This essay, one of more than a dozen in this volume to honor the late Mary Margaret Steedly, takes the place of an afterword for this memorial collection that constitute a multi-voiced appreciation of Steedly by her colleagues and students. Steedly was always a voracious and discerning reader, and her capacity to read widely and well was behind the artful, writerly style that she cultivated, and that made such an impression on her students, colleagues, and other scholars. Yet especially striking and meaningful were her intense curiosity and nimble intellect, and her ethnographic sensibilities—her capacity to conjure the feel and often contradictory forces animating social life, which were in keeping with her pursuit of historical ethnography. Steedly’s breakout article is a brilliant, piercing analysis of Karo Batak ceremonial curing practices. It showcases her deft handling of discursive fragments and contradictions so as to challenge analytic presumptions about cultural coherence and therapeutic efficacy, while also conveying something of the richness, humor, and open-endedness of curing rites despite ongoing human suffering, broken families, and an inevitable status quo.
Cornell University Southeast Asia Program