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PORTER, David Lewis. - Obituary
Article published on 7 February 2019
last modification on 20 February 2019

by R.C.
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David Lewis Porter died at home on December 29, 2018, surrounded by his family. He was 79. Dave grew up in the Chicago suburbs attending a school system strongly influenced by the educational approaches of John Dewey. His early years there also began a loyal commitment to the Chicago Cubs which he maintained faithfully despite a 71-year drought between World Series appearances. Dave graduated from Oberlin College in June of 1961 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. During his last two years at Oberlin, he prepared through language and political science courses for study in Paris after graduation. There, Dave audited courses at the Paris Institute of Political Studies but felt he learned more from street demonstrations, meetings, confrontations, and daily events than from the classes themselves. The 1961-62 school year was also the final year of the Algerian national independence war against French colonialism. Dave’s year in Paris focused especially on the radical political dynamics of the Algerian War, many of which he came to recognize in the U.S. war in Vietnam. From this time on, Dave attempted to understand the complex phenomenon of political and social revolution academically while simultaneously being influenced by the growing energy, critical analysis, and moral power of the antiwar movement in France as well as by those confronting racism and sexism on both sides of the Mediterranean. It was his experience in this crucible that inspired his sustained involvement in antiwar and freedom struggles upon his return to North America. His graduate studies in politics at Columbia—undertaken under the supervision of Immanuel Wallerstein—culminated with most of a year spent in Algeria itself to directly learn about the revolutionary large-scale workers’ self-management movement in that country and its far-reaching political implications. Strongly influenced by the egalitarian principles of the self-management experiments in Algeria in 1962-63, he then sought to apply such a perspective and practice to his pedagogical approach as a professor at Brooklyn College (1966), Loyola College (Montreal, subsequently part of Concordia University, 1966-1970), and St. Mary’s (state) College of Maryland (1970-1975). Following a yearlong fellowship at Princeton University, he taught for one year at Marlboro College (Vermont, 1979) and then for a number of years with the Womens’ Studies and Innovative Studies programs at SUNY-New Paltz before teaching at SUNY-Empire State College for 25 years. Living over half of his life in New Paltz, Dave was privileged to participate as an organizer in collective efforts to challenge irresponsible land-use projects in New Paltz and beyond. Co-founder of AFFIRM, the Association for Intelligent Rural Management, he became a deft, critical expert on the traffic and economic impacts of development proposals, collaborating with and lending his skills to many other grassroots groups. As a leader in the massive New Paltz struggle against the Huguenot Plaza/Walmart proposal (1993-96), he helped to forge aa successful oppositional campaign that altered the political terrain of New Paltz for years to come.

A prolific scholar, Dave published widely on topics including Algerian politics, the historical anarchist movement, grassroots mobilizations in the time of the U.S. war for independence, environmental organizing and law, feminist science fiction, and family history. His 1983 book Vision on Fire: Emma Goldman on the Spanish Revolution was republished in 2006 and has been translated into Greek, French, Spanish, and German. Additional books include Megamall on the Hudson: Walmart, Planning, and Grassroots Resistance (with Chester L. Mirsky, 2003) and Eyes to the South: French Anarchists and Algeria (2011). Forthcoming from AK Press is his translation of Kadour Naïmi’s Freedom in Solidarity: My Experiences in the May 1968 Uprising.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy Schniedewind of New Paltz; his brother Jack Porter of Bloomington, Illinois; his sister Nancy Suhs of Homewood, Illinois; his children David Porter Jr. of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Noelle Parker of Bellevue, Washington, Jesse Porter Schniedewind of Los Angeles, California, and Daniel Schniedewind; his five grandchildren; as well as by friends in New Paltz and beyond.

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PORTER, David Lewis
on 7 February 2019
by R.C.

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