Christian Delacampagne, a professor of 20th-century French
thought and literature in the Department of German
and Literatures, succumbed to cancer on May 20 at his
home in Paris. He was 58.
Delacampagne joined the French faculty in 2002 after
an international search, bringing to the Krieger School
what Dean Adam Falk described as "an unusually eclectic
background" that included serving as director of French
Cultural Centers in Barcelona, Madrid, Cairo and Tel Aviv,
and as cultural attache in Boston for the French Foreign
He was trained at the prestigious Ecole Normale
Superieur in Paris, studying with Derrida, Althusser,
Foucault and other major figures of the late 1960s, and
earned a doctorate from the Universite de Paris-Sorbonne in
1982. He was named a chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et
Lettres in 1992 and a chevalier of the Ordre National du
Merite in 1995.
His interests included interactions between literature
and the visual arts, and between culture and politics.
Stephen Nichols, chair of the Department of German and
Romance Languages and Literatures, said, "Christian
Delacampagne's many friends throughout the world can attest
to his determination not simply to do philosophy but to
live it. Whether consciously or not, he followed the dictum
of Marcus Aurelius: 'Whoever does not know the world, will
never be able to find himself in it. Whoever does not know
why he was made, will never know either himself or the
"Christian's time in the department was tragically
brief," Nichols said, "but it was long enough to show that
he did indeed know the world of Hopkins, his purpose in it
and how he could serve it. He will be sorely missed by his
students, his colleagues and all those in the Hopkins
family with whom he interacted."
A prolific writer who authored more than 30 books and
contributed to dozens more, Delacampagne often explored
human rights and civil liberties, publishing such works as
Le Racisme (1976) with his mentor, Leon Poliakov,
and Figures of Oppression (1977). His History of
Philosophy in the Twentieth Century (1995) is widely
read and translated, as are many of his books. Even while
fighting cancer, Delacampagne showed incredible energy and
optimism, publishing three more books this year alone,
including The World Belongs to Me: Fragments of a
Nomadic Life, which ponders the diversity of languages
and cultures that he encountered throughout his travels
over the years.
In 2003, he collaborated with his wife, Ariane, a
translator and photographer, on Animaux Etranges et
Fabuleux, which was published simultaneously in the
United States by Princeton University Press as Here Be
Dragons: A Fantastic Bestiary. The book explored the
menagerie of imaginary animals that humans have conjured up
over the ages and received several awards, including one
from the Academie des Beaux-Arts.
Interviewed by Johns Hopkins
Magazine about the book in 2004, Delacampagne said,
"I have always been interested in the study of religions
because I perceive religion as a fascinating phenomenon
from an anthropological point of view. This is where my
interest in imaginary animals comes from. Mythical animals
have always existed and continue to exist in world art, and
they usually have a religious meaning."
Delacampagne was for 30 years a regular contributor to
the French newspaper Le Monde, writing columns about
human rights and current conflicts, including those in the
Before coming to Johns Hopkins, he had taught at Tufts
University and Connecticut College.
He is survived by his wife and son.