The Department of Anthropology is delighted to announce that Judy Irvine has been named the Edward Sapir Distinguished University Professor of Linguistic Anthropology by the Regents of the University of Michigan. Distinguished University Professorships, established in 1947, recognize senior faculty with exceptional scholarly or creative achievements, national and international reputations for academic excellence, and superior records of teaching, mentoring and service.

Professor Irvine is a leading figure in linguistic anthropology and a major contributor to anthropological theory. Whether she is analyzing formality in language use, the social performance of oral traditions, or the complex relations between language, politics, and economy, Irvine’s research has taken linguistic anthropology in new directions. Her innovative fieldwork among Wolof speakers in Senegal is vivid proof of the relevance of ethnography to investigations of language variation and change. Irvine has also played in essential role in the preservation of the intellectual legacy of Edward Sapir, an anthropologist whose key writings, unpublished lectures, and related personal correspondence Irvine brought together in three major volumes. Her dedication to the health of her discipline is evident not only in the careful attention she gives to foundational thinkers, but also in her excellence as a teacher. Her impact is felt in classrooms around the world, where her work is now part of the anthropological canon. At Michigan, Irvine has trained many of the most influential linguistic anthropologists now working in the field. She is an outstanding, tireless instructor. Several of her courses – “Language and Nationalism,” “Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology,” and “Language Ideologies” – are among the best taught anywhere, and many of our grad students come to Michigan specifically for the privilege of studying with Irvine. According to Professor Bruce Mannheim, who teaches “Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology” with Irvine, “Our students love the direct engagement with one of the leading intellectual lights in the field. She is unassuming and accessible in the classroom, creating an atmosphere in which students are empowered to engage the subject matter from the standpoint of their own corner of the discipline, and in which no question goes unanswered.”

Judy Irvine was named Edward Sapir Collegiate Professor of Linguistic Anthropology in 2006. In the same year, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and she became an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2016. Her elevation to the rank of Distinguished Professor is only the most recent in an impressive series of honors, each of them amply deserved.

As a department, we are inspired by Judy Irvine’s example. She is an expansive scholar/teacher whose work will be widely read and cited for many years to come. For all her grand accomplishments, Irvine remains open to others, generous with her time and insights, and fully committed to the shared labors of intellectual life. We welcome her to the ranks of Michigan’s distinguished professors; they will be honored by her company, as we all have been.

Congratulations, Judy!