Elaine Rosa Salo passed away on August 13, 2016 in Delaware, Newark, at the age of 54. Born in 1962 in Kimberly, South Africa, Salo was a leading African feminist scholar activist whose powerful analyses showed how motherhood practices and personhood more generally in peripheral places provided ways to shape life opportunities. She taught at the University of the Western Cape (1988–1999), the University of Cape Town (1986–1987; 2000–2009), the University of Pretoria (2009–2013) and the University of Delaware (2013–2016).
Salo’s work straddled a commitment to social and gender justice. Her work re-centered the ideas and practices of subordinated mothers and young people struggling for survival in peripheral places as a key site of self-actualization that challenged the intersecting gendered, racist and economic oppressions that reproduced these marginalized neighborhoods. In her 2010 WEB du Bois lecture at the UIUC entitled “Lessons in Leadership for Africa: Listening to, Learning from Feminist Pan-African Discussions, Activism, and Scholarship” and her 2014 lecture at the Nordic Africa Institute titled “Who is a moral person in South African township communities?” she laid out the elements of a revolutionary and humane subaltern feminism situated in a politics of situated maternal experiences, empathetic dialogues, transnational networks, reflective scholarship and an ethic of caring and sharing.
Salo completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Cape Town (1980–1984), and her master’s at Clark University in Massachusetts (1984–1986). In 2004 she earned her doctoral degree from Emory University, Department of Anthropology with a dissertation titled “Respectable mothers, tough men and good daughters: Making persons in Mannenberg township, South Africa.”
Salo was a passionate teacher and mentor. She taught courses in women’s movements, gender and development, citizenship and the anthropology of gender and sexualities. She led through personal example, engaged research and teaching, and inspired a new generation of feminist scholars to continue the struggle for social and spatial justice with her beautiful humility, brilliant mind and a wicked sense of humour and sharp commentary.
At institutions where she was based, Salo became a friend, colleague, mentor and support to many. She was feisty, truly passionate and a powerful African feminist and thinker. Beyond her academic, activist and intellectual pursuits, Salo was in essence someone who fully understood the meaning of being human. She displayed these qualities and attributes in all that she did.
Salo survived breast cancer in the past, but it returned last year and claimed her life. She passed away surrounded by her family and loved ones. Beloved wife of 28 years to husband Colin Miller, cherished mother to her son, Miles Miller, and her daughter, Jessica, sister to her brothers Ken and Bertram Salo, daughter of the late Edgar and Rosa Salo.
A memorial and celebration of life will be held for Elaine Salo at the upcoming American Anthropological Association annual meeting in Minneapolis. Saturday November 19th, 12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Hilton Hotel, room Marquette VII.
Initial comments by Cory Kratz, Mike McGovern, Anna-Maria Makhulu, Melissa Melby and Ken Salo, followed by open mike contributions. For more info please contact Faranak Miraftab [email protected].