Sally Engle Merry (1944–2020)

September 29, 2020

The members of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology wish to express our deepest sorrow at the news of the passing of Sally Engle Merry.

Sally took on an absolutely central role in many regards in the life of the Institute from its very beginnings. She was an active member of the Scientific Advisory Board set up at the time of our Institute’s establishment in 1999 and continued to serve in that capacity for the first ten years of the Institute’s operations. At each stage of its development, she offered her sage advice and encouragement to the work of the Institute.

The members of the Department ‘Law & Anthropology’ with gratitude remember her active involvement in the Legal Pluralism Research Group. More recently, she lent her support from the outset to the formation and development of the Department ‘Law & Anthropology’, including serving as a member of its Consultative Committee. Sally’s last visit to the MPI was in December 2018, when she kicked off the editorial conference for the Oxford Handbook of Law and Anthropology project as the first keynote discussant.

Sally has been an invaluable and inexhaustible source of inspiration for a great many of the Institute’s members and left a decisive mark on their research. She was, in her own unprecedented way, a very future-oriented thinker who had a prescient sense of the main themes that would become important in the discipline in the years to come. She herself published pioneering work on each of those themes: legal pluralism, gender, minority rights, indigenous communities, translation and vernacularization, and law and technology, to name but a few.

She has left us orphans in many respects, but her legacy is so rich that it will most certainly remain with us for many years to come.

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