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Christopher C. Fennell

Department of Anthropology
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
109 Davenport Hall, MC-148
607 South Mathews Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61801
(312) 513-2683 (cell)
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I am an anthropologist and lawyer (MA, U. Pennsylvania; JD, Georgetown U. 1989; Ph.D., U. Virginia 2003), specializing in historical archaeology, diaspora studies, and legal anthropology as a Professor of Anthropology. I also teach courses as a yearly Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. My empirical research addresses subjects in trans-Atlantic historical archaeology and the dynamics of social group affiliations and lifeways among Europeans, Africans, and various social groups within the Americas. These research initiatives include interpretative frameworks focusing on social group identities, ethnic group dynamics and racialization, diaspora studies, regional systems and commodity chains, stylistic and symbolic elements of material culture, consumption patterns, and analysis of craft and industrial enterprises.

In addition to teaching courses in anthropology and archaeology, my faculty work includes: affiliate faculty member of the Department of Landscape Architecture, offering courses on landscape analysis and surveying techniques; member of the College of Law faculty, offering interdisciplinary seminars for graduate and law students; faculty affiliate of the Center for African Studies, the Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Unit for Criticism and Interpretative Theory, and the Department of African American Studies, offering courses addressing African diaspora subjects and issues of racialization. Publications, including recent books, research papers, and works in progress, are listed in my resume.

Pottersville kiln overview
reconstruction of a dragon kiln in Dingshu Town of Yixing City, east China's Jiangsu Province

I have been privileged to work with a number of talented graduate and doctoral advisees, including Kathrina Aben (Ph.D. 2024), Jamie Arjona (Ph.D., 2023), George Calfas (Ph.D. 2013), Kathryn Fay (Ph.D. 2016), Zev Cossin (Ph.D. 2021), Kevin Cupka Head (MA, RPA), Kathryn Maag (MA, Illinois Distinguished Fellowship), Tatiana Niculescu (Ph.D. 2022), Rebecca Schumann (Ph.D. 2021), Adam Sutherland (Ph.D. 2023), and Emma Verstraete (Ph.D. 2022), and to serve as a committee member for others.

I am the founding editor of the Journal of African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage (Taylor & Francis), and the Restorative Justice in Heritage & Archaeology Studies book series (Routledge). I received the 2009 John L. Cotter Award by the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) for scholarly "achievement which is truly outstanding," the 2010 Gustave O. Arlt Award in the Humanities by the Council for Graduate Schools for "outstanding contribution to scholarship," a University Scholar Award (2014-2017), and the 2020 Daniel G. Roberts Award for Excellence in Public Historical Archaeology from the SHA for "commitment to public scholarship" and "anti-racism scholarship and education in historical archaeology."

I have also collaborated on multi-year research projects concerning: African-American craft innovations and industrial-scale production activities in the Edgefield Pottery District in South Carolina; cultural landscapes and intersections of tradition and modernity in west Ireland; and the social history of New Philadelphia, Illinois, a demographically integrated town founded by a free African American in 1836. Please follow the links below for information on these projects, an award-winning internet archive focusing on the history and archaeology of the Plymouth Colony, resources I've created for the African Diaspora Archaeology Network, and course materials.

Sample Publications


Candomble Dance image "African Diaspora Heritage in the Americas," chapter 12 in the peer-reviewed Routledge Handbook of Critical African Heritage Studies, edited by Ashton Sinamai, John Giblin, Shadreck Chirikure, and Ishanlosen Odiaua. London: Routledge (2024) (link).

cover image
The Archaeology of Craft and Industry, in University Press of Florida's "American Experience in Archaeological Perspective" book series (2021).

"Pulpits and Stones: African American Terrains of Action and Memory," peer-reviewed article in thematic collection entitled "Religious Communities, Religious Landscapes," edited by John Chenoweth, Historical Archaeology (2021) (link).

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"Introduction: Navigating Intersections in African Diaspora Archaeology," in "Challenging Theories of Racism, Diaspora, and Agency in African America," edited by W. A. White III and C. C. Fennell, thematic issue, Historical Archaeology 51(1): 1-148 (2017).

cover image "Reflections on Dynamic African-American Cultures and Communities in the Upper Mid-Atlantic," chapter in Archaeologies of African American Life in the Upper Mid-Atlantic, edited by Michael J. Gall and Richard F. Veit, pp. 185-197, University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa (2017).

cover image "Architecture and Landscape Art" (with S. Fields and R. Schumann), in Routledge History of the American South, edited by M. Morehouse, pp. 164-176, Routledge, New York (2017).

cover image "Innovation, Industry, and African-American Heritage in Edgefield, South Carolina," article in "The Stoneware Pottery Communities and Heritage of Edgefield, South Carolina," thematic issue edited by C. Fennell, Journal of African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage 6(2): 55-77 (2017).

cover image Broken Chains and Subverted Plans: Ethnicity, Race, and Commodities. University Press of Florida (2017). "Time and again those targeted for expropriation have foiled the large-scale plans of social elites. Grand plans are oft subverted."

cover image "Manufacturing Relationships in Industry, Craft, and Heritage," introduction chapter in Perspectives from Historical Archaeology: Investigations of Craft and Industrial Enterprise, compiled textbook by C. Fennell, pp. 9-30. Society for Historical Archaeology (2016) (pdf of volume table of contents, abstracts, and contributors).

book cover image "Fighting Despair: Challenges of a Comparative, Global Framework for Slavery Studies," invited chapter in The Archaeology of Slavery: A Comparative Approach to Captivity and Coercion, edited by Lydia Wilson Marshall, pp. 391-399, peer reviewed publication of Center for Archaeological Investigations, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, Illinois (2015).

