Peter Lawrence died of a stroke on December 12, 1987 in
Sydney, Australia. He had retired a year ago and was working on a long-planned
book on the nature of religion.
A native of Lancashire, England, Lawrence studied classics
at Cambridge, and after war-time service in naval intelligence, he returned
to study anthropology under Meyer Fortes. He earned his Ph.D. for research
among the Garia of Papua New Guinea in 1949-50, and he visited Garialand
each year since 1971. The Garia (1984), said Roy Wagner, was the work
of a determined (against the Radcliffe-Brownian orthodoxy), resourceful,
and distinguished contributor to Melanesian ethnology.
Lawrence's professional career was spent in Australia,
at A.N.U. (1948-57), Western Australia (1960-63), Queensland (Professor
and Head, 1966-70), and Sydney (1963-65; Professor 1970-86). He was
a frequent visitor to North America where he lectured widely and attended
meetings of the ASAO, of which he was elected Honorary Fellow. He was
a Visiting Professor at Queens (1969), Pittsburgh (1970), and Victoria
(1975). Lawrence's principal theoretical interest was in the intellectual
life of primitive peoples, and his Road Belong Cargo (1964),
Gods, Ghosts, and Men in Melanesia (edited with M. Meggitt,
1965), and especially his Inaugural Lecture at Queensland, "Daughter
of Time" (1967), did much to reestablish the intellectualist approach
to magic and religion pioneered by Sir E.B. Tylor.
Lawrence wrote on religion, social structure, politics
and law. He maintained his interests in classics and history, and these
were expressed in his Don Juan in Melanesia, a delightful satiric attack
on the ahistoric posture of British structural-functionalism in 64 stanzas.
But much of his teaching emphasized the applied value of anthropology,
in particular for colonial administrators committed to indigenous development.
His first and perhaps enduring passion was teaching at the Australian
School of Pacific Administration (beginning in 1957) where he created
the anthropology curriculum. He had a major role, too, in the transformation
of ASOPA into the International Training Institute (Australian Department
of Foreign Affairs) which has contributed much in recent years to the
education and careers of administrators from Third World countries.
Tom Harding, University of California, Santa Barbara
(Winter 1988 Newsletter)