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Wagner, Roy

Wagner, Roy

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Roy Wagner, 79, of Charlottesville, Va., died on Monday, September 10, 2018, at his home. Born October 2, 1938 in Cleveland, Ohio, he was the son of Richard Wagner and Florence Mueller. He was preceded in death by his brother-in-law Fred C. Elliott and friend Janice R. Wright. Roy Wagner received a B.A. in Medieval History from Harvard University (1961), and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago (1966). He taught at Southern Illinois University and Northwestern University before accepting the chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Virginia where he taught Anthropology for 44 years until his passing. In his professional life, Professor Wagner specialized in symbolic anthropology, including indigenous conceptual systems involving kin relations, ritual, myth and worldview in Melanesia, Australia, and North America; pragmatics of cultural representation (imagery, writing, and speech) as a basis for symbolism; Shamanism and curing techniques exclusive of psychological, political, or ethnic perspectives; and studies involving the human element in technology and power concepts. Mr. Wagner also taught popular undergraduate courses in Fantasy and Social Values and the teaching of Don Juan as told by Carlos Castaneda. He was deeply loved by his students. He is best known for his seminal work, The Invention of Culture, which has been translated into eight languages and which is widely considered an important contribution to the development of the concept of cultural relativism. Mr. Wagner authored seven other books on symbolism and ethnography, and was also a gifted poet and devoted lover of cats. Professor Wagner is survived by his daughter Erika S. Wagner of Charlottesville, Virginia; son Jonathan R. Wagner of Buda, Texas; grandson Graham R. E. Wagner of Buda, Texas; sister Nancy Elliott of Yuma, Arizona; close friend Dawn Hayes of Charlottesville, Virginia; and his former wife Brenda S. Wagner of Troy, Virginia. Special thanks to Dr. Duong Nguyen at Cardiovascular Associates of Charlottesville, Va., for his extraordinary compassion and expert advice in caring for Mr. Wagner, and all the doctors and nurses at UVA cardiology and his many friends that have loved and cared for him during this time. A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Monday, September 24, 2018 at Hill & Wood Funeral Home in Charlottesville, followed by a reception. Interment will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions may be forwarded to the Department of Anthropology at the University of Virginia, P.O. Box 400120, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4120, where they will be used for a special scholarship fund in his name. Condolences may be sent to the family at

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