April 30, 1998
Vol. 17, No. 15

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    Obituary: Valerio Valeri

    Professor in Anthropology Valerio Valeri, Professor in Anthropology and an expert on Hawaii and Indonesia, died April 25 in Santa Monica, Calif., after a long battle with cancer. He was 53.

    A native of Italy, Valeri was admitted, with top ranking nationwide, to the country's premier college, Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa, in 1964. He received his doctorate degrees from Pisa in 1970 and from the Sorbonne in 1976, the same year he joined the Chicago faculty.

    Valeri conducted field work in Indonesia, Micronesia, Malaysia and Hawaii. His research covered a broad area of anthropological research, including political systems, kinship and marriage, ritual, anthropology of knowledge, comparative historiology, gifts and the status of objects, and anthropological theory. His field studies in a small community of Huaulu in central Seram, Indonesia resulted in numerous articles on a variety of topics, ranging from concepts of time to economic exchange, marriage exchange and ritual.

    Valeri was also the author of Kingship and Sacrifice: Ritual and Society in Ancient Hawaii (1985), which Marshall Sahlins, the Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Anthropology, called, "the best book ever written on Polynesian ethnology. It offers an innovative theory of sacrifice, as well as a theory of divinity, that engages with the best Western writings on comparative theology and takes its place among them.

    "Valerio Valeri was a man of great erudition and broad scholarship," Sahlins added. "He knew nearly 20 languages, and he had a broad philosophical background and a wide knowledge of art and literature. Everything he touched in his particular discipline of anthropology was thus informed by a more general intellectual significance. If anthropology is a project of finding universals in particulars, human significances in relative differences, Valeri was a master of it."

    Much of Valeri's work will be published posthumously, most notably two major volumes on the Huaulu, the first from the University of Wisconsin Press, The Forest of Taboos: Morality, Hunting and Identity Among the Huaulu of the Moluccas , and the second, Blood and Money. Berg Press of Oxford will publish Rituals and Annals: Between Anthropology and History, a collection of Valeri's essays that deal with diarchy, history, cosmogony and ritual, with a regional emphasis on Oceania. Also scheduled for publication are Fragments from Forests and Libraries (to be published by Carolina Academic Press), a collection of his essays dealing with feasting, belief systems, exchange and sacrifice, with a regional emphasis on southeast Asia.

    Also forthcoming is an extended essay on opera and sacrifice in pre-revolutionary Europe, co-authored with Martha Feldman, Associate Professor in Music.

    He is survived by his wife, Janet Hoskins; a son, Tancredi, and two daughters, Sylvana and Artemisia; his mother, Diana Valeri; a sister, Luisella Valeri; and a niece, Annapaola Avanzini.