Postdoctoral Fellow in Archaeology and the Ancient World (2007-2011)

Professor Straughn's research and teaching focus is the emerging subfield of Islamic archaeology His research emphasizes the intersection of material and textual evidence, and the production of space and landscape in the early Islamic period Levant. His current project “Materializing Islam: An Archaeology of Landscape in Early Islamic Period Syria” stems from his dissertation research undertaken in the Anthropology Department at The University of Chicago. His work also looks to develop the theoretical intersections of archaeology and religion through an understanding of how materiality becomes a key vector in ritual practice and spiritual relationships.

Professor Straughn has conducted archaeological fieldwork in both the New World and Old, including Syria, Armenia, Britain, the United States and elsewhere. His MA and BA thesis focused on the archaeology of Egypt and he plans to develop a new project that will continue these interests as well.

Professor Straughn has received a number of fellowships and honors for his research and academic training and was recently named to the editorial board of the journal Archaeological Dialogues.


Islamic Archaeology (Near East/North Africa)
Spatiality, Landscape and the Environment
Islamic Studies/Anthropology of Islam
Archaeology of Religion and Ritual
Archaeological Theory and Historiography
Material Culture
Sacred Space
Anthropology of the Middle East


Ph.D., Anthropology, The University of Chicago, 2006
M.A., Anthropology, The University of Chicago, 2000
A.B., Anthropology, Stanford University, 1997

Awards, Honors, and Fellowships

Starr Prize Lectureship, Department of Anthropology, The University of Chicago (2005)
National Science Foundation, Honorable mention (1998)
Phi Beta Kappa, Stanford University (1997)
Departmental honors and distinction, Department of Anthropology, Stanford University (1997)
Morehead Scholarship, University of North Carolina Law School (1997, declined)
Classics Department Award, Stanford University (1994)
Classical Diploma and Cum Laude Society, Phillips Exeter Academy (1993)

Funded Research

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Islamic Archaeology (2007-2009)
Fulbright-Hays DDRA Dissertation Fellowship, Syria (2002-2004)
Wenner-Gren Dissertation Fellowship (awarded 2002, accepted for 2006)
Social Science Research Council, International Dissertation Research Fellowship, Syria (2002-2004)
Fulbright Islamic Civilizations fellowship (awarded 2002, declined)
Fulbright IIE (awarded 2002, declined)
Leiffer Fund Grant, Department of Anthropology, The University of Chicago (2001)

Recent Conference Papers

“What’s a secular building anyway? Categorizing early Islamic period monumentality in the Levant.” Paper to be presented at the Anthropology Association Annual meeting, San Jose, CA, November 16, 2006.

“Imperial Immaturity and the Eccentricities of Early Empire: Archaeological approaches to the Umayyad qusūr of the early Islamic period Levant” paper presented at the Society of American Archaeology Annual Meetings, San Juan, Puerto Rico, April 2006

“Providing for the Needs of this World and the Next: Syrian Cities, ‘Abbasid Politics and the Territorial Logics of Early Islamic Period Empire” paper presented at the American Anthropology Association Annual Meetings, Washington DC, November 30, 2005.

“Islamic Spatial Logics and the Economics of Empire: Rethinking the Peripheralization of Greater Syria (Bilad ash-Sham) 750-950CE” paper presented at the Medieval Global Economies Conference, The University of Western Ontario, London Ontario, November 3, 2005

“The Landscape of the Islamic Frontier: General Remarks on Archaeological Features” presented to The 2nd University of Chicago Eurasian Archaeology Conference, Chicago, April 16, 2005

“‘Space’: God’s Creation, Man’s Appropriation: Producing the Islamic landscape of medieval northern Syria,” presented to the New York University Anthropology Department and Kevorkian Center, special invited panel “Rethinking the Anthropology of Islam,” March 31, 2005

“Between Theology and Politics: The ethics of spatial practice in the Fiqhī doctrine of territoriality and early siyar.” Presented at the conference Mapping Muslim Ethics, Duke University, February 4, 2005.

“Managing the Border of Dar al-Islam: Archaeology and the Islamic landscape in the Jund Qinnasrin, North Syria” conference paper delivered to the Jusur Graduate Student Conference Limits of the Frontier: Peripheralization, Boundaries and Liminality in the Middle East and the Islamic world, UCLA, April 2004