Department of Anthropology
The Department of Anthropology at Macquarie University is very sad to inform all his friends of the death on Tuesday night of long-time colleague and friend Ian Bedford, who passed away after spending the last several days in palliative care at Concord Hospital.
After masters study in Lahore and a doctoral degree at the Australian National University, Ian's field research took him to Pakistan, India, Iran and Uzbekistan. He studied Islam in Pakistan and India, wrote about Sufi mysticism, translated Urdu poetry, and explored Indian classical music. He also published his fourth novel, The Last Candles of the Night, in 2014 with Lacuna. Fittingly, his last creative work explored memory, and took its title from the Urdu couplet: 'Hamen khabr hai ki ham hain chirage e aakir e shab' ('We have heard that we are the last candles of the night...').
Ian joined Macquarie's new Department of Anthropology in 1970, and continued to be a vital presence even after he retired in 2004. Until his health made attending increasingly difficult, Ian was a generous and active participant in all the Department activities, capable of finding a good question to ask about every presentation.
As one of his students wrote about him, Ian 'remained seemingly immune' to both 'academic trendiness' and 'administrative metrics,' providing a model of both intellectual integrity and boundless curiosity. His doctoral and honours students, especially, found him unflaggingly generous, an exemplary anthropologist with a novelist's sensitivities. Ghassan Hage posted his own memory of his time as a student when Ian was a lecturer and reviewed Ghassan's thesis:
He also made one comment on my PhD that remained with me forever: 'don't use analytical categories to abuse people' he said. I often reminded him of this. He always had and will continue to have a particularly wise and gentle presence among us.
As a colleague, I know I'll miss Ian's sense of humour, his enthusiastic engagement with virtually any subject in anthropology, and the staggering breadth of his knowledge and reading. I think all of us who were there will long remember his sprawling and hysterical after-dinner talk at the Australian Anthropology Society meeting in 2009 -- seemingly a collection of tangents that somehow wound up converging with elegance in Ian's inimitable style.
He is already deeply missed in the Department, and our sympathies are with his wife, Kalpana Ram, their daughter Kavita, and Ian's entire family.