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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Anja Eller, PhD (1974-2019)

06.01.2020, by Tina Keil in announcement

Obituary by Hanna Zagefka, Dominic Abrams
and Huseyin Cakal

Anja Eller
Anja Eller

After her BA in Psychology at the University of Essex, UK (1997), Anja Eller went to the University of Kent where she completed her MSc (1998) and PhD (2002) under the supervision of Dominic Abrams, with whom she continued collaborating until her untimely death.

In 2003 her dissertation, Putting Pettigrew’s reformulated model to the test: The intergroup contact theory in transition, won the Society for the Psychological Studies of Social Issues Dissertation Award and was finalist for the Society of Experimental Social Psychology Dissertation Award. She continued at Kent with a prestigious three-year British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship before moving to St Andrews University in 2005, and then in 2011 to the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where she became full Professor in 2014.

Having lived with an intractable and complex health condition related to cancer bravely for several years, Anja Eller died with much ambition and hope still in mind, and a set of ongoing projects that would surely have resulted in further significant contributions to social psychology.

Anja is best known for her contribution to the intergroup contact literature which builds on Allport’s famous Contact Hypothesis. Her research focussed on how contact between members of different social, national, ethnic, and cultural groups can be a remedy to negative intergroup attitudes and prejudice. She was one of the earliest researchers to attempt and complete (now widely cited) longitudinal studies of contact, and she also contributed substantially to developing the field both through her co-edited special issue on contact (with Dovidio and Hewstone) in, and later as Associate Editor for Group Processes and Intergroup Relations. Anja not only researched intergroup contact but she lived it: born in Germany, she completed her PhD in England, and held academic positions in Scotland and Mexico, she was multi-lingual and always fascinated by cultural connection (one of her projects, studying British Council overseas students in the UK involved working with over 14 different languages). Her most recent interests involved how the emotion of embarrassment is informed by the ingroup or outgroup membership of the audience.

Losing colleagues and friends is always hard, but it feels especially tragic when it happens prematurely. We will remember Anja both for her great scholarly contributions and intelligence, and for her open-mindedness, candidness, energy, humour, and warmth. She will be deeply missed, on a professional and for many of us also a personal level. She leaves behind her partner Benjamin and their three young children.