Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

CLACS 2021 Dissertation Prize Winner: Miriam Rothenberg

July 15, 2021

Miriam Rothenberg received her Ph.D. in Archaeology and the Ancient World.

CLACS is excited to announce one of this year's Dissertation Prize Winners, Miriam Rothenberg!

"In my dissertation, Community and Corrosion: A Contemporary Archaeology of Montserrat’s Volcanic Crisis in Long-Term Comparative Perspective, I explored the impacts of the 1995-present volcanic eruptions on the landscapes of the island of Montserrat and the communities that inhabit them. The project combined archaeological survey and recording with ethnographic interviews, participant observation, and archival research to document the sequence of the eruptive events and the ways in which these events have affected the island’s landscapes and material culture. In particular, I focused on disentangling the complex processes that have transformed Montserrat’s landscapes from vibrant, lived-in spaces to traumatic ruinscapes, the crucial role of local practices of communal self-help as methods of coping with the disaster, and the many manifestations of the volcano in Montserratian material culture—commemorative art, volcano-resistant architecture, the direct use of volcanic products, and more. 
The project is unusual within the discipline of archaeology in that it places a contemporary setting in dialogue with ancient examples—in this case a much older set of volcanic eruptions that occurred in the ancient Mediterranean—with the goal of each informing the other. The comparison exposes how dynamism is an inherent feature of volcanic landscapes (despite often being overlooked in archaeological interpretations), and it contextualizes the phenomena observed on Montserrat within broader patterns of post-eruption cultural change. Nevertheless, this comparison is done with an eye to the local: in the context of enduring colonialism and the legacies of enslavement, responses to disaster in contemporary Montserrat are profoundly shaped by Afro-Caribbean realities, including the symbolic and practical importance of family land (and the tragedy of its loss), and the local, resistance-based “maroon” practice of communal labor for surmounting adversity and catastrophe."

A video featuring more information about her project can be found here.

Congratulations, Miriam!