Professor Karin Barber has been recognised in the 2021 New Year Honours. The anthropologist — who specialises in Yorùbá language and culture — was appointed DBE in recognition of her pioneering work on African cultures and languages.
“This honour was a complete surprise. I was amazed”, the Centennial Professor of Anthropology reacted. “It feels like an overcoat several sizes too big for me.”
Professor Barber added that working on African cultures was “enough of a reward in itself” and that learning from her African colleagues had been “a lifelong joy.”
“I regard the appointment as honouring everyone who promotes understanding of African culture.”
The Africanist anthropologist earned her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at Cambridge and UCL before undertaking a PhD at Ọbafẹmi Awolọwọ University, in Nigeria. Before joining LSE, she taught for over 30 years at the University of Birmingham’s Department of African Studies and Anthropology.
In 2018, Professor Barber received the Distinguished Africanist Award of the African Studies Association. In 2019, she was awarded the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award of the Royal Anthropological Institute.
While she is “delighted” to have her contributions recognised by the Queen, Professor Barber wishes the award’s name — Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire — would change.
“A military-sounding title harking back to the British Empire is at odds with any progressive vision of Britain in the world today,” she argued.