Remembering the beloved anthropologist Nicholas S. Hopkins

It was with deep sadness that AUC Press learned of the passing on June 9 of Nicholas Hopkins, emeritus professor of anthropology and former dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HUSS) at the American University in Cairo.

“AUC lost one of its pillars” wrote Ehab Abdel-Rahman, AUC Provost, in a letter addressed to the AUC community. “Dr. Hopkins encapsulated the ethos of AUC, in his commitment to scholarship, mentorship, and social responsibility. . .  His humour, wit, integrity, intelligence, scholarship, and good sense will be missed, together with the advice that he generously gave, the knowledge of Egypt and anthropology that he was always willing to share, and his help in navigating life at AUC.”

After completing an undergraduate degree at Harvard University, Hopkins studied in Paris for a year and then taught English in Africa for two years. He went on to obtain his MA and PhD from the University of Chicago. From there he moved to the East Coast to teach at New York University before settling in Egypt, where he joined AUC in 1975.

In a wonderful oral history interview recorded for the Oral Histories and Reminiscences collection of the AUC’s Rare Books and Special Collections Library in 2007, the late multilingual professor who was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1939, describes his international upbringing, growing up as a teenager in Europe. He reflects on his early penchant for anthropology, noting that three of his cousins were anthropologists and “so maybe there is something in the DNA.” He also talks about his long experience at AUC and life in the region.

Hopkins published extensively on social change in Egypt. As editor of Cairo Papers in Social Science, AUC’s interdisciplinary monograph series quarterly, he edited several volumes, including Political and Social Protest in Egypt: Cairo Papers Vol. 29, No. 2/3; Anthropology in Egypt, 1900–67: Culture, Function, and Reform: Cairo Papers Vol. 33, No. 2; and The Political Economy of the New Egyptian Republic: Cairo Papers Vol. 33, No. 4. He also translated Ghost Riders of Upper Egypt: A Study of Spirit Possession by Hans Alexander Winkler (AUC Press, 2009) from the German, and co-edited, with Sohair Mehanna, Nubian Encounters: The Story of the Nubian Ethnological Survey 1961–1964 (AUC Press, 2011).

AUC Press extends its condolences to Dr. Hopkins’ wife Dr. Ferial Ghazoul, professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at AUC, and their sons at this difficult time.



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