I am an anthropological archaeologist interested in historical and contemporary representations of peoples and places and I practice engaged, socially-informed anthropology.
For over fifteen years, I have done focused research in Amazonia. My interest in the ways humans encounter and make the world around them developed over the course of field-intensive practice in Amazonia and other tropical research sites in Central America and the Pacific. My main work interleaves deep historiography of Amazonia with data-driven geoarchaeological and anthropological research. My new project troubles the erasure of Afro-descendant populations from Latin America, and specifically in interior of the Brazilian Amazon. I ask: why do we expect to find certain populations in particular places, and not elsewhere? Where do such ideas come from, and how do they gain footing? This works builds on my past ethnographic research with Quilombola (maroon descendant) communities on the Lower Xingu River in Amazonia.
I earned my MA and PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2011, and then engaged continuously in research in Amazonian archaeology. Before joining UofL, I held several fellowships, first as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ohio State University, then as a Post-Doctoral Researcher at Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi (MPEG) in Brazil, and finally, as a Kluge Fellow at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress.
I’m interested in anthropogenic (human-made) nature, and particularly in how legacies of a distant past, including anthropogenic soils like Amazonian Dark Earths and engineered landscapes shape life in contemporary Amazonia. What do landmarks like canals and raised fields, or anthropogenic forests, tell us about ancient Amazonian societies? What can we learn about human agency and our effects on the environment through the study of these remnants of the past? Terra Preta do Índio , a sub-class of Amazonian Dark Earths, are exceptionally fertile soils that stand as evidence of deep, and deep-historical, indigenous modification of tropical forest ecologies that produced a positive result (environmental enrichment rather than degradation). These soils are extremely valuable for contemporary subsistence farming communities in Amazonia, who contend daily with threats from changing climate patterns, national infrastructure projects, agribusiness, and illegal logging. In light of the urgency of these matters, my research is at once archaeological – in order to learn as much as possible about ancient Amerindian management practices and technologies – and ethnographic/applied – in order to comprehend the needs of contemporary farming communities and the applicability of archaeological knowledge to their problems.
In my historiographical work on Amazonia, I explore how long-held, deeply-embedded ideas about technology, the relationships of humans to nature, and moral geographies can limit what we are capable of imagining or understanding about tropical places. These habits of thought constrict understandings of the past, and in the same instant, affordances for the future – whether in terms of human rights, education, health, or sustainable development. It is from this perspective that I build my engaged, collaborative archaeological and ethnographic research.
I have developed heritage work in Parintins, Amazonas, Brazil, co-directed with Dr. Filippo Stampanoni of the Museu da Amazônia. I am developing soil and landscape research in the Amazon that will be funded by a Wenner-Gren Post-PhD Grant (Terra Preta as Indigenous Technology). This project is modeled upon my previous collaborative research with descendants of escaped enslaved Africans (Remanescentes de Quilombos) on the Lower Xingu River, which integrated ethnography and archaeology. The ethnographic research, which had a focus on landscape use and community formation, was funded by a grant from Ministry of Culture, Technology, and Innovation in Brazil, and was and generously supported by the Museu Parense Emílio Goeld (MPEG) in Brazil and key collaborator Helena Lima. I developed this research while co-directing the interdisciplinary project Origens, Cultura e Ambiente, (Origins, Culture and Environment – OCA, Helena Lima, current director) at the MPEG. In 2013 I was awarded funding by the National Geographic Society for my project History of a Crossroads: An Amazonian City in Deep Time, which launched the OCA project.
Some of my research is focused on the historical and recent injustices perpetrated in the Louisville area and is locally based. I am a faculty affiliate at the Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research (https://louisville.edu/braden) and am currently developing archival research with an interdisciplinary team of UofL scholars titled Uncovering Racial Logics within Louisville, funded by a grant from the Cooperative Consortium for Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research (https://louisville.edu/socialjustice/). I also do historic material culture analysis at the Center for Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (CACHe, see https://louisville.edu/anthropology/cache/labs) with students and am currently working in collaboration with Dr. Kathryn Marklein on the Eastern Cemetery Artifacts Project (ECAP).
For my most recent CV, please access