Academic Research

I have led and participated in academic archaeological projects in Mexico. The goal of that work was to better understand secondary and tertiary centers within the Late Postclassic (1350-1520 CE) Tarascan State of West-Central Mexico. My dissertation work and subsequent publications try to analyze how the ruling dynasty managed this hierarchy, partly defined the material markers by which lesser lords could claim status, and how the ambiguity of the hierarchy depending on a particular lord’s point of view served the interests of the ruling dynasty. Additionally, I have published research on ceramic production that seems to have been both organized by independent artisans but also in some respects co-opted by local elites as they sought to copy styles promulgated by the royal dynasty. Due to the dynamic landscape of the Patzcuaro Basin that was the political core of the Tarascan state, I have also published on using GIS systems to model lake level change and concomitant changes in resource zones as they would have been perceived and remembered by past actors.

My archaeological research into the Tarascan state has been intimately intertwined with my ethnohistoric research. I summarize this work more fully on my Ethnohistory specific page, but most prominently I analyze narrative and discursive practices in order to understand Tarascan culture and especially the ideology surrounding the kingship within the state. History is messy, and so I have focused most of my work on analyzing how and why certain kinds of stories about the past are told and by whom, and what the effects of those stories are. As such my work touches on issues of politics, ideology, worldview, religion, and how discourse is used to try to “frame” or provide context for and thus influence, the material world and social practices.