Three graduate students recently filed a lawsuit against Harvard University alleging that it has enabled the harassing behavior of an important anthropology professor. That professor, John Comaroff, is not himself a defendant in the action.
Comaroff is an expert on the Barolong, a Bantu-speaking ethnic group native to southern Africa. In 1969 he did field research studying the society, culture, and politics of the Barolong boo Ratshidi, part of the Tswana chiefdoms along the border between South Africa and Botswana. He later focused his research on the social and cultural aspects of economic development for the Barolong in the post-colonial context. He has taught at Harvard since 2012.
Comaroff is now on unpaid leave from Harvard for the spring semester given the charges to which the complaint alludes, which involve unwanted touching, verbal harassment, and professional retaliation. Comaroff has said: “I categorically deny all the accusations against me and object strongly to the University’s failure to accord me a fair process….”
Strange New Worlds:
The three students serving as co-plaintiffs in the complaint against Harvard, Margaret Czerwienski, Lilia Kilburn and Amulya Mandava, allege that they are among those Comaroff has mistreated, that they have reported him, and that Harvard has ignored their reports.