Herminio Martins

We are very sorry to announce the death of Herminio Martins, Emeritus Fellow at St Antony's College, and former Fellow of the Latin American Centre. Our sincerest condolences go to his family and friends during this difficult time. 

In her alumni reflections on the Latin American Centre 50th Anniversary, Fiona Macaulay, now Senior Lecturer of Development Studies at Bradford University, recently noted that ‘Herminio Martins conducted the class on Brazil with passion and eccentricity, which made me determined to do research there’. 

His former student, Maria Angela D´Incao, remembers here his extraordinary life and intellectual achievements:

Hermínio Martins was born on June 19th 1934, in the city then known as Lourenço Marques, today as Maputo, in Mozambique, where he went to school. Orphaned at an early age, he was raised by an aunt and uncle. He was an early militant against the extended military dictatorhip in Portugal, which made returning to Portugal impossible. So in 1952 he entered the London School of Economics, where he met Margaret, his wife. At the LSE he was fortunate with the quality of his professors: Karl Popper, Michael Oakeshott and Ernest Gellner, and graduated with first class honours in sociology. He taught at the universities of Leeds (1959-64), Essex (1964-71), Harvard (1966-67), Pennsylvania (1967-68) and Oxford (1971-2001), where his intellectual companions were John Rex, Bryan Wilson, Peter Nettl, Jerry Ravetz, Talcott Parsons, John Rawls, David Riesman and Imre Lakatos, among others. He was named emeritus Fellow of the University of Oxford in 2001 and then nominated as Honorary Fellow of the Instituto de Ciências Sociais of the University of Lisbon.

Hermínio Martins, a political exile for many years in Britain, spoke little in public but in his published work was eloquent and profound. Marked by the exclusion which every foreign political exile knows as an existential condition, but living in a culture where speaking and assuming public positions is associated with the role of a public intellectual, Martins was an exception. Omnivorous reading was the basis of his intellectual life, and his writings bear the marks of his critical, sometimes solitary erudition in his most English of universities. His theoretical writings in pollitical science are as profound and as extensive as the many years of exile that formed them. His written work sounded almost as machine gun bursts in the long nights of exile, were it not for the generosity and elegance with which this cosmopolitan intellectual – Mozambican Portuguese, with his university career in Britain and an apprenticeship as a young professor in the USA – treated his interlocutors. It is no exaggeration to say that his intellectual solitariness owed something to the breadth of his reading and influences, which was not shared by his peers in England, heirs to other intellectual traditions. His work is fascinating precisely because he deconstructed, through elucidating for his readers  the theoretical intentions and preconceptions of analytical positions, the fallacies and theoretical underpinnings of  philosophical positions and methodologies, which are too often taken as given, or assumed uncritically.  His essays are exemplary in their philosophical and sociological clarity, especially in the historical moment in which they were produced, in which a radical break with previous modes of thinking encouraged the uncritical acceptance of the notion of globalization as something radically new, despite all its historical antecedents.

Thus we can only mourn his death on August 19th this year, in Oxford, with his wife Margaret Martins at his side, along with his son Paul, his wife Christine, his grandson Daniel and his partner Maria.

His work will be his memorial, and testament to his love for humanity, and humanism. Herminio will always be remembered as an early and trenchant critic of neoliberalism and its dehumanising philosophical underpinnings. 


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