Collage of anthropology department members created by Geoff Childs and presented to Bob Canfield at his retirement. Canfield's photo is in center of collage between WUSTL logos

Robert Canfield Retires

The Department of Anthropology gathered April 19, 2013, to celebrate the contributions of beloved faculty member Robert L. Canfield and to wish him well on his retirement. Bob continues his research as emeritus professor, and the department continues to benefit from his membership in our community.

Bob joined our department in 1969 and earned his PhD from the University of Michigan in 1971. As a longtime scholar of the cultural history of Afghanistan, he became an expert on political alliances in Central Asia. He sought to understand the links between moral systems of understanding and political actions. After 9/11, he was called upon by other scholars and organizations to share his expertise on Central Asian politics.

He taught anthropological theory to several generations of graduate and undergraduate students and developed a popular undergraduate course, Anthropology and the Modern World, which continued to draw large enrollments year after year. After 9/11, he taught seminars on terrorism and cultural clashes. In addition to his long career in teaching and research, Bob also served as chair of the department 1981–82, 1984–89 and 1992–98.

Sameem, one of his favorite St. Louis restaurants, catered his retirement lunch. The owners of this restaurant are the sons of a man Bob taught in Kabul, Afghanistan, in the 1950s when children were brought in from the countryside for their education. The occasion provided not only wonderful Afghan food but also connected Bob’s early career in Afghanistan to his Washington University community.

This community spirit is reflected in the collage of photographs compiled by Professor Geoff Childs and presented to Bob by the faculty and staff of the department with gratitude for his many contributions.