Biographical / Historical
Professor, anthropologist, and author John Pemberton III (1928-2016) specialized in the art and rituals of Yoruba in Nigeria. He received a B.A. degree from Princeton University (1948), and a B.D. degree (1952) and a PhD. Degree (1958) from Duke University. His teaching activities included working as Assistant Professor of Religion at Randolph-Macon Woman's College (1954-1958) and Professor of Religion at Amherst College (1958-1998), where he was named the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Humanities (1985-1998) and the Crosby Professor of Religion (1975-1998).
His fieldwork began in 1969, and over the course of his career Pemberton took at least fourteen research trips to Nigeria. There, he was an Associate Fellow at the Institute of African Studies, University Ibadan (1981-1982) and a Visiting Research Associate in Ife, Ile-Ife (1986).
Pemberton's publications include Yoruba: Sculpture of West Africa (1982), co-authored with William Fagg; Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought (1990) and Yoruba Art and Aesthetics (1991), both co-authored with Rowland Abiodun and Henry Drewal; and Insight and Artistry in African Divination (Smithsonian Institution, 2000), among others.
Pemberton's professional service included serving on the Board of Advisors at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, and Chair of the Working Group in African Studies in the Humanities at the Social Science Research Council/American Council of Learned Societies. He lectured widely, including at the Art Institute of Chicago; the Museum for African Art (now The Africa Center), New York; the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution; Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria; Rietberg Museum, Zurich, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Yale University.