Shannon Lee Dawdy, an assistant professor at the Department of Anthropology in Chicago, is a newly announced 2010 MacArthur Fellow, the “genius” award. Dawdy is “an archaeologist and anthropologist who links scholarship with historical preservation to illuminate the history of the Atlantic World since 1450.”
Her 2008 book, Building the Devil’s Empire: French Colonial New Orleans, “integrates the intellectual life of the community with the story of the adventurers, entrepreneurs, and smugglers who resisted governance, providing a markedly expanded narrative of the colonial dynamics and structure of the region.”
Lawrence Powell at Tulane gave it a glowing review:
“Nowadays it is rare to come across an academic monograph that combines literary verve and analytical virtuosity, and rarer still to find it in a book that straddles history and archeology. Shannon Lee Dawdy’s immensely sophisticated study of French Louisiana—the first full-length treatment since World War One—defies easy categorization. Hers is more than a rollicking tale of how rogues, creoles, and utopian planners from three continents conjured from the mud one of the Atlantic World’s quirkiest communities. Building the Devil’s Empire is also a thoughtful meditation on the meaning of colonialism, revolution, and liberal capitalism near the dawn of the modern age. The book is a tour de force.”
The MacArthur announcement has a great video of Shannon Lee Dawdy:
New Orleans continues to be the focus of her scholarship:
Her recent fieldwork in New Orleans, concentrating on the former site of the Rising Sun Hotel and St. Antoine’s Garden behind St. Louis Cathedral, is the largest archaeological excavation undertaken to date in the French Quarter. These two sites are an important part of her current project: an exploration of the connections between aesthetics and social life. Complementing her academic work, Dawdy has also been a vocal advocate for historical preservation. She served as special liaison between the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Louisiana State Historic Preservation Office to ensure that recovery efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina remained cognizant of the city’s singular archaeological heritage.
Through her boundary-crossing scholarship, fieldwork, and efforts to engage the public in uncovering the history of their communities, Dawdy is enriching the arenas of historical archaeology and urban preservation.
You can find out more about this work through Dawdy’s website for the St. Antoine’s Archaeology Project.
St. Anthony’s Garden is the name given to the green space located behind New Orleans’ iconic St. Louis Cathedral in the heart of the French Quarter.
No site quite like St. Anthony’s Garden has ever been excavated in the state of Louisiana. In terms of preservation conditions, archaeological features, and historic import, it is akin to Louisiana’s Jamestown or Plymouth Plantation — two other colonial centers that might be better understood through comparison with this other American foundation story.
Many congratulations to Shannon Lee Dawdy for being named a 2010 MacArthur Fellow!
Link to the MacArthur announcement
Dawdy photo courtesy of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. St. Anthony’s photo courtesy of Shannon Lee Dawdy.