I came to anthropology by way of archeology.
When I was a child I grew up thinking
that I was going to be a classical archaeologist
and discover unknown civilizations
and traces of the past.
And when I got to college, I took archeology classes,
as well as cultural anthropology courses.
Anthropology focuses on contemporary cultures,
while archeology studies cultures of the past.
And I took the archaeological field school
over a summer in Southern Illinois
and spent an entire summer finding
evidence of a wooden Palisade fence from soil stains,
from changes in the coloration of the soil,
and that was our goal for the entire summer.
Meanwhile I was learning about social theory, and feminism,
and gender and everyday power dynamics,
and I realized that the questions I wanted to explore I
had to talk to people to do, so I studied anthropology.
And what I love about anthropology
is it gives us tools to understand meaning
or to make sense of the most mundane aspects of our lives
so my undergraduate thesis was ethnography
of a Dunkin' Donuts.
And I explored how people use that public space
for friendships and for use of time
that they just couldn't carve out anywhere else.
I often say that working at MIT as a social scientist
is the best of both worlds.
We have the resources of a research institution,
but our classes are almost like teaching at a liberal arts
college, and so far as our seminars are small.
The students get to know each other
and the discussion is really rich,
and they're able to make connections between our texts
and their own life experiences, which are very diverse here
And as an anthropologist, that's really
fun to witness and to help with.
In addition to being a professor at MIT,
I'm a mother of a six-year-old.
And between those two jobs, there's
very little time that I would consider free,
but I do enjoy it very much spending time with my family,
exploring new places, whether it's foreign travel or just
a neighborhood in Boston we've never walked around.
I do enjoy cooking, and entertaining,
and sharing meals with friends and family.