Maria Lugones

16 July 2020
Maria Lugones

Maria Lugones, age 76, died on July 14th. Maria taught Philosophy at Carleton, beginning in 1972 as an instructor and leaving in 1994 as a full professor. She went on to teach at Binghamton University in New York. She returned in 2005–2006 as the Cowling Visiting Professor of Philosophy. A recent lifetime achievement award honored her groundbreaking contributions to decolonial, feminist, Latin American, and Indigenous philosophy, as well as critical gender, race, and sexuality studies.

Maria is described by campus colleagues as principled and fair, supportive and kind, formidable and committed. She held people to high standards. During a time of social and political change, Maria spurred the campus to debate ideas and adopt new policies in her unrelenting pursuit of ethical relationships. At times these efforts were controversial. Maria’s fierce determination contributed to institutional changes that continued beyond her years at the College.

Maria was a dedicated teacher, fully invested in student learning, who worked to counter indifference to inequality and injustice. In her writing, Maria suggested that the only method of dealing effectively with the gulf between people was through playfulness and the friendship that evolves from that. In her life, she did indeed build friendships that spanned race, class, and gender divisions.

Read an obituary of Maria Lugones in the Washington Post.

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  • 2020-07-16 16:06:20
    Jerry Mohrig

    Carolyn summed it up nicely. I have fond memories of Maria, and that is spoken as a chemist.

  • 2020-07-16 17:32:38
    Nikki Lamberty

    I was very fortunate to work with the very dynamic Maria Lugones from 1977-1990. She donated every summer during many of those years to working with the less fortunate in New Mexico. She was a natural storyteller and would describe her visits home to Argentina, her remarkable father, her handsome brother, her mother, and her grandmother. At that time she was a bit of a smoker and was constantly quitting. She finally succeeded for at least several months, and said that as soon as she was old, she would smoke all the time. She had a lively sense of fun, and sparkly brown eyes that lit up when she talked about her work and her students. Other colleagues on campus can tell you stories about how controversial she was, but no one should forget that Maria was an energetic professor, serious about her goals to further women's issues at Carleton - and well beyond. She suffered from headaches, but even when she was afflicted, she would peek out of her eyes through her hands interlaced across her forehead and offer you a smile. The Carleton Philosophy department faculty who have arrived since she left share Maria's strong passion for Philosophy. No doubt, they benefit from the light and energy left by Maria that has endured on third Leighton.

  • 2020-07-16 18:31:16
    Susan Jaret McKinstry

    Maria was such a presence, filled with passionate intensity, when I came to Carleton as a new professor. I was pleased to see such fierce dedication to principles here in small-town Minnesota (a world new to me) at a liberal arts college (completely new to me). She made people think, and care, and debate ideas.

  • 2020-07-17 10:04:50
    Harry Williams

    Professor Lugones made a groundbreaking contribution to my understanding of what it means to be dedicated to the cognitive liberation of students. She was a role model. Maria held them to high standards of academic excellence. She urged them to be agents of moral self-respect and dignity in complicated social entanglements. Maria's directness and her intellectual candle power frightened and awed me. We collaborated and worked independently during the 1992 student revolt at Carleton following the Rodney King verdict in LA. Carleton's announcement on Thursday of her passing July 14 hits many major notes, but it is not an overstatement to say that Maria was a key figure in revolutionizing our then morbid curriculum to include critical race, class, gender, and sexuality matters. Memory of her blesses each of us.

  • 2020-07-22 10:53:29
    Paul Ashman '91

    Maria Lugones taught in Philosophy, my major. She introduced us to a lot of considerations that were not on the table in any other class I had taken. I remember Maria Lugones as formidable, articulate, frank. She possessed a body of knowledge and insight that was oblique to everything else I learned at Carleton, affording excellent illumination upon every other subject. She was also more disciplined than most, even in the philosophy department, at thinking rationally and fairly about the quality of work that differed from her own thinking. I appreciated all of this very much. In terms of the respect and admiration she inspired in me, and my level of gratitude for the knowledge she shared with me, she is among my favorite professors.

  • 2020-07-22 14:48:54
    Diane L. Redleaf

    Maria Lugones had a profound influence on me. I ended up taking every class she offered and TAing a seminar on Punishment (talk about being ahead of the curve on the issues that mattered--there she was in 1975!). She recommended me for law school and she took an interest in my career even after I graduated--I vividly recall her excitement when I got accepted at Stanford Law School as something she took some personal pride in. She was as "tough" a professor as Carleton had, analyzing the principles of every argument to its core. She demanded rigor but at the same time, she was passionate and caring. And she was not in the slightest bit aloof--she was warm, welcome to students and kind. Classes met at her home and she did not put up barriers that commonly existed between students and faculty. I admired her melding of intellect and activism. She was ahead of movements that needed to grow up around her. I am so glad Carleton hired her and I had an opportunity to know her. (Class of 1976, Philosophy Major).

