Harold Barclay (1924 - 2017)

DR. HAROLD BARCLAY, EMERITUS PROFESSOR January 3, 1924 - December 20, 2017

Harold Barton Barclay was born near Boston and received his PhD from Cornell after being a conscientious objector in World War II.  He arrived at the U of A in September 1966, was promoted to full professor in 1971, and was a member of the Faculty until his retirement in 1989.  One of the first new faculty members of the newly formed Anthropology department, he served as Acting Chair in 1967-68.  His main research and teaching was in Middle East Studies, but he had several other areas of interest. He researched the anthropology of religion, focusing on smaller societies, cults and  offshoots of the major groups. He also had a strong interest in agrarian societies and nomadic-pastoralists around the world. The natural world, as well as its peoples, took him on endless trips to “see what’s there.”  He lived for a while in Egypt, the Sudan and Tunisia and visited at various times most of the Near East, North Africa, and Muslim regions of the Balkans. He often invited his classes home to introduce them to Middle Eastern food and culture, playing music from Egypt or the Sudan and providing a show and tell of the many artifacts he and his family brought back from their travels.  He also did ethnographic research in Alberta which he described as a "goldmine of religious diversity." He published quite a bit in the field of political anthropology, including some well-regarded books on anarchy. 

All his life he devoted much energy to the causes of peace, equality and social justice.   He was quick to denounce all forms of authoritarianism whether in government or organizations or individuals.  In 2005 Harold published a memoir entitled Longing for Arcadia: Memoirs of an Anarcho-Cynicalist Anthropologist.  The memoir includes stories about the early days of the department and is a good read.

Harold's main recreational interest, beyond reading and gardening, was horses and horseback riding.  He spent many hours out with his beloved horse, Coral. In 1997 he moved, horse and all, to Vernon, BC, continuing his retirement far from the Edmonton winters.  He passed away quietly in Vernon at the age of 93.