The University of Chicago News Office
Oct. 14, 2002 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
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Anthropologist Sahlins to lecture on “the boy who divided America”

Marshall Sahlins
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Additional Contact:
Jenny Quijano


The subject of a spectacular armed raid, a Supreme Court ruling, Congressional legislation, and fierce national sentiment, six-year-old Elian Gonzales became known as “America’s most famous refugee” and “the boy who divided America.” But how did he come to be portrayed as Jesus? This Thursday, October 17, at 4 p.m. in the Divinity School’s Swift Hall, anthropologist Marshall Sahlins will deliver the annual John Nuveen lecture, “The Making of National History by Family Melodrama: The Iconization of Elian Gonzalez.” He will talk about how ordinary people’s lives can change the history of nations. “The general point,” says Sahlins, “is about how larger histories can get incarnated in domestic affairs and bring such unlikely characters as these ordinary people in Miami into the role of history-makers. It’s about all the political and religious shenanigans that went into making these people important: the attempt of the U. S. Congress to make Elian a citizen, but also an enormous religious movement in Miami that had elements of Elian as Jesus, Elian as Moses and Elian as a saint.” The event is free and open to the public.

Sahlins, the Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and of Social Sciences in the College, is currently doing research on the intersection of culture and history as those play out in early modern Pacific societies. He recently published Culture in Practice, a collection of his anthropological and political essays from the '60s through the '90s.
Last modified at 01:55 PM CST on Friday, September 12, 2003.

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