KINGSTON, Jamaica: Prime Minister Bruce Golding says the death of University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Professor Emeritus, Alston Barrington “Barry” Chevannes, has dealt a tremendous blow to the academic, religious and cultural communities.
“Professor Chevannes has left a void as an outstanding mentor in our society,” Golding said in a statement issued after Chevannes’ passing at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) last Friday at the age of 70. In September, Chevannes was admitted to the hospital in serious condition.
Golding said in addition to Chevannes’ outstanding contribution to the University, he will be remembered as a leading activist for peace in Jamaica, as the head of the Violence Prevention Alliance.
The UWI also paid tribute to the sociologist and anthropologist, saying that his passing was a tremendous loss for the university, “to which he devoted almost a lifetime of service”.
“Professor Chevannes joined the UWI in 1973, and was continuously engaged with issues dear to the hearts of the Jamaican and Caribbean people throughout his career,” the university’s statement noted.
As a Masters student, he was involved in the study of Afro-Caribbean culture and religion, as well as one of the earliest scientific studies of the social impact of ganja in Jamaica. He went on to do a PhD on Rastafari at Columbia University. From work in these areas, he published two books: Rastafari: Roots and Ideology and Rastafari and Other African Caribbean Worldviews.
He was also well known for his more recent work on socialization, the family, fatherhood, masculinity and sexuality, out of which came his book, Learning to Be a Man: Culture, Socialization and Gender Identity in Five Caribbean Communities. In 2006, he published Betwixt and Between: Explorations in an African-Caribbean Mindscape, which provided his insights into the essence of Caribbean culture.
Chevannes’ association with the UWI spans the Institute of Social and Economic Research, now the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies and the Department of Sociology, Psychology and Social Work, where he served as Head.
He was subsequently appointed Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, a position he held until 2004, when he was appointed director of the newly created Centre for Public Safety and Justice. He played a leadership role in the University Township Project, which built on work that he had done for many years in the surrounding communities of August Town.
He was the recipient of several national, international and university awards; was Chair of the Council of the Institute of Jamaica; founder of Fathers Incorporated and of Partners for Peace; and is recognized for his original contribution to Jamaican folk and religious music.
Chevannes is the second noted Jamaican academic to die this year. Professor Rex Nettleford, vice chancellor emeritus of the UWI, passed away at a hospital in the United States in February.
Chevannes is survived by his wife Pauletta and daughters Abena and Amba.