Shannon Lee Dawdy


Contact Information

Office: Haskell 202
Phone: (773) 834-0829

(PhD, U Michigan 2003) Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences in the College. Professor Dawdy is an anthropologist whose fieldwork combines archaeological, archival, and ethnographic methods with a regional focus on the U.S., Caribbean, and Mexico. The central thread running through her work concerns how landscapes and material objects mediate human relationships, whether this means an examination of the historical ecologies of capitalism, or the emotional trajectories of those who lost their intimate object worlds to Hurricane Katrina. Her first book, Building the Devil's Empire, offers 'rogue colonialism' to explain how French New Orleans, and many colonies like it, functioned outside state controls, developing a political economy loosely moored to metropolitan interests. Her new book, Patina: A Profane Archaeology, investigates nostalgic practices surrounding antiques, heirlooms, historic houses, and ruins. It argues that these practices provide a means of critiquing the capitalist present and of bonding people together through a type of kinship. Her current research focuses on rapidly changing death practices in the U.S., particularly around disposition and transformation of the body. Collaborating with a filmmaker, the work also explores what happens when we turn an archaeological lens on contemporary life, and the possibilities of an artistic approach to anthropological questions. Professor Dawdy is a recent MacArthur Fellow and has received funding for her fieldwork from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. For access to publications and further information on past and present projects see:,, and

Selected Works

Selected Publications

Year Title / Publications PDF
In press Some Artifacts Are Fetishes. Archaeology of the Heart and Emotion, Eds. Kisha Supernant, Jane Eva Baxter, Natasha Lyons, Sonya Atalay. Springer Press.
In press Nuevo Orleans: Parts Made in Mexico. Remaking New Orleans: Beyond Exceptionalism and Authenticity, ed. Thomas Adam and Matt Sakakeeny. Duke University Press.
In press The Wounded Landscape: Disaster, Trauma, and Ontology. Eds. Yael Navaro, Zerrin Ozlem Biner, Alice von Bieberstein, and Seda Altug. Reverberations: Violence Across Time and Space. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
2017 The Prostitute and the Dandy ; or The Romantic Complications of Capitalism as viewed from New Orleans. Critical Historical Studies 4(2) :1-32.
2016 Patina: A Profane Archaeology. University of Chicago Press.
2016 Profane Archaeology and the Existential Dialectics of the City. 16(1): 32-55. Journal of Social Archaeology.
2016 Anti-history. In Counternarratives and Macrohistories, ed. Geoff Emberling for Cambridge University Press, 328-342.
2016 (with Alison Kohn) Archaeologies of an Informal City: Temporal Dimensions of Contemporary Andean Urbanism. IN Assembling Architecture. Archaeology, Affect and the Performance of Building Spaces, eds. Mikkel Bille and Tim Flohr Sørensen. Routledge.
2014 (with D. Ryan Gray) French Colonial Louisiana: The Rough Terrains of Empire. Oxford Handbook of Historical Archaeology, eds. James Symonds and Laurie Wilkie.
2013 Modern American Death: Grave Goods and Blithe Mementos. In Paul Graves-Brown, Rodney Harrison and Angela Piccini (eds.). Handbook of the Archaeology of the Contemporary World. Oxford University Press.
2013 The Archaeology of Illegal and Illicit Economies (with Alexandra Hartnett) Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 42: 37-51.
2012 Towards a General Theory of Piracy (with Joe Bonni). Anthropological Quarterly, 83(3): 673-700.
2011 Why Pirates Are Back. Annual Review of Law and Social Science 7: 361-385.
2011 Sexualizing Space: The Colonial Leer and the Genealogy of Storyville. In B. Voss and E. Casella, eds., The Archaeology of Colonialism: Intimate Encounters and Sexual Effects. Cambridge University Press: 271-289.
2010 Clockpunk Anthropology and the Ruins of Modernity. Current Anthropology 51(6):761-793.
2010 ‘A Wild Taste’: Food and Colonialism in Eighteenth-century Louisiana. Ethnohistory 57(3):389-414.
2010 Disaster Preparedness. In Edward Murphy, David William Cohen et al., eds., Anthrohistory: Unsettling Knowledge, Questioning Discipline. University of Michigan Press, 140-155.
2009 Millennial Archaeology: Locating the Discipline in the Age of Insecurity/Doomsday Confessions. Invited discussion article, Archaeological Dialogues 16(2): 131-142, 186-193.
2008 Building the Devil’s Empire: French Colonial New Orleans. University of Chicago Press.
2008 Dumont de Montigny: Regards sur le monde atlantique, 1715-1747. (Co-ed. with C. Zecher and G. Sayre.) Québec/Paris: Septentrion.
2008 Beneath the Rising Sun: ‘Frenchness’ and the Archaeology of Desire. International Journal of Historical Archaeology 11(3):370-387 (with Richard Weyhing).
2008 Scoundrels, Whores, and Gentlemen: Defamation and Society in French Colonial Louisiana. In R.F. Brown, ed., Coastal Encounters: The Transformation of the Gulf South in the Eighteenth Century. University of Nebraska Press, 132-150.
2007 La Nouvelle-Orléans au xviie siècle: courants d‘échanges dans le monde caraïbe [English title: Undercurrents of the Atlantic World: The View from Eighteenth-Century New Orleans]. Annales (Paris, Fall 2007) 62(3): 663-685.
2006 The Taphonomy of Disaster and the (Re)formation of New Orleans. American Anthropologist. 108(4): 719-730.
2006 The Burden of Louis Congo and the Evolution of Savagery in Colonial Louisiana. In S. Pierce & A. Rao, eds., Discipline and the Other Body: Correction, Corporeality, Colonialism. Duke University Press, 61-89.
2006 Proper Caresses and Prudent Distance: A How-to Manual from Louisiana. In A.L. Stoler, ed., Haunted by Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History. Duke University Press, 140-162.
2005 Thinker-Tinkers, Race, and the Archaeological Critique of Modernity. Archaeological Dialogues 12(2): 143-164.
2005 (Co-ed. w/ A. Curet & G. La Rosa) Dialogues in Cuban Archaeology. University of Alabama Press.
2002 La Comida Mambisa: Food, Farming, and Cuban Identity, 1834-1999. New West Indian Guide 76(1-2): 47-80.
2000 Understanding Cultural Change through the Vernacular: Creolization in Louisiana. Historical Archaeology 34(3): 107-123.