Welcome! I am a comparative and historical sociologist at the University of Virginia, where I am Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology. I teach courses on the Sociology of Art and Art Markets; Criminology; and Research Design and Methods. With an interdisciplinary research agenda grounded in qualitative methods, I am engaged in collaborations with colleagues in the Anthropology and Art History departments and the Global Studies program.
My broad research interest is in cultural objects as a source of social power, with particular focus on how antiquities are made and why they acquire political power. As I see it, antiquities are not naturally occurring things but rather hybrid artifacts produced by economic, cultural, scientific, and political processes. Some artifacts enjoy the status of antiquity while others do not. I study why that happens and with what consequences. My forthcoming book, Ruling Culture: Art Police, Tomb Robbers, and the Rise of Cultural Power in Italy (University of Chicago Press), examines this phenomenon in the context of Italy’s transformation into a cultural superpower. The book is based on over three years’ work with archaeologists, cultural administrators, and historical archives in Rome.
The fate of antiquities during the Syrian civil war (2011- present) is another core research focus of mine. With my MANTIS colleagues at the University of Chicago, I experimented with excavation data and auction records to model the market value of an entire archaeology site in Syria. Thanks to a generous grant from the National Science Foundation, in 2018-2020 I will be starting a new project, “Insurgent Artifacts,” which studies satellite archaeologists’ expertise in the service of counter-terrorism policy-making.
One of the useful things about antiquities is that their temporal and material endurance make them a strong platform for truth claims about the social world. To this end, I am interested in collaborative initiatives that use sociology of knowledge and STS theories to study knowledge production into and from antiquities.
You can read more about my research projects, publications, and teaching in these pages.