Visser, Margaret

Margaret Visser, classicist, social anthropologist, writer (b 1940 in South Africa). Margaret Visser grew up in Africa, attending boarding school in the British colony of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). She went on to study at the Sorbonne, in Paris, before moving to Canada in 1964. At the University of Toronto, Visser earned a PhD in Classics, a subject that she taught at York University for 15 years. Margaret Visser is well known as a commentator and best-selling writer about what she calls "the anthropology of everyday life."

Margaret Visser's first book, published in 1986, is titled Much Depends on Dinner: The Extraordinary History and Mythology, Allure and Obsessions, Perils and Taboos, of an Ordinary Meal. Visser places food production and consumption under her microscope, presenting the obscure but fascinating history behind everyday food products such as Corn Flakes®, margarine, and lettuce. Much Depends on Dinner won Britain's Glenfiddich Prize for the Food Book of the Year. A companion book, The Rituals of Dinner (1991), provides a cross-cultural and historic survey of eating habits, customs, and taboos. It garnered a Jane Grigson Award and the International Association of Culinary Professionals Literary Food Writing Award.

The Way We Are: The Astonishing Anthropology of Everyday Life (1994) brings together 60 columns that Margaret Visser wrote, beginning in 1988, for SATURDAY NIGHT magazine. Saturday Night's editor, John FRASER, coins the term "visserism" in his foreword to this book, which he defines as "a concise anthropological insight" and "the doctrine that all scholarship exists to prove that life is rich, funny and meaningful."

Margaret Visser's 2002 Massey Lecture is published under the title Beyond Fate. Here she brings together her knowledge of classic and contemporary views of life to examine the evolution of the important theological and philosophical concepts of fatalism, honour, shame, and guilt. Theology, history, mythology, architecture, and anthropology are blended in her 2001 A Geometry of Love: Space, Time, Mystery and Meaning in an Ordinary Church. Rome's Basilica of Saint Agnes Outside the Walls is Margaret Visser's focal point in this work. A television documentary based on A Geometry of Love was released in 2006.