As an archaeological anthropologist, I have long-term research
commitments to the landscape, material culture, and local communities of northern New Mexico. My work draws upon the remarkable archaeology
and rich cultural diversity in this region (1) to develop new accounts of the pre-Columbian, colonial, and modern histories of the American
Southwest and (2) to intervene in a series of broader intellectual debates regarding premodern religion, non-state political action, and
the materiality of social life, generally conceived. My first book, An Archaeology of Doings: Secularism and the Study of Pueblo Religion
(2012, SAR Press), brings together a decade’s worth of fieldwork designed to investigate the changing religious life of Pueblo
communities in northern New Mexico from the eleventh century to the present. In the course of these investigations, An Archaeology of
Doings mounts a sustained critique of the secular foundations of traditional archaeological understandings of “premodern religion” and
develops an alternative analytic based upon the indigenous category of
My current research builds from an ongoing archaeological survey of
the Rio Grande Gorge, a large rift valley in northern New Mexico
filled with 10,000 years of rock art, trails, and shrines that has
been the focus of my summer fieldwork since 2007. This research has
been designed as an exploration of the relationship between icon and place, building from the premise that the interplay of environmental
and iconographic features is central to the aesthetics and agency of landscapes within indigenous traditions. How did patterns of light and
shadow on a boulder’s surface, the growth of lichen across a rock face, the proximity to water, or the view of sacred mountains affect
the production and interpretation of rock art in the past? How do divergent cultural understandings of the nature of sunlight, stones,
and rivers lead to different experiences of dwelling in landscape and reading its signs? These and other questions stand at the heart of my
next book project, tentatively entitled Figured Ground: Landscape Archaeology in the American Southwest (in prep), which is being
expressly written as a contribution to what I have suggested is an emerging “Southwest School" of landscape archaeology.
Many future research directions are emerging from my fieldwork in
the Rio Grande Gorge. In 2008, I discovered an extensive distribution
of rock art panels in the Plains Biographic tradition that has led me
to begin work on the problem of Comanche imperialism in New Mexico
during the eighteenth century. The additional discovery of an elaborate network of Catholic panels surrounding an abandoned morada
is further drawing me toward studies of the 19th century Penitente tradition and the complicated question of how Catholic sacred
landscapes developed in dialogue with indigenous understandings of place. In collaboration with one of my graduate students, Kaet Heupel,
I have also participated in an archaeology of 1960s commune culture in northern New Mexico—together, we have initiated excavations at the New
Buffalo Commune, marking the beginning of what we hope will be an
ongoing archaeological engagement with 1960s radicalism in the Southwest. Each of these research threads will keep me busy at work
for many years to come.
On campus at Barnard, I coordinate the archaeological concentration
in anthropology and teach a variety of introductory and upper-level
courses including “Origins of Human Society,” “Pre-Columbian Histories
of Native America,” “Archaeology of Idols,” and “Thing Theory.” While
away from campus during the summer, I direct Barnard's field program in New Mexico. This program creates an opportunity for between 5-10
Barnard and Columbia students each summer to gain first-hand
experiences on archaeological surveys and excavations, collecting data that in many cases leads to senior theses and presentations at professional archaeological conferences.
Academic Focus: materiality, religion, iconography, cultural landscapes, archaeology of the contemporary past, American Southwest
2012. Gesture and performance in Comanche rock art. Invited paper, presented as part of the Art Makes Society session at the 77th Annual
Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. (with Jimmy Arterberry)
2012. Anatopism. Invited paper, presented as part of the Charting a Course for the Material Turn session at the Theoretical Archaeology
Group meetings at University at Buffalo, SUNY.
2011. The chimpanzee’s cringe: on the power of the corpse. Invited paper, presented as part of the Presidential Panel on Religion and
Materiality, Society for the Anthropology of Religion, Santa Fe.
2011. The Stone Age after the Stoned Age. Presented as part of The Persistence of the Sixties: Countercultural Archaeologies of New
Buffalo session at the Theoretical Archaeology Group meeting, UC Berkeley.
2011. The illusion of post-disciplinarity. Invited paper, presented as part of a student-organized (Scientists and Engineers for a Better
Society) seminar on the relationship between the sciences and
humanities, Columbia University.
2012. An Archaeology of Doings: Secularism and the Study of Pueblo Religion. SAR Press, Santa Fe.
in preparation. Figured Ground: Landscape Archaeologies in the American Southwest.
in preparation. The Archaeology of Taos, New Mexico. (with Michael Adler)
Selected Articles and Chapters: (forthcoming) Staging the Passion in a pagan land. Event place
performance: theorizing architectural spaces in the ancient world(s), edited by Omur Harmanah and Catherine Becker. (Severin Fowles and
(forthcoming) Writing against collapse. In Counternarratives: Papers
in Honor of Norman Yoffee, edited by Geoffrey Emberling. Cambridge University Press.
(forthcoming) On torture in societies against the state. In Violence and Civilization, edited by Rod Campbell. Joukowsky Institute, Brown
2012. The absence of modernity. In Oxford Handbook of the Contemporary Past, edited by Paul Graves-Brown and Rodney Harrison. Oxford
University Press. (Severin Fowles and Kaet Heupel)
2012. The Pueblo village in an age of reformation. In Oxford Handbook of North American Archaeology, edited by Timothy Pauketat. Oxford
University Press, London.
2011. “Worlds otherwise”: archaeology, anthropology and ontological difference. Current Anthropology 52(6):896-912. (Ben Alberti, Severin
Fowles, Martin Holbraad and Yvonne Marshall, Christopher Witmore)
2011. Movement and the unsettling of the Pueblos. In Rethinking Anthropological Perspectives on Migration, edited by Graciela Cabana
and Jeffrey Clark. University of Florida Press.
2011. Becoming Hopi, becoming Tiwa: two Pueblo histories of movement. In Margaret Nelson and Colleen Strawhacker (editors), Movement,
Connectivity, and Landscape Change in the Ancient Southwest.
University Press of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado (Wesley Bernardini and Severin Fowles)
2011. Archaeology in the humanities. Diogenes 229:77-103. Special issue on “The Humanities Today,” edited by Anders Petterson. (Norman
Yoffee and Severin Fowles, published in six languages)
2010. A people’s history of the American Southwest. In Ancient Complexities: New Perspectives in Pre-Columbian North America, edited
by Susan Alt. University of Utah Press, Provo.
2010. The Southwest School of landscape archaeology. Annual Review of Anthropology 39:453-468.
2010. People without things. In The Anthropology of Absence: Materialisations of Transcendence and Loss, edited by Mikkel Bille,
Frida Hastrup, and Tim Flohr Sørensen, pp. 23-41. Springer Press, New
2009. The enshrined Pueblo: villagescape and cosmos in the northern Rio Grande. American Antiquity 74(3):448-466.
2008. Steps toward an archaeology of taboo. In Religion, Archaeology, and the Material World, edited by Lars Fogelin, pp. 15-37. Center for
Archaeological Investigations, Occasional Paper No. 36. Southern Illinois