We are writing with the sad news of the passing from this dimension of Professor Neil Lancelot Whitehead (3/19/56 – 3/22/2012). Born in Harrow, London, Dr. Whitehead died peacefully surrounded by family in Madison, Wisconsin. He was 56 years old. Educated in Philosophy, Psychology and Anthropology at Oxford, he took his D. Phil in 1984 in Anthropology. He was a devoted advocate of the Guyanese peoples and most especially the Amerindians of Guyana, whom he deeply respected. He dedicated his scholarly career to the interests and promotion of Amerindian peoples across Amazonia through his work on the history of peoples in lowland South America, tirelessly proving and underscoring their validity, their heritage, their rights to respect and their agency. In many ways a true voice of Guyana, for the people, to many parts of the world, his legacy can be perpetuated through following his example of fierce inquiry sometimes at a cost to the self and a generous scholarship meant to be shared with the rest of humankind. Dr. Whitehead was ill with a rare form of renal cancer, which was not curable. He lived the last few months of his life in the same pursuit of knowledge, experience and justice although his energies were ebbing.
He was and will continue to be a prolific published scholar, with several works forthcoming within 2012 alone. His love for Guyana and the Guyanese people was lifelong and intense. His passing allowed him to be free of his tired body and roam free over the landscapes he admired, the rolling Pakaraimas and deep forest creeks and pathways of Guyana’s interior. If you have any remembrance of Neil, please share it with someone today in commemoration. May he be fulfilled in whatever he pursues in the next life.
and Terence Roopnaraine