In Memory of Dr. Michael J. Blain
In Memory of Dr. Michael J. Blain
It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to our beloved friend, colleague, professor and mentor, Dr. Michael Blain.
His passing leaves a vast emptiness in the Sociology Department at Boise State University. His legacy continues in the students he impacted, the colleagues he inspired, the friends that he touched and the ideas he shared at Boise State University and beyond.
Michael had a passion for the ocean but nonetheless joined the faculty at landlocked Boise State University in 1981.
During his time at Boise State University, Michael showed students that knowledge is power, how imagination can serve as a guide in the dark and the transformative potential of truth. Many former students speak of how his teaching and guidance transformed their lives, inspired a passion for sociology and enabled them to see the world in a way they never had before.
Michael was a gentle guide, distinguished intellect, academic purist, passionate researcher, loyal mentor and beloved friend at Boise State. He held his students to the highest standards, pushed them to aim high and continued to mentor, encourage and inspire many of them far beyond Boise State University in an array of pursuits and careers. He continued decades long mentoring relationships with many of his students and until his passing, he taught, researched and encouraged current and former students to achieve their dreams, promoted their work and served as their advocate.
His students say their lives are richer because Michael was in it. Many sought to change the world because he fueled their fire. Many students will forever miss their beloved teacher. His inspired words, sharp insight, and deep knowledge lives on through their teaching, research, writing, advocacy, actions and service. It is a legacy that now spans generations and the globe.
Michael was loved and so were his courses. His “Drugs and Society,” class got so popular that he had to add an array of prerequisites onto the course so the class waiting list wouldn’t get so long. His passion and curiosity were contagious, and he taught with humor and compassion, often filling lecture halls with roaring laughter. And he always served his students with mutual respect and dedication.
During his tenure at Boise State, Michael taught courses on Contemporary Social Theory, Research Methods, Drugs, Violence, and Peace and War.
Michael was a humble man with rich research interests that took him all over the world and covered everything from deviance to nuclear proliferation to the social psychological manipulation of political issues. His interests were far ranging and included many things as he sought a world that was good, just, fair and peaceful. Knowledge was his means. His work will continue to shape future generations of scholars and thinkers.
Michael earned a Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Colorado. His dissertation described how revolutionaries employ language to legitimate acts of revolutionary violence. He has published many papers on how discourse functions in politics, most notably “The Role of Death in Political Conflict” (Psychoanalytic Review), “Fighting Words: What We Can Learn From Hitler’s Hyperbole” (Symbolic Interaction), “Power, War and Melodrama in the Discourses of Political Movements” (Theory and Society), “The Politics of Victimage” (Critical Discourse Studies), and “On the Genealogy of Terrorism” (Interrogating the War on Terrorism). A compilation of his articles on political violence has were published as “The Sociology of Terrorism: Studies in Power, Subjection, and Victimage Ritual.” His recent work included his book, “Power, Discourse, and Victimage Ritual in the War on Terror,” and “The Politics of Victimage: Power and Subjection in a US Anti-Gay Campaign,” was selected as a key article for inclusion in “Traditions of Discourse and Discourse Analysis.” His work, “Empire and the Global War on Terrorism,” was presented to the World Congress of Sociology in Gothenberg, Sweden.
Michael engaged in policy research in Idaho throughout his career. As a member of the steering committee of the Snake River Alliance (1980-1989), Michael produced two influential reports on cancer in populations adjacent to the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory and Hanford Nuclear Reservation. He also coauthored a series on Idaho’s power structure in The Idaho Statesman.
Michael served four terms as Chair of the Department of Sociology. He also served as the Northern Representative to the Council of the Pacific Sociological Association. Michael lead with commitment and continued to share his deep institutional knowledge and appreciated insights with new generations of leadership within the department.
The Sociology Department will feel empty without Michael, but our lives are rich and full because he was a part of it. Michael leaves a long positive legacy of transforming people’s lives and enriching scholarship. His students carry on his legacy.
The Boise State University Sociology Department extends its deepest sympathy and condolences to Michael’s wife, Angie.
– The Sociology Department