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UC Berkeley professor Michael Rogin, political scientist and influential teacher, dies following short illness
29 November 2001

By Janet Gilmore, Media Relations


Michael Rogin

Berkeley - Michael Rogin, who taught political science at the University of California, Berkeley, for more than three decades and served as an inspiration to students and colleagues alike, died on Sunday, Nov. 25. He was 64.

Rogin, who was on sabbatical in Paris for the fall semester, died there after contracting a virulent form of hepatitis.

He was born on June 29, 1937, in Mt. Kisco, New York, and received his bachelor's degree summa cum laude in government from Harvard University in 1958. He did graduate work at the University of Chicago, where he gained his master's degree in 1959 and his doctorate in political science, in 1962.

Rogin began teaching in the UC Berkeley Political Science Department in 1963 and remained there throughout an uncommonly distinguished career. His eight books and numerous articles and essays earned him a preeminent place in the United States and Europe among scholars of politics who valued the breadth and originality of his work and its interdisciplinary character.

"He invented ways of thinking about things," said UC Berkeley law professor Robert Post, who co-authored the 1998 book "Race and Representations" with Rogin. "He was just so perceptive and so much his own vision. No one can duplicate that."

Rogin's books include "The Intellectuals and McCarthy" (1967), which he described as "a Gothic horror story disguised as Social Science;" "Fathers and Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian" (1975); "Subversive Genealogy: the Politics and Art of Herman Melville" (1983); "'Ronald Reagan,' the Movie, and Other Episodes in Political Demonology" (1987); "Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot" (1996); and "Independence Day, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enola Gay" (1998).

Rogin's work appealed to and offended the preconceptions of a wide variety of academics. It inspired numerous conferences, colloquia and controversies and drew countless invitations for him to speak at universities across the United States and Europe. His book on Ronald Reagan attracted the attention of the media (Rogin was interviewed on CBS TV's "60 Minutes") and the general public.

He served on the editorial committee of UC Press for several decades and wrote numerous articles and reviews for journals, including the London Review of Books, for which he became a frequent contributor.

Colleagues and students remember Rogin as a prolific, wide-ranging author and a master teacher and mentor of graduate students and undergraduates alike.

In the classroom, Rogin was known for speaking in staccato sentences, firing away questions that prodded students and exposed them to new ways of thinking.

"Michael was a great, loyal friend and an inspiration," said Gaston Alonso-Donate, a former student of Rogin's and now an assistant professor at Brooklyn College. "Hardly a day goes by when I am not reminded of the way Michael taught me to think about and teach American politics with compassion and wit. He drew on his extensive knowledge of American and European history, political thought, and popular culture to help his students understand the forces shaping their own lives."

When Rogin first came to UC Berkeley he taught American Politics, then branched out to teach broader, more interdisciplinary courses in the humanities and social sciences. This included courses on film, Marxism, race and racism, and feminism.

As one of 30 faculty members across the campus nominated by graduating seniors as their best teacher and the one from whom they had learned the most at UC Berkeley, Rogin received the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1978. In 1996, when the Chancellor's Professorships were established, Rogin was among the first group to be awarded this honor as well.

UC Berkeley history professor T.J. Clark, with whom Rogin worked on the journal Representations, said he remembers Rogin's "infectious enthusiasm" and how his capacity for "passionate engagement" would galvanize his students and co-teachers alike.

"Berkeley," Clark said, "will be so much poorer a place without him."

Rogin is survived by his children, Isabelle Rogin, 29, of Honolulu, Hawaii, and Madeleine Rogin, 27, of Berkeley; by his brother, Edward Rogin of Honolulu; by his sister, Andrea Stanger of Monroeville, Pa.; and by his companion for more than a decade, Ann Banfield, also a professor at UC Berkeley. He is also survived by Deborah Rogin of Berkeley, to whom he was married for many years. Banfield was with Michael Rogin in Paris and is planning a private cremation service for him.

The UC Berkeley Political Science Department will hold a memorial service for Rogin on Jan. 20, 2002, at the Faculty Club from 2 to 5 p.m.