Photo of Shannon Dawdy
Shannon Lee Dawdy PhD, University of Michigan, 2003

On leave for the 2023-2024 academic year
Office: Haskell 202/Haskell 116 Phone: (773) 702-7701 Email Interests:

Transdisciplinary anthropology; archaeology of the contemporary; historical anthropology; cities; colonialism and capitalism; informal economies; sex; death; disaster; temporality; utopia; filmmaking; the Americas.

Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences in the College

My fieldwork combines archival, ethnographic, and archaeological methods in the U.S. and Latin America. I am especially interested in how landscapes and material objects mediate human relationships and how shared cultural experiences affect our perceptions of time (past, present, future). Topically, my research has focused on death, disaster, sensuality, and histories of colonialism and capitalism. Also, pirates. I have written a couple of quite different books on New Orleans (one on its peculiar French colonial past and another on the city's relationship to old things, before and after Katrina). My latest project, which takes the form of both a film (I Like Dirt.) and a book (American Afterlives), focuses on rapidly changing death practices in the U.S., particularly around disposition and transformation of the body. The next venture will be an exploration of deep future archives and doomsday practices in the arctic and elsewhere. I believe that, at its best, intellectualism is the human spirit calling itself, and that academia is just one tent where this might happen. In my free time, I grow things, play fiddle, sail and swim. I am grateful for having received support from the MacArthur Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the ACLS, among others. For more about my publications go to my page or author website.


Recent Research / Recent Publications

Selected Publications


The New Death: Mortality and Death Care in the Twenty-first Century (co-editor with Tamara Kneese, SAR/University of New Mexico Press, 2022).

"The Embalmer's Magic" in Dawdy and Kneese, The New Death.


American Afterlives: Reinventing Death in the Twenty-first Century (Princeton University Press). Finalist for PROSE Award in Cultural Anthropology and Sociology.

The Wounded Landscape: Disaster, Trauma, and Ontology. Reverberations: Violence Across Time and Space. Eds. Yael Navaro, Zerrin Ozlem Biner, Alice von Bieberstein, and Seda Altug. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press).


Mound-Building and the Politics of Disaster Debris. Going Forward by Looking Back: Archaeology Perspectives on Socio-Ecological Crisis, Response, and Collapase. Eds. Felix Riede and Payson Sheets. Berghahn Books, 256-72.

Talking Trash and the Politics of Disregard. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 30(1): 156-160.


American Afterlives: Ghosts in the Commodity Form. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology 6(2): 206-223.

Zombies and a Decaying American Ontology. Journal of Historical Sociology 32: 17-25.

La Catrina: The Mexican Specter of New Orleans. Remaking New Orleans: Beyond Exceptionalism and Authenticity, ed. Thomas Adam and Matt Sakakeeny. Duke University Press, 35-54.

Death and Archaeology in the Present, Tense. Rethinking Historical Time: New Approaches to Presentism. Eds. Marek Tamm and Laurent Olivier. Bloomsbury Press.


The Abject Ruins of Marxism, Cultural Dynamics 30(1-2): 119-121.

Archaeology of Everyday Life in Early New Orleans. In New Orleans, the Founding Era, ed. Erin Greenwald, Historic New Orleans Collection.


The Prostitute and the Dandy, or The Romantic Complications of Capitalism as Viewed from New Orleans. Critical Historical Studies 4(2) :1-32.


Patina: A Profane Archaeology. University of Chicago Press.

Profane Archaeology and the Existential Dialectics of the City. Journal of Social Archaeology 16(1): 32-55.

Anti-history. In Counternarratives and Macrohistories, ed. Geoff Emberling for Cambridge University Press, 328-342.

Archaeologies of an Informal City: Temporal Dimensions of Contemporary Andean Urbanism (with Alison Kohn). IN Assembling Architecture: Archaeology, Affect and the Performance of Building Spaces, eds. Mikkel Bille and Tim Flohr Sørensen. Routledge.


French Colonial Louisiana: The Rough Terrains of Empire (with D. Ryan Gray). IN Oxford Handbook of Historical Archaeology, eds. James Symonds and Laurie Wilkie.


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.

The Archaeology of Illegal and Illicit Economies (with Alexandra Hartnett) Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 42: 37-51.


Towards a General Theory of Piracy (with Joe Bonni). Anthropological Quarterly, 83(3): 673-700.


Why Pirates Are Back. Annual Review of Law and Social Science 7: 361-385.

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.


Clockpunk Anthropology and the Ruins of Modernity. Current Anthropology 51(6):761-793.

‘A Wild Taste’: Food and Colonialism in Eighteenth-century Louisiana. Ethnohistory 57(3):389-414.

Disaster Preparedness. In Edward Murphy, David William Cohen et al., eds., Anthrohistory: Unsettling Knowledge, Questioning Discipline. University of Michigan Press, 140-155.


Millennial Archaeology: Locating the Discipline in the Age of Insecurity/Doomsday Confessions. Archaeological Dialogues 16(2): 131-142, 186-193.


Building the Devil’s Empire: French Colonial New Orleans. University of Chicago Press.

Dumont de Montigny: Regards sur le monde atlantique, 1715-1747. (Co-edited with C. Zecher and G. Sayre.) Québec/Paris: Septentrion.

Beneath the Rising Sun: ‘Frenchness’ and the Archaeology of Desire. International Journal of Historical Archaeology 11(3):370-387 (with Richard Weyhing).

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.


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.


The Taphonomy of Disaster and the (Re)formation of New Orleans. American Anthropologist. 108(4): 719-730.

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.

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.


Thinker-Tinkers, Race, and the Archaeological Critique of Modernity. Archaeological Dialogues 12(2): 143-164.

Dialogues in Cuban Archaeology (Co-edited with A. Curet and G. La Rosa). University of Alabama Press.


La Comida Mambisa: Food, Farming, and Cuban Identity, 1834-1999. New West Indian Guide 76(1-2): 47-80.


Understanding Cultural Change through the Vernacular: Creolization in Louisiana. Historical Archaeology 34(3): 107-123.