Congratulations to Anthropology’s Class of 2024

June 5, 2024


Anthropology Class Day 2024

Remarks by João Biehl, Susan Dod Brown Professor and Chair of Anthropology

     What a long-awaited, hard-earned and joyful day! 

     Welcome students, families, friends, faculty and staff to Anthropology’s 2024 Class Day. We're so happy to have you all here. 

    If our times are specialized in producing distance and absence, Anthropology strives for human closeness and the will to create community, for intense listening of the stories that souls live by, for breaking algorithms open and thinking out of the box, for one more account of what has been and what can be, for a different, more inclusive, and more just kind of tomorrow. 

     In spite of the uncertainties of our present, “Time does have a future,” reminds up the former Princeton professor and Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison. “Longer than its past and infinitely more hospitable,” because of visionary and hard-working young people like you, dear Anthropology class of 2024.

     A major strength of Anthropology at Princeton is the excellence and passion of our students, with their hearts and minds on the pulse of time and committed to people-centered scholarship, as we all seek to enrich our community of knowledge, pedagogy, and change in the contemporary moment.

     And, as we gather here to celebrate the trajectories, learning, and accomplishments of the wonderful class of 2024, we also want to recognize how much we all in the department have learned from our seniors’ wonderfully diverse backgrounds, intellectual curiosity, and vibrant creativity... And we know that the truths and compasses of their existences spring from their families, multiple communities, and ancestors. 

     So, the very start of this celebration I want to thank you— parents, grandparents, siblings, uncles and aunts, neighbors and friends—for all you have done for these budding scholars, doers and shakers over the years and will continue to in years to come. Thank for your human presence, labor, and care—for the creative “memory sack” you passed on to your loved ones, in the words of the US poet laureate Joy Harjo: 

     “That first cry opens the earth door.

     We join the ancestor road.

     With our pack of memories

     Slung slack on our backs

     We venture into the circle

     Of destruction,

     Which is the circle

     Of creation

     And make more—”

     We couldn’t be happier that today’s graduates chose Anthropology as their diasporic home and creative launching pad here at Princeton. 

     So, let’s now give a warm round applause for the communities that support our majors and their visions and meaningful purposes. 

     Yes, the diverse worlds our students come from and engage in their research are increasingly threatened, riven by inequality, violence, and climate emergency. The complex politico-economic and technological thresholds our times and the shifting ethical predicaments they engender, require the contextual, flexible, never reductionist and always socially-attuned thinking that are the hallmarks of our humanistic social science. Last week, as I perused the senior theses of our distinguished class, I was intensely moved and heartened by how far you have taken the anthropological way of knowing and storytelling...

     Closely aligned with Princeton’s mission and aspiration to cultivate a culture of intellectual curiosity and inquiry and service to humanity, Anthropology and the independent works of our wondrous students demonstrate what higher education should be engaged in today and how to do it. That is, insisting on ethnographic openness and on accountability to the perspectives and needs of the people and local worlds from which we learn.

     We loved having you in Anthropology. Keep going, stay well, and keep coming back, enlarging our sense of the possible. 

     Ever open, Anthropology is your doing in worlds that although imperiled still keep harboring surprising escapes and are filled with people like you, struggling to care for one another, for things to be—why not?—good, just, and beautiful. 

     In all languages: Thank you and warm congratulations, Anthropology Class of 2024.