In Memoriam: Boston University Professor Augustus Richard Norton


Beloved professor, colleague, and Middle East expert, Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies Professor Emeritus Augustus Richard Norton died on February 20, 2019. He was 72. He is survived by his wife, Deanna, and son, Timothy.

Norton (Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1984) joined the faculty of the then Department of International Relations at Boston University, where his research interests focused on strategies of reform in authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and renewal in reformist Muslim thought. In 1996, he was also appointed to the faculty of the department of anthropology.

“Professor Norton was a mentor to me, and so many others,” said Pardee School Dean Adil Najam. “When I joined Boston University as an Assistant Professor, my first office was right next to his. To me he personified dignity and integrity. I learnt from him that to be a professor is a privilege and a responsibility that must always be taken seriously. He demanded high standards from all around him, and held himself, always, to even higher standards. Today, I can look back to so many ways in which he helped shape what has now become the Boston University Pardee School. Dick Norton will be dearly missed.”

Read full Boston University article on Professor Norton.

1 Comment

  1. Many people study the Levant, yet few truly ever understand its tragic beauty or grasp its mesmerizing complexity. Professor Norton’s genuine understanding of Lebanon remains perhaps the premier of any Western scholar. Norton understood that anthropology likely rests more at home within political science than the actual discipline of anthropology. To be a good political scientist, one has to understand the people of identity groups before you can investigate their collective politics. While I did not always agree with Professor Norton’s political analyses, I always respected the lens from which he projected scholarship.

    From the preface of Amal and the Shi’a: Struggle for the Soul of Lebanon (1987)—perhaps the most under-appreciated book written on Lebanon—Norton writes:

    “Terror, violence, conflict, carnage, chaos, cruelty, and mayhem are all evoked by the mere mention of Lebanon. For those who have known Lebanon in better times, and even for those of us who have known only a strife-torn country, the fact that Lebanon has come to be synonymous with bloodshed is a source of deep sadness. Lebanon, even in the worst of times, can be a remarkably seductive place. In my judgment, no other Middle Eastern country, perhaps no country in the world, is as enthralling as Lebanon. It’s social and political complexity, the keen skill of its citizens in dealing with (and manipulating) foreigners, and its lovely climate and splendid food combine to imbue those who have known it—in good times or bad—with a sense of emotional attachment that is hard to shake. Lebanon entices and ensnares even the wary. Though the encounter is often bittersweet, it is long savored.”

    Norton gauged Lebanon perfectly long before the rest of us who followed in his footsteps.

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