Professor Howard Morphy of the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences has been named as the 2013 Huxley Memorial Medallist by the Royal Anthropological Institute.
The international award is the highest honour bestowed by the prestigious British institute. The award was established in 1900 in memory of Thomas Henry Huxley – the celebrated English biologist and advocate of Darwinian evolution theory – and is awarded annually to an internationally renowned anthropologist.
Professor Morphy, Director of the Research School of Humanities and the Arts says he views the honour as recognition of the importance of his field – the anthropology of art.
“I was somewhat stunned to hear that I had been awarded the Huxley Medal. In particular, it was also a shock to realise that I had reached the age that is a partial qualification!” he said.
“The award straddles the range of anthropology, from biological anthropology through social anthropology to archaeology and material culture. The fact that I have been awarded it is a reflection of the increasing importance of the anthropology of art, material culture and visual anthropology to the discipline – these are areas where I have made my major contribution.”
As the 2013 Medallist, Professor Morphy will deliver the Huxley Memorial Lecture in Manchester, England in August and a second lecture at the British Museum in November next year. He will speak about his lifetime’s work, which has earned him a reputation as one of the leading authorities on Aboriginal art, land rights and cultural heritage.
“I began as an anthropologist working on museum collections of artefacts from the Lake Eyre region of Central Australia, before beginning a lifetime of field research with the Yolngu people of Eastern Arnhem Land, carried out jointly with my wife, Frances Morphy, who is a linguistic anthropologist at ANU,” he said.
“My present research is a collaborative project with the National Museum of Australia and the British Museum, working with Indigenous communities to develop an exhibition of the British Museum’s most significant Australian collections.”
Previous Huxley Memorial Medallists have included Claude Levi Straus, Gordon Willey, Marshall Sahlins, Pierre Bourdieu, Dame Marilyn Strathern and Maurice Godelier.