Queen's remembers Professor Emeritus Bruce Berman

In memoriam

Queen's remembers Professor Emeritus Bruce Berman

January 16, 2024


The Queen’s community is remembering Bruce Berman, Professor Emeritus of Political Studies, who passed away Jan. 6 in Kingston at the age of 81.

After spending 1968-69 at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi, and in 1970 as an instructor at Yale, Dr. Berman was appointed as a lecturer in the Department of Political Studies at Queen's in 1971.

Bruce Berman

Professor Emeritus Bruce Berman.

Dr. Berman's major field of interest was in the political economy of development, with special reference to Africa. He conducted research in Kenya, Ghana, and South Africa. During his years at Queen's, he taught undergraduate courses in African politics, the politics of science and technology, and a graduate seminar in development theory. Dr. Berman was widely acknowledged as one of Canada's leading experts on African politics: he served as president of the Canadian Association of African Studies from 1990-91, and co-chair of the national program committee for the 1994 annual meeting of the African Studies Association of the U.S. In 2003 he was elected vice-president of the ASA and became president of the ASA in November 2004.

“Bruce was never one to have small ambitions. Until recently, he was passionate about communicating the big ideas in the university to the broader public,” says Jonathan Rose, Head of the Department of Political Studies. “This was a talent he developed as PI on the Ethnicity and Democratic Governance project, which brought together 39 international scholars to engage in significant and complex issues around governing ethnic diversity.”

Dr. Berman published widely in the field of African politics, with two of his books winning prizes: Control and Crisis in Colonial Kenya: the Dialectic of Domination (1990) won the Joel Gregory Prize in 1991, and Unhappy Valley: Conflict in Kenya and Africa (1992) won the Trevor Reese Memorial Prize in 1994. Other publications include Critical Perspectives on Politics and Socio-Economic Development in Ghana (edited with W. Tettey and K. Puplampu, Brill, 2003), Ethnicity and Democracy in Africa (edited with W. Kymlicka and D. Eyoh, Ohio University Press, and James Currey, 2004), and “‘A Palimpsest of Contradictions': Ethnicity, Class and Politics in Africa,” in the International Journal of African Historical Studies (2004).

Students whose doctoral theses were supervised by Dr. Berman are now in government service or teaching and researching in Canada, the West Indies, South Africa, Kenya, and Rwanda. In 2003 he was nominated for the Geoffrey Marshall Mentoring Award offered by the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools. Dr. Berman was a founding member of the Research Group on Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Multicultural Citizenship (RGoNEMC) at Queen's.  He retired from Queen's in 2003.

An obituary is available online through the James Reid Funeral Home.

In Memoriam