Dr Sue Benson - Obituary
Saturday 12th March 2005
Dr Sue Bensonenlarge
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Fellow of the College since 1979; Director of Studies in Archaeology and Anthropology and in Social and Political Sciences; Tutor.
Everyone who knew her will be saddened to learn of the death on 4th July 2005, after a period of illness, of Dr Sue Benson, a brilliant anthropologist and social scientist who was an inspiration personally and intellectually to generations of students at New Hall and across the University.
Her work focused on issues of race, gender and the body, with field sites ranging from London to Nigeria and Ghana. She had an especially discerning eye for the complex workings of prejudice and corruption, and her most recent work was a humane and challenging critique of the history and memory of the slave trade in Ghana, and in particular the memorial practices associated with former slave forts along its coast. She was one of the first scholars to talk to all participants in this conflicted historical problem. The loss to scholarship is that the work she had completed was effectively a trailer for a pioneering book which would have combined the historical facts of the slave trade with the memory, real and imagined, of Africans in the diaspora, especially in the United States.
There will be many who knew her, as undergraduate, graduate student and Fellow at New Hall. She has been an enduring focal presence in the college, living until recently with her family in one of the houses in the college grounds and putting her own vividly distinctive stamp equally upon its ethos and its gardens.
She taught widely, for SPS as well as Social Anthropology, and for several colleges; her teaching was so exceptional that Varsity made her their "Star of the Week" in a column that rarely featured senior members. Her optimism, good humour and sympathetic yet robust good sense made her an outstanding Tutor to hundreds of other students over the years. By all these, and by the many others who have come into her orbit as colleagues and friends, she will be remembered with admiration, warmth, and affection.
Anyone who would like to be there will be welcome at the Cambridge Crematorium at noon on Tuesday 12th July. The family will have a private gathering afterwards; they have asked friends not to send flowers, but would welcome donations being made to a New Hall fund to be identified in due course.
Details of a memorial gathering in New Hall will be announced later.