About Professor Norton
Professor Norton was a Professor of International Relations and Anthropology. His research experience in the Middle East spanned nearly three decades, including residences in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, and Lebanon. His recent research interests include inter-sectarian relations in the Middle East, reformist Muslim thought, and strategies of political reform and opposition in authoritarian states. In the 1990s he headed a widely-cited three-year project funded by the Ford Foundation that examined the state-society relations in the Middle East and the question of civil society in the region. It is indicative of his interests that many of his courses were often cross-listed with the departments of international relations and political science. He has also held academic appointments at New York University and the United States Military Academy. In 2006 he was an advisor to the Iraq Study Group (Baker-Hamilton Commission). He was also Visiting Professor in the Politics of the Middle East at the University of Oxford and a Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies.
His books include Hezbollah: A Short History, the two-volume collection Civil Society in the Middle East, Amal and the Shi’a: Struggle for the Soul of Lebanon, The International Relations of the PLO (senior editor), Political Tides in the Arab World (co-author), UN Peacekeepers (co-author), and Security in the Middle East: New Perspectives (in Arabic). His recent articles have appeared in Current History, Foreign Policy, International Spectator, Journal of Palestine Studies, Middle East Journal, The Nation, and in leading newspapers. He was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Middle East Studies Association, the American Anthropological Association, and the American Political Science Association, and a co-founder of the Boston Forum on the Middle East and the Conference Group on the Middle East.
He kept a blog, and co-authored an opinion piece for The Boston Globe on the Arab Spring.
Prof. Norton passed away on February 20, 2019. Read his tribute from the Pardee School of Global Studies here.
Memories from friends and colleagues
When I first joined BU as an Assistant Professor, my office was right next to his. In many ways, I learnt what it means to be a professor from him. Less than a week ago, I received in the mail a gift from him. Fittingly, a book he thought I would find interesting. I wrote an email back to him, to thank him, and to say we must meet up for lunch soon. I am heartbroken that we will not be able to.
By me, and by so many others, he will be dearly missed. –Adil Najam
Richard was one of the first who joined the department with a primary appointment elsewhere that allowed us to engage in inter-disciplinary teaching and research that has come to characterize the anthropology department at BU.
His teaching of political anthropology was particularly important but his work on civil society had the greatest impact on our PhD students. He was the only member of our faculty working on the Arab world and was instrumental in establishing the study of modern Turkey in the department by helping us get a position devoted to that. –Tom Barfield
Richard and I arrived at BU together – how fast time has gone by. It really is hard to believe that he is no longer with us. He was a great colleague and friend. I miss him dearly. –Shahla Haeri
Richard brought warmth, humor, and a depth of experience to our Department and especially to all of us who work on things related to the Muslim world. He showed us how to combine the finest quality academic work with principle policy and political interventions. I lost track of the number of times we were in Washington at policy events together over a 20 year period; perhaps 40? But he was always in the lead: as a model, as a person who could speak to policy shapers from a broad portion of the political spectrum, and as someone who could demonstrate to an often skeptical public that research and academia can make a difference in our troubled world. And he did make a difference.
We’ll miss him dearly, but remember him regularly.
All peace be with him. –Bob Hefner
Dick and I shared a special relationship, due to our mutual interest in the Shi’ah. We had coffee regularly and bloody marys occasionally to talk about our common concerns, and he often asked me to come to his class on political anthropology to speak about my film and book on Muharram. He was a sort of mentor to me and always taught me to be positive when I was down. He was a true diplomat and a wonderful man. I miss him already. –Frank Korom
Kindness, calm, considerate guidance and bright wit are what Richard Norton personified. We were lucky to have him with us. We will keep him with us in active memory. –Corky White
Richard was — the past tense hardly seems to fit — such a kind, warm, likeable soul, and such a voice of wisdom in our midst. He will indeed be dearly missed. –Parker Shipton
My very good friend and mentor for many years, Richard Norton, passed away this morning. He befriended and mentored many young scholars like me throughout his career. He was a wonderful friend, the best, a rock of stability and source of good advice since I was newly out of graduate school, someone I could always count on. He was a good person and a strong person. I tried to learn from him how to be a better person.
In his last email, he wrote that he was getting better and he seemed as intellectually lively as ever. It’s so shocking and upsetting that someone who is so firmly present in the world and in our lives suddenly is no longer there. Only a few days ago we discussed what we could do to help a former student who is in a difficult situation in Turkey and my new book proposal, which he wanted me to send him.
His memory will always be with us, a continuation of his powerful presence in our lives. I, and the many people whose lives he touched, will remember and miss him. –Jenny White