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Sociology and Anthropology

Rebecca S. Graff

Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Chair of Urban Studies (spring), Chair of American Studies


Historical archaeology, US urban archaeology (19th- and 20th- century Chicago), modern and contemporary material culture, world’s fairs and expositions, anthropology of time and temporality, archaeology of tourism


PhD University of Chicago
MA University of Chicago
BA University of California, Berkeley

Research Interests

As a historical archaeologist with research interests in the 19th- and 20th-century urban United States, I explore the relationship between temporality and modernity, memory and material culture, tourism, and nostalgic consumption through archaeological and archival research. My dissertation, “The Vanishing City: Time, Tourism, and the Archaeology of Event at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition,” was based on an archaeological and archival project focusing on the ephemeral “White City” and Midway Plaisance of the 1893 Chicago Fair. This project was supported by the College, Department of Anthropology, and the Women’s Board of the University of Chicago, and by a Scherer Center Dissertation Year Fellowship from Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture, University of Chicago. I have directed several archaeological projects in Chicago, most recently at the Louis Sullivan-designed Charnley-Persky House (2015).

I earned my PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2011. I hold a BA in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley and an MA in Anthropology from the University of Chicago. At the University of Chicago, I taught undergraduate and graduate students as a preceptor and instructor in the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences (MAPSS), and explored classic readings in social science theory as an instructor in the Social Sciences Collegiate Division. I have directed or co-directed archaeological undergraduate field schools for DePaul University, the University of Chicago, Michigan Technological University, and now Lake Forest College. In 2013 I was honored to win the Kathleen Kirk Gilmore Dissertation Award from the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA), and am currently working on a volume to be published through the SHA. I returned to Chicagoland in 2014 from a year as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Michigan Technological University’s Department of Social Sciences.

Courses Taught

SOAN 110: Introduction to Sociology and Anthropology
SOAN 205: Archaeological Field School
SOAN 215: Archaeological Field Methods
SOAN 225: Historic Artifact Analysis: Artifacts of Modernity
SOAN 216: Introduction to Archaeology
SOAN 220: Domains of Human Evidence
SOAN 318: Archaeology of the Contemporary
SOAN 370: Social Inequality

Recent Publications

Graff, Rebecca S. and M. E. Edwards. (2018). Fair-as-Foodway: Culinary Worlds and Modernizing Tastes at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Historical Archaeology 52(4).

Graff, Rebecca S. (2017). Embers from the House of Blazes: Fragments, Relics, Ruins in Chicago. In Contemporary Archaeology and the City: Creativity, Ruination, and Political Action. K. Ryzewski and L. McAtackney, editors. Oxford University Press.

Graff, Rebecca S.and M. E. Edwards. (2017). Columbian Exposition. In The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. C. Haddix, B. Kraig, and C. Sen, editors. University of Illinois Press.

Graff, Rebecca S. (2016). Review of Coming of Age in Chicago: The 1893 World’s Fair and the Coalescence of American Anthropology. Edited by Curtis M. Hinsley and David R. Wilcox. Journal of Illinois History 18(1): 66-67.

Graff, Rebecca S. (2012). Dream City, Plaster City: World’s Fairs and the Gilding of American Material Culture. International Journal of Historical Archaeology 16(4): 696-716. Special Volume on Gilded Age Archaeology, Charles Orser, editor.

Graff, Rebecca S. (2011). Being Toured While Digging Tourism: Excavating Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. International Journal of Historical Archaeology 15(2): 222-235. Special Volume on the Archaeology of Travel and Tourism, Maria O’Donovan and Lynda Carroll, editors.

Fellowships, Awards, Grants

2013    Kathleen Kirk Gilmore Dissertation Award, Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA)

2013     American Midwest Foodways Scholar’s Grant, Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance, Culinary Historians of Chicago, and the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts

2009    Graduate Student Teaching Award for Excellence in Course Design, The Center for Teaching and Learning, University of Chicago

2008    Scherer Center Dissertation Year Fellowship, Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture, University of Chicago

Links of Interest

Charnley-Persky House Archaeological Project

Digital Chicago: Unearthing History and Culture

The Charnley-Persky House Museum

Society for Historical Archaeology

American Anthropological Association

North American Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG)

Day of Archaeology

Popular Work

Chicago Tonight (WTTW): Students Dig For Lost Treasures in the Gold Coast: http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2015/07/29/students-dig-lost-treasures-gold-coast

WGNtv: Urban dig truly makes trash into treasures for local students: http://wgntv.com/2015/07/28/urban-dig-truly-makes-trash-into-treasures-for-local-students/

CBS: Students Digging Up Historical Artifacts At Gold Coast Site: http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2015/07/28/students-digging-up-historical-artifacts-at-gold-coast-site/

Chicago Tribune: Relics of the past unearthed in Gold Coast: http://www.chicagotribune.com/photos/ct-archaeological-dig-gold-coast-photos-20150728-photogallery.html

Chicago Tribune: Students dig for architectural treasures in Gold Coast: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-gold-coast-archeological-dig-met-20150728-story.html

Digging Gold Coast Garbage…(article by LFC Students Anne Marie Brugioni, Xhris Fitzgerald, and Dasha Rodina, Daily North Shore): http://dailynorthshore.com/2015/07/27/lake-forest-college-students-digging-gold-coast-trash/

Curious City (WBEZ): http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/construction-work-boon-urban-archaeologists-104958

Recent Talks and Posters

2017 “Our Silence Will Be More Powerful Than Words Could Be”: The Haymarket Martyrs Monument and Commemorative Authority. Society for Historical Archaeology Annual Meeting, Fort Worth, TX, January 6.

2016 The Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument Archaeological Project. Forest Park Historical Society, Forest Park, IL, October 27.

2016 The Last Neighborhood: Archaeology Above and Below Chicago’s Haymarket Martyrs Monument and Forest Home Cemetery (with Tim Scarlett and Jane Baxter). Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference, Detroit, MI, September 24.

2016 The Vanishing City and the Enduring Home: Modernity at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and Charnley-Persky House. Northwestern University, April 18.

2015 All That Could Be Solid Melts Into Air: The Struggle for Archaeological Sensibilities in Chicago. Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference, Minneapolis, MN, October 9.

2015 Teaching With and For the Recent Past: Applying Contemporary Archaeology Pedagogically. Society for Historical Archaeology Annual Meeting, Seattle, WA, January 10.