Department of Philosophy - University of Washington










I work on epistemic questions raised by archaeological practice and by feminist research in the social sciences. In particular, I am interested in a cluster of problems that come into focus when we attend to the vagaries of inference from limited data, and to the role played by contextual values in the research process. For example: how do archaeologists establish knowledge claims about the social and cultural past, given their radically incomplete and enigmatic data base? And how should ideals of objectivity be defended or reformulated when it is recognized that they are not always or only a source of compromising bias; explicitly partisan interests can sometimes play a corrective and even productive role in scientific inquiry?

In response to the first of these questions I have developed models of evidential reasoning in archaeology that emphasize strategies of triangulation and the role of background knowledge in stabilizing empirical claims about facts of the record and facts of the past. My most recent work in this area takes the form of a pair of collaborative projects I am undertaking with Bob Chapman (submission dates in 2014): an edited volume, Material Evidence: Learning From Archaeological Practice (Routledge) and a monograph, From the Ground Up: Evidential Reasoning in Archaeology (Bloomsbury). These grow out of a series of lectures, seminars, and a workshop on "Evidential Reasoning" sponsored by a Leverhulme Visiting Professorship that I held at Reading University in 2010. Earlier work along these lines is best represented by the essays published in Thinking From Things: Essays in the Philosophy of Archaeology (University of California Press, 2002), and in an overview of "Philosophy in/of Archaeology" in the Handbook of the Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Anthropology and Sociology (Turner and Risjord, eds.; Elsevier Science, 2007). Recent analyses of specific aspects of evidential reasoning in archaeology are to be found in “Agnatology” (2008), and “Critical Distance” (2011).

In order to better understand the epistemic role of situated (contextual) interests and values in the sciences, I am currently engaged in a project on feminist standpoint theory. This integrates feminist, philosophical, and science studies perspectives in the analysis of feminist research in the social and historical sciences. The Presidential address I gave at the 2012 meeting of the Pacific Division APA articulates the motivation for this work, building on a reformulation of feminist standpoint theory that I first outlined in "Why Standpoint Matters" (in Science and Other Cultures, Harding and Figuero, eds.; Routledge, 2003); Articles and chapters that develop its implications of this account of standpoint theory include “The Feminism Question in Science,” on the feminist method debate (in The Handbook of Feminist Research, Hesse-Biber, ed., Sage 2006), and “Standpoint (Still) Matters: Research on Women, Work and the Academy” (in Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science, Grasswick ed., Springer 2011). Related projects include journal special issues on Doing Archaeology as a Feminist (JAMT, co-edited with Conkey, 2007), and on Feminist Science Studies (Hypatia, co-edited with Nelson, 2004), as well as essays on the philosophical implications of feminist research practice and feminist critiques of science that appear Hypatia (2007), in Feminism in Twentieth Century Science, Technology, and Medicine (Creager, Lunbeck, and Schiebinger, eds., Chicago 2001), Primate Encounters (Strum and Fedigan, eds., Chicago 2000), and Changing Methods (Burt and Code, eds., Broadview 1995).

I am also actively interested in developing models of accountable, reciprocal, and collaborative research practice relevant both to feminist research in the social sciences, and to debates about ethics issues in archaeology. I take up these issues in "Legacies of Collaboration," presented as the 2008 Patty Jo Watson Distinguished Lecture (American Anthropological Association, Archaeology Division, November 2008); in a contribution to The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation, co-authored with George Nicholas (eds. Young and Brunk, Blackwell 2009), and in an essay on “The Promise and Perils of an Ethic of Stewardship” in Embedding Ethics (Meskell and Pells, eds.; Berg 2005).

Areas of specialization: philosophy of the social and historical sciences; feminist philosophy of science; history and philosophy of archaeology; ethics issues in the social sciences.

Ph.D. 1982: Department of Philosophy, State University of New York at Binghamton
                  Program in the History and Philosophy of the Social and Behavioral Science
                  Dissertation: Positivism and the New Archaeology
                  Director: Rom Harré, Oxford University
M.A. 1979: Anthropology, State University of New York at Binghamton
B.A. 1976: Philosophy and Sociology, Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick

Research Positions and Visiting Appointments

  • Durham University (UK), Institute for Advanced Study: Visiting Fellow (Fall 2012)
  • Reading University (UK),  Department of Archaeology: Leverhulme Trust Visiting  Professor (Winter-Spring  2010)
  • Stanford University, Clayman Institute for Gender  Research: Senior Research Fellow (2005-2006)
  • Écoles des hautes études en siences sociales (Paris): professeur invité (May-June 2003)
  • New York University, Applied Philosophy Group: Visiting Scholar (2001-2002)
  • Columbia University, Department of Anthropology: Visiting Scholar (2001-2002)
  • Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, CA: Fellow (1995-1996)
  • University of Denver, Women's Studies, Leo Block Visiting Professor (Winter/Spring 1995)
  • University of Californis-Berkeley, Department of Anthropology: Visiting Scholar (1990-1992)
  • Cambridge University, Clare Hall: Visiting Fellow (Michelmas Term 1990)

(continue to Publications, Presentations)