Deirdre Boden 1940-2001

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Deirdre Mary Boden

May 8, 1940-May 16, 2001


Deirdre Boden was a committed intellectual and cosmopolitan creator, a citizen of the world and a patriot of the mind. Sociology was not her only career, but it was her great love. She operated simultaneously at the level of deepest theory and most concrete particulars. No thought, remark or observation occurred to her in any other way. Through vivacity, wit, and a flair for clarity, she made it all into a feast.

Raised in San Francisco and in Dublin, Dede came to sociology after a 17-year career in the film business that took her to projects across Europe. First based in Norway, then Dublin and finally London, she eventually created her own international production company, "Dede Boden and Associates." Her films won prizes at the major film festivals - Venice, Cannes, and Kinsale among others. Dede's attention to detail, aesthetic sensibility and experience in coordinating complex activities would be the flagstones of her academic career.

As a mature woman, Dede enrolled in the University of Illinois. Her discovery of the fields of ethnomethodology and conversation analysis led her to the University of California, Santa Barbara, and she completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees with honors, receiving her PhD in 1984. Her career, sometimes challenging, offered her positions at Stanford, Washington University, Florence, Exeter, Lancaster, Bologna, and Copenhagen, where she assumed the prestigious Chair in Communication at the Copenhagen Business School in 1997. A true internationalist, Dede was fluent in English, French, and Italian, and worked easily in five other languages as well as in many different geographical spaces. A gifted writer, Dede tirelessly developed and promulgated an independent intellectual agenda: her book, The Business of Talk: Organizations in Action, her co-editorships in Talk and Social Structure and Now/Here: Space Time and Modernity,and her numerous articles, chapters, and book reviews are testimony to her literary and intellectual talents. Additionally, Dede championed the discipline of sociology as a necessary guiding force for a decent society, as her article for The Chronicle of Higher Education shows. (cf. Bibliography)

In recent years, Dede analyzed how face-to-face proximity is indispensable even under conditions of sophisticated communications technology. She helped mount ambitious studies of global systems, information technologies, and - a new realm for her - mundane material articles of social life. What will now be her last book, Action in Organizations (in press with Sage), expands much of her previous work along with presenting some of the new. Dede's final, inspiring, keynote presentation was at King's College London in March of this year, for a conference on Organisation and Interaction. In her address, Trust, Proximity and the Business of Talk', Dede discussed a wide-ranging and auto-biographical agenda, using examples and issues that she had been articulating over many years but now dealing with the emergence of internet industries and the communication practices of "dot-comers."

Though Dede's life was far too short, she managed to fill the time allotted her with an amazing array of creative and scholarly activities all the while maintaining a network of friends and colleagues worldwide. She loved talking on the telephone and used it freely to touch and enrich the lives of these many people. Caring, humor, and artistic as well as scholarly talents were hallmarks of her style. Dede had audacity and loved to share and teach, whether with students, colleagues, or friends, and whether in person, over the phone, in the classroom, at conferences, through voluminous correspondence, or with her delightful watercolor paintings and sketches.

Dede was a conjoiner: of ideas and data, of one discipline with another, of schools separated by ways of thinking, of people divided by intellectual and real oceans. Regrettably her voice and her pen are now silenced. As befits a major theme of her writing, she leaves a network of loving and appreciative friends and colleagues her presence helped create.

Cheerio, Dede. Ciao, Adieu, Farewell.

Harvey Molotch, University of California, Santa Barbara and New York University Don Zimmerman, University of California, Santa Barbara Doug Maynard, University of Wisconsin--Madison Marilyn Whalen, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center

Deirdre Boden is much loved and missed by Eric Boden, her father; Kevin and Maria Boden, brother and sister-in-law; Adriana Boden, niece; Ivar McG and Sheila Boden, uncle and aunt; cousins and innumerable friends. Donations in her memory may be sent to: the Creative Growth Art Center, 355 24th St., Oakland, CA 94612.