Oxford, returning to do an MPhil in Latin American research and a PhD in anthropology.

John spent the following 10 years in Oxford, engaged on his doctoral thesis and as a proof reader for Oxford College Press, however in 1990 the Wichí wrote to the indigenous rights organisation Survival Worldwide, the place I work, requesting that funds be raised to assist him return to help them with a land rights declare. Since he had left, 27 communities had banded collectively, wanting to say communal rights to 500,000 hectares of their ancestral land.

He returned and, with a number of colleagues, submitted an in depth land declare report in 1991: the Wichí lastly secured the land in 2020. Beneath his light and courteous manner, John had the dedication to face up for the Wichí individuals in opposition to fierce opposition from settlers, soy producers and politicians. Hoktek T’oi’s land was expropriated for the group in 2001 they usually have been granted the suitable to make use of it in 2007, however they nonetheless await full authorized title.

In 2005, John married Tojweya, they usually went on to have six youngsters. He was instructing anthropology at Salta College in northern Argentina when, in 2009, his work was recognised with the awarding of the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Lucy Mair medal. In 2012 the Argentinian film-maker Ulises Rosell made a documentary, The Ethnographer, about John and Tojweya’s life collectively, and John’s efforts to help the Wichí.

He’s survived by Tojweya and their youngsters, his brother, Man, and his sisters, Julia and Sarah, and has been buried in Hoktek T’oi.


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