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Zoe Crossland

Assistant Professor

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Zoe Crossland
Assistant Professor
Columbia University


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I work in the field of historical archaeology and my primary interest is in situations where divergent sets of beliefs and practices converge upon one place, and the conflict that often ensures as a result. In particular, I am interested in the ways in which negotiations and conflicts between people are mediated through material conditions. To fully understand the extent to which archaeology may analyze such conditions, I work with two radically different areas of research.

My most recent research traces the introduction of Protestant Christianity into Madagascar by British missionaries at the start of the 19th century. Here I focus on the potential dislocation that was experienced when one way of living, learned through a lifetime's experience within specific material and social conditions, was challenged in a confrontation with a radically different understanding of how to act effectively and morally, the ways in which people attempted to resolve and make sense of this dislocation, and the new and unanticipated formations that were created as a result.

Forensic Archaeology and Charles Sanders Peirce's Semeiotic
My second area of research focuses on the excavations of mass graves in Argentina and the political controversy surrounding them. I am drawing on the semeiotic of C. S. Peirce to explore the relationship between object and interpretation, considering how we constitute ourselves and others through embodied material engagement with the world we inhabit. Through exploring the language and orientation of forensic archaeology towards the excavation of human remains, this research works towards a fuller appreciation of the situated relationships between ourselves as archaeologists and the material conditions we inhabit, in order to better understand how we construct meaning from excavated material remains.

Selected Publications
2000 - Buried lives: forensic archaeology and Argentina's disappeared. Archaeological Dialogues, 7(2):146-159.
2001 - Time and the ancestors: landscape survey in the Andrantsay region of Madagascar. Antiquity, 75(290):825-836.
2002 - Violent spaces: conflict over the reappearance of Argentina's disappeared. In The Archaeology of 20th Century Conflict, J. Schofield, C. Beck, and W. G. Johnson (eds), pp.115-131. One World Archaeology, London: Routledge.
2003 - Towards and archaeology of 'empty' space: the efitra of the Middle West of Madagascar. Michigan Discussions in Anthropology, 14: 18-36.
2006 - Landscape and mission in Madagascar and Wales in the early 19th century: 'Sowing the seeds of knowledge'. Landscapes, 7(1): 93-121.

In prep. - The Outward Clash: Interpreting Forensic Anthropology. Topics in Contemporary Archaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
In prep. - Frontier Landscapes: Survey and Excavation in the Andrantsay region of Madagascar. Ann Arbor: Museum of Anthropology.

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