book cover image "Cultural Creativity, Rebellions, and Comparative Questions for Afro-Brazilian Archaeology," invited chapter in Current Perspectives on the Archaeology of African Slavery in Latin America, edited by Pedro Paulo A. Funari and Charles E. Orser, Jr., pp. 99-116, peer reviewed publication of Springer Press, New York (2015).

issue cover image "Artifacts to Invoke, Direct, and Deflect," 48(3): 196-200, in "Manifestations of Magic: The Archaeology and Material Culture of Folk Religion," guest edited by Christopher Fennell and M. Chris Manning, special thematic issue in Historical Archaeology 48(3): 1-200 (2014). This collection of articles is dedicated to the career of Ralph Merrifield.

book cover image "Dexterous Creation: Material Manifestations of Instrumental Symbolism in the Americas," an invited chapter in Materialities of Ritual in the Black Atlantic, edited by Akinwumi Ogundiran and Paula Saunders, pp. 216-235, a peer-reviewed publication of Indiana University Press (2014) (link).

book cover image "Kongo and the Archaeology of Early African America," in Kongo Across the Waters, edited by Susan Cooksey, Robin Poynor, and Hein Vanhee, peer reviewed publication by University of Florida Press, pp. 229-237 (2013) (pdf).

JAF cover image Journal of African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage, founding editor of this peer review journal published by Taylor & Francis Press.

"Paradoxes in Designs for a National Historic Landmark's Presentation," Museums & Social Issues 7(2): 323-40 (2012) (with Kathryn O. Fay) (pdf).

"Literate Inversions and Cultural Metaphors in Edgefield Stoneware," Historical Archaeology 45(2): 156-162 (2011) (pdf).

cover image "Carved, Inscribed, and Resurgent: Cultural and Natural Terrains as Analytic Challenges," introduction chapter in Perspectives from Historical Archaeology: Revealing Landscapes, compiled textbook by C. Fennell. Society for Historical Archaeology (2011) (pdf of chapter excerpt and volume table of contents and contributors).

cover "Early African America: Archaeological Studies of Significance and Diversity," an invited synthesis and review article for Journal of Archaeological Research 19(1): 1-49 (2011) (pdf).

Edgefield storage vessel "Archaeological Investigations and LiDAR Aerial Survey in Edgefield, South Carolina," African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter (Dec. 2010) (pdf).

1872 map "Damaging Detours: Routes, Racism and New Philadelphia," in New Philadelphia: Racism, Community, and the Illinois Frontier, a specially edited thematic issue, Historical Archaeology 44(1): 138-154 (2010) (pdf).

cover "Combating Attempts of Elision: African American Accomplishments at New Philadelphia, Illinois," invited chapter in Intangible Heritage Embodied, edited by D. Fairchild Ruggles and Helaine Silverman, peer reviewed publication by Springer Press, pp. 147-168 (2009) (pdf of chapter excerpt and volume table of contents and contributors).

cover "African Diaspora Archaeology in Multiscalar and Multivariate Perspectives," introduction chapter in Perspectives from Historical Archaeology: African Diaspora Archaeology, compiled textbook by C. Fennell. Society for Historical Archaeology (2008) (.pdf of chapter excerpt and volume table of contents and contributors).

cover Crossroads and Cosmologies: Diasporas and Ethnogenesis in the New World, with a foreword by Robert Farris Thompson. University Press of Florida (2007).

cover "BaKongo Identity and Symbolic Expression in the Americas," an invited chapter in The Archaeology of Atlantic Africa and the African Diaspora, edited by Toyin Falola and Akin Ogundiran, pp. 210-50, Indiana University Press (2007).

"Fear and Greed in Tax Policy: A Qualitative Research Agenda," with Lee A. Fennell, Washington University Journal of Law and Policy 13: 75-138 (2003) (pdf).

cover "Group Identity, Individual Creativity and Symbolic Generation in a BaKongo Diaspora," International Journal of Historical Archaeology 7(1): 1-31 (2003) (.pdf).

"Assessing Criticisms of Faunal Analyses and Environmental Reconstructions in the Tehuacán Valley Project," Human Ecology: An Interdisciplinary Journal 29(3): 349-59 (2001) (pdf).

"Conjuring Boundaries: Inferring Past Identities from Religious Artifacts," International Journal of Historical Archaeology 4(4): 281-313 (2000) (pdf).

Excavations & Research

diamond Edgefield Pottery District, South Carolina
diamond Tradition and Modernity on Great Blasket Island, Ireland
diamond Brooklyn, Illinois Archaeology & Heritage Project
diamond Historical Landscapes of New Philadelphia, Illinois
diamond New Philadelphia Web 2.0 Portal, Project Reports and Updates

1998 aerial view of New Philadelphia site with town lot overlay
New Philadelphia excavators

diamond African Diaspora Research and Publications
diamond African Diaspora Archaeology Network and Newsletter
diamond African-American Archaeology, History and Cultures
diamond Anthropology and Archaeology Resource Links

seventeenth century house reconstruction
Blue Ridge Gap at Harpers Ferry

diamond Excavations & Research in Loudoun Valley, Virginia
diamond Excavations & Research in Harpers Ferry, W. Virginia
diamond Consuming Mosaics: Regional Study of the Upper Potomac
diamond Plymouth Colony Archive Project


diamond Introduction to Archaeology
diamond History of Archaeological Theory
diamond Historical Archaeology
diamond Landscape Archaeology
diamond Archaeological Surveying
diamond Archaeology of Craft and Industry
diamond Racism, Law, and Social Sciences
diamond Anthropology and Law
diamond African-American Archaeology
diamond Social Norms and Law
diamond World Archaeology
diamond North American Archaeology
diamond Field Schools at Edgefield and New Philadelphia

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Faculty Archaeology Anthropology University

Last updated: April 16, 2024