Erika Bourguignon

Erika and Paul-Henri Bourguignon,

Erika Eichhorn
in Haiti, 1947

Erika Eichhorn, 1930s


  About Erika Bourguignon

Erika Eichhorn Bourguignon (1924-2015) was an American anthropologist. She was considered to be the foremost anthropological authority on trance, possession, and altered states of consciousness.

Bourguignon was born in Vienna, Austria February 18, 1924, to parents Leopold H. and Charlotte (Rosenbaum) Eichhorn. In March 1938, when she was 14, Nazi Germany annexed Austria, and in the summer of 1938 she and her parents left Austria. In Switzerland, Leopold and Charlotte settled in Zurich while Erika attended a boarding school in the Rhone Valley. The following year the family obtained visas to emigrate to the United States and arrived in New York City in October, 1939.

Bourguignon attended Queens College, City University of New York, where she took classes with the anthropologist Hortense Powdermaker. After receiving a B.A. from Queens College in 1945, she began graduate studies at Northwestern University, studying under Melville J. Herskovits and Alfred Irving Hallowell. She did field research among the Chippewa in Wisconsin and in Haiti (1947-48).

While conducting anthropological fieldwork in Haiti, Bourguignon met her future husband, Belgian artist and writer Paul-Henri Bourguignon, on assignment there for the Belgian newspaper Le Phare. Erika and Paul were married on September 29, 1950, after she had returned from Haiti and he from an assignment in Peru.

Bourguignon joined the faculty of The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, where she taught for more than 40 years. From 1971 to 1976 she served as Chair of Ohio State's Anthropology Department. She pursued many academic and other interests including co-founding a women-in-development seminar and serving as the first chair of Ohio State's Council on Academic Excellence for Women. Bourguignon received an Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from Queens College, CUNY, in 2000.

From 1990 until her death, February 15, 2015, Bourguignon continued to write books, journal articles, and reviews and she actively mentored students. She also supervised exhibitions of the artwork of her late husband.

Bourguignon's writing and correspondence are deposited in The Ohio State University Archives.

The Bourguignon home, filled with artwork, books, records, and artifacts that the Bourguignons collected for many decades, has been preserved in a virtual museum:

Link to the latest version of the virtual museum tour
of the Bourguignon home


Click here to view
the complete list
of writings of
Dr. Erika Bourguignon

includes clickable
online articles


A World of Women, Anthropological
Studies in Societies
of the World (1980)

& Homogeneity
in Societies
of the World (1980)

Anthropology: An Introduction to Human Nature and Cultural Differences (1979)

Possession (1976)

Religion, Altered States of Consciousness and Social Change (1973)