UMass Boston

Research & Impact

At UMass Boston, we are committed to anthropological scholarship that engages with the wider community and is relevant to the needs of a changing world.  To that end we have built a department faculty whose individual research priorities include synergistic links that draw on Anthropology’s holistic and interdisciplinary foundations.  The following key departmental research areas reflect our department’s dedication to community engagement and outstanding scholarship.  Within these areas, undergraduate and graduate students alike find abundant research opportunities, from assisting with community surveys and archaeological field and lab work to conducting independent thesis research under faculty supervision.  For a sampling of publications and presentations by faculty and students in the department, please consult the Department’s ScholarWorks page

Cultural Preservation & Representation

Through the lens of visual and material culture, members of our faculty explore how diasporas have become centers of authentic cultural production.  Building on the strengths of the Historical Archaeology MA program, this research addresses wider contemporary forms of cultural expression, heritage, and change, drawing on the tools of sociocultural anthropology and related fields for research and training frameworks.  The practical and policy dimensions of this work include assessment and management of contemporary forms of cultural/ethnic expression and change, and the practical, policy and ethical issues involved in their representation.

  • More than Mas’”, a film co-directed by Professor Rosalyn Negrón and featuring Professor Ping-Ann Addo about Boston Carnival culture and community.

Rights, Cultures, and Histories of Indigenous Peoples

Through research and collaboration with local and regional Native American communities, including the Eastern Pequot, Mashantucket Pequot, Nipmuc, Mashpee/Wampanoag, and Massachusett communities, our department has engaged UMass Boston students and faculty in critical issues – such as federal recognition, heritage, public health, education – faced by New England’s Native peoples and other indigenous groups in the Americas. Archaeological research on tribal lands by our faculty and students has advanced the interests of regional Indigenous nations in documenting long histories of their communities and showcasing their persistence. Our faculty members also work with a host of Indigenous communities worldwide, including Mexico, Amazonia, Saharan Africa, Samoa, and Aotearoa/New Zealand.

  • “Listen to Their Voices,” a film on Eastern Pequot archaeology and heritage, by Professor Stephen Silliman and the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation
  • “Interview with Dr. Cedric Woods,” The Harvard Crimson about adjunct Anthropology Professor Cedric Woods who serves as Director of the Institute for New England Native American Studies
  • Historical Archaeology and Indigenous Collaboration: Discovering Histories that Have Futures, an award-winning (Society for American Archaeology Scholarly Book Award, 2021) book co-authored by Professor Stephen Mrozowski, two graduates of the M.A. Program in Historical Archaeology, and a Nipmuc scholar
  • “Behind the Blue Veil (trailer) (Healey Library stream)” a documentary film on the Tuareg which features Professor Barbara Worley
  • “Indigenous Peoples and Afro-Descendants in the Americas: Collaboration, Archaeology, Repatriation, and Heritage Series 2023 – Panel 1, ‘Indigenous Archaeologies, Territories and Human Rights.’” Online panel featuring Professors Daniela Balanzátegui and Stephen Silliman, along with visiting scholar, Dr. Marianne Sallum, in collaboration with the Museu de Arqueologia e Ethnologia at the Universidade de São Paulo. Available in English, Spanish, Portuguese.


Globalization, Transnationalism, Immigration, Urbanism, and the Environment

This focus centers on the impact of globalization on culture and society worldwide, from the onslaught of technology and the commodification of labor and resources in traditional societies, to the establishment of immigrant and transnational communities in the urban U.S. Viewed historically, the impact of European colonialism in the Americas and the rise of industrial society are major foci of the Historical Archaeology graduate program, where students have opportunities to work on archaeological and archival projects from New England to the American Southwest and from Iceland to Mexico. In addition to local preservation agencies and nonprofit organizations, our faculty has been active with local community groups including the Columbia Point Community Partnership and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, in support of local community development and empowerment.  UMass Boston Anthropology faculty has also been active in documenting the impact of globalization and environmental degradation on biodiversity conservation and human health, working with community groups in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Bolivia. 


Biocultural Approaches to Health Disparities, Gender, and the Life Course

Health disparities research is a University-wide priority at UMass Boston.  UMass Boston is the only public university in New England recognized by NIH as a minority-serving institution. The University has forged research and training partnerships with area institutions, including the Dana Farber Cancer Center, Children’s Hospital of Boston and Harvard School of Public Health, to address local, state and national health disparities. Joining these campus-wide efforts, faculty in the Department of Anthropology study the impact of war and poverty on nutrition, growth and development; the relationships among market integration, acculturation, stress, and health; and the measurement of ethno-race in health research. They do so through community-based participatory research projects, especially in under-served communities. Our faculty also study gender and the life course, past and present, and the contemporary political and heritage implications of gender, sexuality, and reproduction.


Ethnicity, Identity, Race, and Diaspora

Encompassing both historical and contemporary perspectives, Anthropology at UMass Boston is committed to research that documents and explains how race, diaspora, and ethnicity shape people’s material, spatial, and social worlds. Research in this area examines people’s agency in circumventing the limits imposed upon them by racialization, how structural racism has worked and continues to work in the world, how people construct and negotiate ethnicity in everyday life, and the ways that people maintain identity in the face of changing political, economic, and academic pressures. Faculty approaches to this research focus are innovative and include archaeological, archival, ethnographic, and linguistic methods. Through a growing emphasis in African Diaspora studies covering regions such as Texas, New England, the Caribbean, and Ecuador, the Department is committed to understanding how the past can inform issues of race in the present and the connections made to Africa. Through undergraduate research initiatives like the Latino Leadership Opportunity Program, Anthropology faculty train and provide research opportunities to students interested in exploring the relationship between ethnicity and a range of public policy issues.


Collaborators at UMass Boston