Anthropology professor emerita honored with lifetime achievement award

Contact: Kathleen Refior

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Dr. Erika Friedl, the Edwin E. Meader professor emerita of anthropology at Western Michigan University, has been honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for Iranian Studies.

The highly distinguished award is presented to someone who has spent their life promoting and supporting the field of Iranian studies. Friedl was selected from among some of the top scholars, historians and linguists in the world. She is the second woman and first social scientist to win this award.

“I was very much surprised,” said Friedl. “Usually these awards honor historians and linguists with countless publications and encyclopedic knowledge of linguistic and historical developments. I can imagine how hard the colleagues who nominated me must have fought for me!”


Friedl with a group of women in Sisakht, Iran

Friedl with a group of women in Sisakht, Iran

Friedl began teaching part-time in WMU’s anthropology department in 1968. She quickly rose through the ranks, earning a position as an instructor in the department that would later help advance her academic career. Throughout her teachings, Friedl focused on the people and cultures of the Middle East, women and gender, children in anthropology and social science theory.

Her work has been published in an abundance of academic journals and articles. Friedl is the author of top publications covering a variety of topics such as material culture, women’s lives, children’s culture and religion. Her first book, “Women of Deh Koh,” was featured on the New York Times notable book list. Together, the books and articles present the most complete, longitudinal cultural inventory of a tribal people in Iran and the wider Middle East.

Friedl is a recipient of WMU’s Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award and the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Appreciation Award. She has also earned numerous grants to carry out her fieldwork throughout Iran. 

Retiring from WMU in 2000, she continues to research ethnography in and about Iran and around the world, working on field notes, and publishing her work through books and articles.

About the Association for Iranian Studies

The Association for Iranian Studies was founded in 1967 as an academic society to support and promote the field of Iranian studies at the international level. The society works to promote high standards of scholarship in the field, encourage the teaching of Iranian studies at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and encourage and facilitate scholarly exchange amongst its international membership.

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