  • 2020-07-22 19:44:16
    Stacey Jones '89

    The memory of Maria that I carry from Carleton comes from discussing my "comps" paper in philosophy. The question of the paper was "How can we pass moral judgment on people's emotional reactions when emotional reactions are not willed or chosen?" Maria's question to me was "Why so much concern about judgment...why not focus on action?" Her question has remained with me since-a voice in my head reminding me to ACT rather than JUDGE.

  • 2020-07-22 20:19:03
    Ben Endres

    Maria had a great influence on my understanding of philosophy and my ethical/political awareness. However, she was most inspiring in the sincerity and intensity with which she approached all of her interpersonal interactions. In the introduction to philosophy class, she led two optional groups outside of class: one to help students who were not comfortable speaking in the class become more confident, and one to help students who spoke too often to practice listening. The world could use more of this kind of pedagogy! I am very grateful for the opportunity to learn from her. (Class of 1993, Philosophy Major)

  • 2020-07-22 23:25:20
    Jonathan Dings '85

    As a philosophy student, I benefited from the diversity of perspective, experience and thinking that Maria brought to Carleton. She challenged us to question political and social ideas of our time as well as those in the works we studied, living true to the phrase I recall she at least once used to describe herself: an anarchist nun in a constant state of penance. Farewell to a kind and engaging teacher, a formidable thinker.

  • 2020-07-31 13:18:18
    Alisa Sanchez '06

    María was a role model and inspiration to me. She was a visiting professor during my senior year, offering Latin American Philosophy. I was thrilled to be in that course, my first exposure to decolonial thinking, and hear María’s critiques of decoloniality scholarship for leaving out gender and sexuality. She showed us loving critique – that a way of practicing love and care was to hold one another to high standards. She was never dismissive, she always dug in. She expected, insisted that everyone live with dignity and treat one another with dignity, to hold on to love, playfulness, and a never-wavering just being real with each other. It was so evident how she did this in scholarship and teaching. I appreciate her for being one of the few professors who directed me to talk outside class with another classmate about the ideas we were working through in our papers, how much building community through grappling together was core to her teaching practice and life. I witnessed this again when we traveled to the Midwest Society for Women in Philosophy conference together; we drove in her car to Illinois, switching driving. At the conference, I saw there was a world of philosophy I had wanted so much, philosophy with race, gender, and sexuality, philosophers who were queer, feminist, people of color. The conference was looking for its next site and with María’s support, I volunteered Carleton. Being with her gave a sense of possibility, to go for an action and work hard with others at carrying it out. I appreciate the Philosophy department for hosting María that year and later the SWiP conference. María showed me another way of being a philosopher, an academic, a way that I could see myself in. María, gracias por tu vida. Siempre estarás presente en nuestrxs corazones.

  • 2020-08-21 13:45:43
    Nancy Coronado ‘93

    María demanded integrity of thought and action, always. I knew her to be fierce, intense, and loving. She knew who I was before I did, and pointed me in that direction, for which I will be forever grateful.
    May her generosity of spirit remain with each of us.

  • 2021-01-13 13:15:53
    John Lin '78

    I remember Maria fondly. She taught the freshmen seminar that I was enrolled in, and in this class, which met at her home, I first had a beer with a professor, and that may have been sufficient provocation for me to declare philosophy as my major, before learning that I didn't have the stamina for it. She told me stories of her wild youth, driving her car at high speeds, steering with her feet as she read! She assured me that the roads back home in Argentina were not very busy and were very straight! I will remember her kindness to me, her tolerance of my indifference as a scholar, and her support of my winding way through Carleton, which all shaped my life profoundly. I may still owe her an essay on Book 3 of Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, about free will, choice, and courage, all notions worth reviewing in light of recent troubling events in our nation's capital.

  • 2021-02-05 07:41:03
    Angie Hattery '88

    I had the opportunity to have one class with Professor Lugones when I was a student at Carleton. It wasn't until I was in graduate school taking courses in women studies that I understood how much of a pioneer in the field. Reading her work as a graduate student had a profound impact on me. Today I teach her work, especially her essay on World Traveling published in Making Face, Making Soul. It is with joy that I introduce her work to my own students.

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