My first encounter with Sally Merry was in late 2005. I remember how excited I was to receive an email from someone whose work I had devoured in graduate school! She wrote that she had heard about me from my mentor, Jane Collier, read my dissertation, and wanted to invite me for a workshop on gender and empowerment in India that she was organizing. I was floored, for I was relatively fresh in academia and didn’t think our professional world was set up to allow for this kind of generosity from a senior scholar toward an unknown “newt.”
Sally and I met at Wellesley in July 2006, alongside other scholars and activists some of whom had traveled from India for the workshop. I recall animated exchanges and Sally’s beautifully nuanced engagement with our conversations about Indian social movements and politics, women’s empowerment, nari adalats (women’s informal courts) and such. Our last workshop dinner was at her house, which she opened to us with unpretentious generosity and warmth of the kind that is unusual and one that I came to associate her. Sally took me under her wing from then on, in her quiet and steadfast way; and I know I wasn’t the only one whom she committed to mentoring, never once reneging from her responsibilities.
We met several times after that—at Wesleyan, at NYU, and over lunch at Galanga on West 4th Street in New York (on her recommendation) and dinner at what used to be Five Points on Great Jones Street after a talk at her department. And at the AAAs, of course, although always in passing (as seems to be the “tradition” at such massive gatherings). Indeed, I think it was at the AAAs that I last ran into Sally, waving and smiling. I knew she was unwell. I wanted to go see her in Massachusetts, but didn’t realize that time would get the better of us.
Sally, I remember you with immense fondness and respect: for your incomparable wisdom and intellect, your genuine goodness and generosity, and your unwavering commitment to justice and feminist ethics in words and in deeds. You were a rare gem and you will be sorely missed.