Another Political Theory professor on my dissertation committee was Michael Rogin. While I had discovered Stephen Oates’ biography on abolitionist John Brown, To Purge This Land with Blood, Mike Rogin’s work on President Andrew Jackson Fathers and Children, helped to guide me towards issues of political authority and its origins in America. Norman Jacobson had begun my inquiry regarding political authority in America in preparation for my Oral Exams by suggesting that I read about the concept of “concurrent political authority” in the writings of John Taylor [An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States (1814)]. Years later, when I sought to teach an American political theory course in the department, Mike supported my proposal and I have been teaching in Political Science since. Mike’s engagement with psychology and political theory influenced me, and I will always be grateful to him for opening that door of analysis to me. Mike died unexpectedly and prematurely, and below is the obituary provided by the University:
Professor Michael Rogin, who taught political science for more than three decades and was an inspiration to students and colleagues alike, died Sunday, Nov. 25. He was 64.
Rogin, who was on sabbatical in Paris for the fall semester, died there after contracting a virulent form of hepatitis.
Born in 1937 in Mt. Kisko, N.Y., Rogin received his bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in government from Harvard University and his master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Chicago.
Rogin began teaching in Berkeley’s political science department in 1963 and remained there throughout a distinguished career. His eight books and many articles and essays earned him a preeminent place in the United States and Europe among scholars of politics, who valued the breadth and originality of his work and its interdisciplinary character.
“He invented ways of thinking about things,” said Law Professor Robert Post, who co-authored the 1998 book “Race and Representations” with Rogin. “He was just so perceptive and so much his own vision. No one can duplicate that.”
Rogin’s books include “The Intellectuals and McCarthy” (1967), which he described as “a Gothic horror story disguised as social science”; “Fathers and Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian” (1975); “Subversive Genealogy: the Politics and Art of Herman Melville” (1983); “‘Ronald Reagan,’ the Movie, and Other Episodes in Political Demon-ology” (1987); “Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot” (1996); and “Independence Day, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Enola Gay” (1998).
Rogin’s work appealed to and offended the preconceptions of a wide variety of academics. It inspired numerous conferences and controversies and drew countless invitations to speak. His book on Ronald Reagan attracted the attention of the media (Rogin was interviewed on CBS TV’s “60 Minutes”) and the general public.
He served on the editorial committee of UC Press for several decades.
Colleagues and students remember Rogin as a prolific, wide-ranging author and a master teacher and mentor of graduate and undergraduate students alike.
In the classroom, Rogin was known for speaking in staccato sentences, firing questions that prodded students and exposed them to new ways of thinking.
“Michael was a great, loyal friend and an inspiration,” said Gaston Alonso-Donate, a former student of Rogin’s and now an assistant professor at Brooklyn College. “Hardly a day goes by when I am not reminded of the way Michael taught me to think about and teach American politics with compassion and wit. He drew on his extensive knowledge of American and European history, political thought and popular culture to help his students understand the forces shaping their own lives.”
When Rogin first came to campus he taught American politics, then branched out to teach interdisciplinary courses in the humanities and social sciences, including ones on film, Marxism, race and racism, and feminism.
Rogin received the campus’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1978 and was among the first group to be awarded a Chancellor’s Professorship, in 1996.
History of Art Professor T.J. Clark, with whom Rogin worked on the journal Representations, remembers Rogin’s “infectious enthusiasm” and how his capacity for “passionate engagement” would galvanize his students and co-teachers alike.
“Berkeley,” Clark said, “will be so much poorer a place without him.”
Rogin is survived by his children, Isabelle Rogin, 29, of Honolulu, Hawaii, and Madeleine Rogin, 27, of Berkeley; by his brother, Edward Rogin of Honolulu; by his sister, Andrea Stanger of Monroeville, Pa.; and by his companion for more than a decade, Berkeley English Professor Ann Banfield. He is also survived by Deborah Rogin of Berkeley, to whom he was married for many years. Banfield was with Michael Rogin in Paris and is planning a private cremation service for him.
The political science department will hold a memorial service for Rogin from 2 to 5 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 20, 2002, at the Faculty Club.