I am an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology in the Department of Social Sciences at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan where I have taught for the last seven years.
I am an anthropologically trained archaeologist interested in the impact that the global historical process of industrialization has had on past individuals, societies, and environments and the meaning and relevance of those changes to contemporary people. I am particularly interested in issues related to the evolving articulations created through colonialism, the rise and spread of a capitalist world-economy, and the social, economic, and political processes of globalization. I apply a range of multidisciplinary approaches drawn from anthropology and across the social sciences in order to interpret societal organization and change within the context of the increasing global articulation of individuals, cultures, and environments that has characterized the modern-era. In particular I am interested in how these processes, when viewed from the evolutionary perspective of an archaeology that draws from mixed anthropological methodologies and integrated theoretical frameworks, can inform and provide equitable solutions to contemporary societal issues.
I earned my Ph.D. from Texas A&M University in 2005, having done research on the changing realities of Maya social organization in response to the introduction and subsequent adaptation of capitalist oriented hacienda sugar production in Yucatan, Mexico from the 18th through early 20th centuries. My book, On the Periphery of the Periphery, about this research is now in print as part of the edited series Contributions to Global Historical Archaeology published by Springer.
Prior to becoming an Associate Professor in the Department of Social Sciences in 2012, I served as an Assistant Professor in the department from 2005-2012, as a Post-Doctoral Fellow for the Industrial Archaeology Program here at Michigan Tech from 2005-2006, and as the Archaeology Fellow for the Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (OAHP) at the Colorado Historical Society (CHS) from 2004-2005.
Since arriving at Michigan Tech I have taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses related to topics within the Social Sciences, including historical and industrial archaeology, cultural anthropology, the social, economic, and political dimensions of haciendas, plantations, and industrial communities in the American West, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and issues related to colonialism, world-systems analysis, and globalization. Through my teaching I strive to introduce students to a range of multidisciplinary approaches aimed at understanding the relevance of societal formation and of societal change within the context of the increasing global articulations of people and cultures that has characterized the modern era. For more specific information about my research interests, teaching & mentoring, and service, please read my Personal Statement.
Over the last five years I have developed the Caribbean Industrial Heritage Program dedicated to studying industrial heritage in the Spanish speaking circum-Caribbean area. In recent years my research agenda has come to reflect a contemporary archaeological approach, i.e. the application of traditional, empirically based archaeological methods and practices to understanding and explaining the contemporary world, informed by a critical social theory that integrates diverse social science approaches in order to critique and change social circumstances through historically informed solutions to local social problems. At present I am working on two programs of research examining the evolution of social systems in Latin America.
My most recent project utilizes anthropological and archaeological methodologies in direct partnership with local communities to evaluate the impact of renewed agro-industrial production and issues of local sustainability contextualized within the long-term historical circumstances that have shaped local social systems and stakeholder perceptions related to key socio-economic issues related to the environment and land-use. This work is part of a $5 million, 5 year NSF- Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) funded project broadly interested in bioenenergy development and sustainability in Latin America involving scholars from multiple academic units at Michigan Tech, along with researchers from 15 universities and institutions from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina. My portion of the larger project will incorporate and extend the archaeological and historical research I previously conducted at Hacienda Tabi, Yucatán related to the development of inequalities and exploitation engender by the articulation of local communities within global networks through the specific examination of historically informed patterns of land tenure, water rights, labor rights, and local food system security.
My second program of ongoing research is the Central Aguirre Research Project, which is focused on the evolution of the sugar industry in Puerto Rico. The central (the Spanish term for a centralized sugar mill and company town) was at the heart of the social and economic change experienced by Puerto Rican workers at the beginning of the twentieth century as they were increasingly incorporated within worldwide commodity markets. The Central Aguirre Research Project combines aspects of anthropological, archaeological, and historical research, incorporating elements of socio-cultural theory, archaeology, spatial analysis, archival research, ethnohistory, and oral history into a single unidisciplinary program of research designed to study the trajectory and impact of the sugar industry on the people of Puerto Rico.
Recent research at Central Aguirre has focused on the social and economic evolution of the former company town on the south-central coast of the island, with the goal of understanding this place from an historical perspective, as well as the significance of its industrial heritage to contemporary community members. As part of this research the Central Aguirre Research Project has conducted extensive archival research and oral history interviews with community members from Central Aguirre and surrounding communities. We are planning on returning to the island next year to continue the oral history project alongside archaeological excavations at the former Hacienda Aguirre, a production site which was in operation from the mid-nineteenth century until the creation of the modern mill and company town of Central Aguirre in 1900. To learn more about the ongoing work at Central Aguirre, please see my recent article in CRM: The Journal of Heritage Stewardship.