RustBelt Anthro

Contemporary Archaeology in the Postindustrial U.S.


I hold a doctorate in Anthropology from Indiana University and have been an assistant editor of the Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage since 2014. I’ve worked on archaeological and ethnographic field projects in southern Belize, Greece, Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, and southern Indiana.

My research interests include (post)industrial landscapes and heritage, deconstruction and salvage practices, and material culture. My dissertation project was an ethnographic investigation of perspectives on and approaches to salvage and blight remediation in Detroit, Michigan, where I currently live. For more information about my current projects and publications, connect with me on ResearchGate, LinkedIn, and


This blog focuses on my research in Detroit, but also more broadly on the intersections of (post)industrial heritage, material culture, housing justice, and environmental sustainability.

What is ‘Rust Belt Anthropology?’

The term “Rust Belt” has been used since the 1980s to describe the formerly industrial cities and towns along the east coast and in the Great Lakes region of the United States (see map below). Though previously considered an offensive term, there’s a growing movement within the region that embraces it and seeks to recognize and celebrate the creativity and resilience with which postindustrial communities navigate change.

An anthropology in and of the Rust Belt focuses on the region’s heritage and rich history of industry and innovation, as well as the challenges and issues many postindustrial communities currently face, such as blight and vacancy, population shifts, gentrification, environmental hazards and degradation, lack of economic opportunity and resources, the reduction in or suspension of basic public services, and widespread stereotyping and misrepresentation in the media.

For some examples of anthropological research in this region, see the Anthropology by the Wire project in Baltimore, the Exit Zero Project in Southeast Chicago, and Alice Mah’s, Industrial Ruination, Community and Place:Landscapes and Legacies of Urban Decline (Mah is an urban sociologist, and this project explores and compares experiences of deindustrialization in three communities in North America, the UK, and Russia; you can watch an interview with her here).

For examples of historical and industrial archaeology projects in the Rust Belt and Great Lakes region, check out the Cliff Mine Project blog and the Unearthing Detroit Project.

Map by Krista Siniscarco

 What is Contemporary Archaeology?

Contemporary archaeology is the application of archaeological methods and theories to the study of the present and recent past, and to the study of how the past circulates in the present. For more information about the different kinds of research that contemporary archaeologists do and the methods and approaches they use, see this excellent description by Kaitlin Scharra of Unearthing Detroit, the CHAT-Contemporary and Historical Archaeology in Theory group, and the Journal for Contemporary Archaeology.

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