Catherine Julien, In Memoriam

Catherine Julien, In Memoriam

Department of History


julienCatherine Julien - In Memoriam

It is with deep sadness that the Department of History announces the passing of Dr. Catherine Julien. The oldest of five children of Dr. Robert and Mrs. Jean Julien, she was born May 19, 1950, at Stanford University Hospital and passed away in Turlock, California, on May 27, 2011. Catherine Julien was a working archaeologist and ethnohistorian who was capable of extracting meaning from material culture (everything from textiles to Inca cups), Spanish and Inca written sources, and Inca linguistics. An amiable and generous colleague, dedicated teacher, and a true interdisciplinary scholar, of national and international repute, she devoted her professional life to recovering the "voice" and history of indigenous peoples who lived in South America in the period before 1700.

After completing high school in Turlock, Catherine left home to attend Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. After a few years there she transferred to the University of California, Berkeley where she completed her education: B.A. 1971, M.A. 1975, and Ph.D. in 1978. All of her degrees were in Anthropology and her doctoral dissertation, directed by the late Dr. John Rowe, explored Inca rule in the Lake Titicaca region. After her graduation Catherine carried out archaeological research in Peru, and archival research in South America (mostly in Peru), Spain, and Germany. She taught at the University of Bonn between 1989 and 1995, with time away to pursue research elsewhere, and joined the Department of History at Western Michigan University in 1996. She continued to travel widely to carry out her research and returned often to the communities of friends and colleagues of which she had become part during her stays in Germany, Spain, and Peru. In Peru, in particular, the bonds of friendships were so strong that Catherine became a valued member of numerous families.

Catherine Julien was a prolific scholar. She wrote ten books, another is to appear in the near future in Peru and yet another, a multi-volume work on Spanish explorer and writer Cabeza de Vaca, will be brought to completion by Dr. Pablo Pastrana-Perez who is her collaborator on the project. She published fourteen articles in leading journals in her field, contributed twenty-two chapters to important edited collections and almost two dozen more popular publications (almost all invited). She has also presented nearly one hundred scholarly papers at conferences, many as invited or keynote speaker. Her publications focussed on understanding the ways by which the Inca managed their empire and on bringing to light, either in modern transcription or julientranslation, the sources available for understanding Inca history, worldview, and interactions with other indigenous peoples and Spanish newcomers. An archaeologist by training, Catherine was, nonetheless, a remarkable archival researcher whose command of the written record related to the Andean Highlands was unmatched.

Catherine's work is marked by originality and deep research and earned her an international reputation. Her work, published in English, Italian, German, and Spanish, has been recognized for its contributions to the field of Andean Studies and supported by major funding institutions in Britain, Germany, and the United States. Catherine Julien won no less than fourteen national and international grants and fellowships including a grant from the National Academy in Britain, a Humboldt Fellowship, numerous National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships (two in the last few years alone to support the Cabeza de Vaca project), two Fulbright Fellowships and a coveted Guggenheim Fellowship. These prestigious grants and awards recognize the excellence and importance of her research as do the prizes she has won for the published results of her efforts. Catherine's 2000 publication, Reading Inca History, was awarded the Modern Language Association's Katherine Singer Kovacs prize for the best work on the history and culture of Latin America and the Ermine-Wheeler Voeglin prize from the American Society for Ethnohistory awarded to the best work in ethnohistory in any subject. That one book can garner such major recognition from two such different organizations is a tribute to its interdisciplinarity, reach, and accessibility to scholarly readers. One reviewer called Reading Inca History both original and "deeply learned." It is hard to imagine more fulsome praise for a work of scholarship.

Catherine's contributions to scholarship were also recognized closer to home. In 2002 she was given the College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Achievement Award in Research and Creative Activity. In 2004 Western Michigan University awarded her the title of Distinguished Research Scholar, an honour almost exclusively reserved for those who have attained, and long held, the rank of full professor. Catherine was then still an associate professor but her record matched, and in many instances surpassed, those of previous recipients of the award.

What is truly remarkable is that Catherine Julien managed to do all this while teaching her regular course load—often switching courses at the last minute to meet departmental needs—and while shouldering more than her fair share of service to the department, college and, university. In 2001-02 she stepped in to fill the time-consuming position of Director of Undergraduate julien3Studies without asking for—or receiving—the traditional teaching reduction that accompanies that post. She was always an active supporter of the graduate program in history and served as mentor to numerous students and to new faculty. In 2007 she agreed to serve as Director of Graduate Studies. She did this, despite a significant time commitment to her NEH projects, to fill in for an unexpected retirement and without a teaching reduction since she did not want to cancel her much needed Latin American history courses. Indeed, a mark of her dedication to her departmental home is that she often declined invitations to apply for fellowships and grants which, given her skill set and track record, she would most likely be awarded and would take her away from contributing to the life of the department and university.

In short, Catherine Julien was a role model for what a college professor should be: engaged and respected in her discipline, compassionate and dedicated to her students, generous with her time and knowledge towards colleagues and institution.

Catherine Julien leaves behind her a bereft family in California, including her cherished daughter Clara, grieving friends and saddened colleagues and students throughout the Americas and Europe. This, in addition to her scholarship, is a legacy of a life lived with passion, compassion, and attention and care to her work and to those who shared her journey.


Department of History
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