Paul Kennedy obituary

My father, Paul Kennedy, who has died aged 78 after suffering from pancreatic cancer, was a writer and sociologist, and a hugely popular lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University. His final book, Vampire Capitalism (2018), was a prescient study of the devastating effects of liberal capitalism on both the masses and the environment. He also co-authored, with Robin Cohen, the influential Global Sociology (2000), published in eight languages.

His early published works, including Ghanaian Businessmen (1980) and African Capitalism (1988), focused on development issues in west Africa, where his sympathy towards indigenous entrepreneurs was viewed as heresy by the Marxists dominating the field in the 1970s and 80s. In the late 90s he co-founded the Global Studies Association, working with academics from all over the world to analyse the impact of globalisation on the lives of ordinary people.

Born in Hayes, Middlesex, to Tom Kennedy, a sewing machine mechanic, and his wife, Joyce (nee Coats), a secretary, Paul attended Drayton Manor grammar school in Ealing, west London, then studied sociology at Birmingham University.

On graduating in 1963, he travelled to Ethiopia where he taught English under the Voluntary Service Overseas programme. Returning to the UK two years later, he joined Birmingham University’s Centre for West African Studies. In 1966 he married his teenage sweetheart, Sue Peppin, who worked with children with learning difficulties and later taught English to adult learners. They, along with their baby daughter Anna, moved to Ghana the following year where Paul began his doctoral studies at the University of Ghana, Legon. I was born during this time, in Accra. In 1971 the family returned to the UK and Paul worked at Sussex University for a couple of years before moving to Manchester in 1973, to teach at Manchester Polytechnic.

In 1976 the family moved back to Ghana for Paul to take up a teaching post at Cape Coast University. Cape Coast was then far more impoverished than Accra, and there were severe food shortages, with only rice, plantain and yam readily available to eat. After a few months Paul was hospitalised with hepatitis and the rest of the family, suffering with malnutrition, malaria and hepatitis, returned home. Paul stayed on to finish his contract and became involved in the student protest movement, which saw him arrested at gunpoint and imprisoned for two days.

Back in the UK, Paul joined the sociology department at Manchester Polytechnic where he remained for almost 40 years until his retirement in 2014.

A great nature lover, Paul was a keen ornithologist, gardener, and advocate of sustainable living long before it became a fashion. He was a brilliant cook, famed among his PhD students for his annual Ghanaian curry nights, a member of Altrincham choral and allotment societies and a volunteer at his local wildlife conservation group.

He is survived by Sue, their children, Anna, Rebecca and me, and two grandchildren, Jasmine and Camille.

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