Obama's Mother Published

October 1, 2009
Family photo: Barack Obama, right, with his mother, Ann Dunham, center, his Indonesian step-father, Lolo Soetoro, and his infant sister, Maya Soetoro, in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Family photo: Barack Obama, right, with his mother, Ann Dunham, center, his Indonesian step-father, Lolo Soetoro, and his infant sister, Maya Soetoro, in Jakarta, Indonesia. Reuters / Ho New

Duke University Press will publish a book by S. Ann Dunham, the mother of President Obama, in December. Dunham, who died in 1995, completed her dissertation in anthropology at the University of Hawaii in 1992.

The book is based on her research among rural craftsmen on the island of Java, in Indonesia. At the request of Dunham's daughter and Obama's half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, two anthropologists—Alice G. Dewey, Dunham's graduate adviser, and Nancy I. Cooper, a fellow graduate student—have revised and edited the forthcoming book, Surviving Against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia. President Obama lived with his mother in Indonesia from the age of six to ten before returning to the U.S.

The scholarly work centers on the metalworking industries in the Javanese village of Kajar and how they offer a viable economic alternative in a rice-dependent area of rural Southeast Asia.

Robert W. Hefner, director of the Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs at Boston University and current president of the Association for Asian Studies, wrote the afterword for the book. He says he finds Dunham's work on metalworkers prescient. "Ann Dunham's legacy remains relevant today for anthropology, Indonesian studies, and engaged scholarship," he says. Soetoro-Ng says she is "grateful to Duke University for making this dream of hers come true. My hope is that this book will be read by those who come to love the particularities of its world and who also see the myriad potential application of its ideas and methods to other worlds."