I arrived late at the Feast

I arrived late at the feast that is Tilly’s work. How I managed to avoid it seems almost unexplainable. I had of course come across it and “read” it, but not quite with the concentration and time that gives meaning to the word read. As I began to study the historical scholarship on the state ten years ago, it was only very slowly that I arrived at Tilly’s work. I was initially interested in political theory and legal scholarship.

When I finally started reading Tilly it was a mini-revolution in my head. It was as if the warring he examines in his work had broken lose in my head. If those reading around me in the rich silence of the Regenstein library at Chicago could only hear the fracas in my head… there were fireworks and bombs, big structures. And loads of contentiousness. I had the hardest time staying seated. I felt such an urge to jump up, and keep jumping. I restrained myself. But now I wish I had jumped up…with all those witnesses.

And then there was the first time I met him in person, long before I started to read him. It was Tilly commandeering the kitchen at the home he and Louise had during their New School years. I am not sure whether he was actually cooking. But it all looked authoritative.

Having just arrived at Columbia and looking forward to being Tilly’s colleague and the chance of talking about so many of his ideas and discoveries, it feels very lonely without his warm and witty presence.

Saskia Sassen
Columbia University


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