Neil L. Whitehead passed away peacefully surrounded by family early morning March 22nd 2012. He was born 3/19/1956 to Ken and Irene Whitehead in Harrow, London. He was raised in a quiet little house on the outskirts of London with his sister Kim. Even at an early age, he was the child you always knew was at the party. Add or view memories
In his youth, Neil enjoyed pursuits as diverse as playing rugby and reading Nietzsche. Though trained at the finest schools in England he was just as comfortable with the lads in the localities. Politics were never far from his mind, and he was active in the Troops Out Movement in 1970s England, even visiting Northern Ireland.
He studied Philosophy and Psychology at Balliol College, University of Oxford, from 1974-81, and received his MA and D. Phil in Anthropology from University of Oxford in 1984.
He met and married the love of his life, Theresa Murphy, in Oxford where they lived until 1992. Friends said they were the perfect pair, since 'T' as he affectionately called her, was just as crazy as he was. The couple had four children and together made a lively household with numerous cats, birds, and dogs.
The family moved from their native Britain in 1993, when Neil accepted a post at the University of Wisconsin in the Department of Anthropology. A brilliant scholar, he is well known for his significant contributions to Amazonian anthropology, historical anthropology, and shamanism, as well as his pioneering work in the study of violence. His diverse interests and expertise were reflected in recent contributions to post-human theory and the future of anthropology. He also recently conducted ground breaking archeological work on early large-scale settlements in Guyana, which will likely rewrite the pre-history in the region. He was an inspiring teacher, caring mentor, and generous friend.
He was skillful with a fly rod in the pursuit of trout, and well as on the hunt, whether for pheasant, deer, bear or jaguar. Students were then invited to meals prepared by Theresa and made with the bounty of his hunt. Neil was an avid swimmer and boater who swam daily laps, both at the Natatorium and at the Shorewood Pool. He loved his dogs and the family cats (though he pretended not to). The sound of classical on 88.7 provided the soundtrack for his mornings and his day often ended with chants from his favorite shaman.
Neil was a man of tradition, of habits. He was a humble person who was always surprised by the affection and admiration he received in response to his teaching and research. He was a philosopher at heart with the soul of poet.
Neil is survived by his wife Theresa, and children, Luke, 25, Florence, 23, Rose, 17, and Natalie, 13, as well as his sister Kim, and nieces Begum, Indira, and Banu in England.
The family wishes to thank all the caregivers on the 8th floor at Meriter and Michelle, Suzy, and Erika.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations for a scholarship fund to be established in his name be sent to the UW Department of Anthropology.
A memorial will be held lakeside at Governor Nelson State Park on Wednesday, March 28th at 3pm.
May his boat drift merrily down the stream. (Life is but a dream.)