What is your specific area of research? What are you currently working on?
My area of research is in urban historical archaeology, with a particular focus on health and healing. I use several different kinds of sources (including historical and folkloric records, archaeological remains, and ethnography) to investigate how newcomers to cities experience and treat illness and injury as well as how residents react to newcomers, given the socially constructed meanings of particular afflictions at specific historical moments.
So far, I have focused most on mid- to late 19th-century Irish immigrants in New York City. I have studied how epidemic typhus fever, tuberculosis, and work-related injuries altered native-born Americans’ views of Irish immigrants. I have also looked at how the Irish treated these ailments by combining resources from rural Ireland and New York City, and how this cultural encounter shaped immigration policy, healthcare, and the popularity of particular goods in New York City. I am currently working on a book about this based on my dissertation as well as a couple of articles about Irish-immigrant medicine.
I am also working on the Seneca Village Project, an archaeological and archival project researching the 19th-century community of African Americans and Irish immigrants that once existed in what is now New York City’s Central Park. Last summer, we uncovered the remains of one family’s house and what was probably a shared backyard of a few other families. We are now in the long process of carefully analyzing the artifacts and other clues we found in the hopes of increasing understanding of what life was like in this forgotten community.
What are your other research/teaching interests? Any broader projects or initiatives you're involved with in your field?
My other interests include material culture, contemporary health and medical anthropology, and folk medicine.
As former secretary and now president of Metropolitan Chapter of the New York State Archaeological Association, I have helped to revive this formerly defunct chapter. The organization brings together professional archaeologists, students, and members of the public interested in the archaeology of New York City. Its purpose is to share archaeological knowledge with the public and to encourage conservation, and when necessary, ethical excavation of archaeological resources.
What is most exciting to you about joining Barnard's faculty? What are you looking forward to most about being here?
I am thrilled to be joining Barnard’s urban studies program full time (during the last two years, I taught part-time for the program). It is such a dynamic and exciting program, composed of faculty and students who aspire to make the world a better place, and I believe these qualities of the program also reflect the qualities of Barnard as a whole. I look forward to continuing to help students learn methods and theories from multiple disciples that they can use to solve complicated problems in the real world.
What courses will you be teaching?
I will be teaching a year-long senior seminar on “New York Field Research.” I will also be teaching a junior colloquium called “The Shaping of the Modern City” in the fall, along with an elective course in Urban Studies in the spring.
Outside of your academic life, any interests, hobbies, accomplishments of note? And/or something about you that would surprise your students or colleagues?
I enjoy traveling, running, yoga, crocheting/knitting, and playing with my dog, who is a pug-Jack Russell mix. A surprising fact about me is that I am certified in radiation safety (for operation of a handheld x-ray device used in materials analysis).