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Dr Esther Breithoff

BA International (UCD), MA (Bristol), PhD (Bristol)
Lecturer in Contemporary Archaeology and Heritage
UKRI Future Leaders Fellow

Contact details

Department of History, Classics and Archaeology
Birkbeck, University of London
28 Russell Square



  • Esther joined the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology in 2019 after holding postdoctoral positions at UiT The Arctic University of Norway and the UCL Institute of Archaeology. Her research spans the fields of Contemporary Archaeology and Critical Heritage Studies and has ranged across a number of different topics—including war, natural and cultural heritage, nuclear and petroleum industries, dictatorships and biobanking—but traces a common set of interests in the relationships between conflicts, resources, recycling and rights across the human/non-human divide in the Anthropocene era.
  • Her UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship on "Material Memories" aims to develop a programme of research and leadership activity, subsequently forming the basis for an affiliated programme of research-based teaching, which will foreground the role of archaeology and critical heritage studies in addressing some of the most urgent questions of our time, specifically in relation to state violence, justice and human rights. Her work will focus particularly on South America, where she will work with the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team [Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense (EAAF)] ( to critically investigate the material legacies of dictatorships and their presentation in museums and heritage sites in Paraguay and the larger region. She is also currently developing pilot research on related questions in Laos and Cambodia.
  • Esther is the Review Editor for the Journal of Contemporary Archaeology ( and Affiliated Researcher on the AHRC Heritage Futures research programme (
  • Esther welcomes enquiries from potential PhD students interested in the archaeology and heritage of recent conflict, and aspects of Contemporary Archaeology and Critical Heritage Studies more broadly.


  • Books
  • Breithoff, E. (forthcoming). War at the end of the Worlds: Conflict, Heritage and the Chaco. London/New York: Routledge.
  • Harrison, R., Bartolini, N., Breithoff, E., DeSilvey, C., Holtorf, C., Lyons, L., Macdonald, S., May, S., Morgan, J. and Penrose, S. (forthcoming) Heritage Futures: Comparative Approaches to Natural and Cultural Heritage Practices. London: UCL Press.
  • Journal articles
  • Breithoff, E. and Harrison, R. (2018). From Ark to Bank: Extinction, proxies and biocapital in ex-situ biodiversity conservation practices. International Journal of Heritage Studies: 1-19.
  • Harrison, R. and Breithoff E. (2017). Archaeologies of the Contemporary World. Annual Review of Anthropology 46: 203-221.
  • Breithoff, E. (2014). Baumgraffiti: Der Zweite Weltkrieg in unseren Wäldern. Archaeologia luxemburgensis 1: 125-129.
  • Breithoff, E. (2013). Fortín Boquerón: a conflict landscape past and present. Cadernos do CEOM - Patrimônio, Memória e Identidade 26(38): 65-83.
  • Book chapters
  • Leonard, M. and Breithoff, E. (in press). Archaeologies of the senses and sensorial archaeologies of recent conflict. In J. Day and R. Skeates (eds.) Routledge Handbook of Sensory Archaeology. London: Routledge.
  • Breithoff, E. (2017). The ‘White Death’: Thirst and Water in the Chaco War. In Nicholas J. Saunders and Paul Cornish (eds.) Modern Conflict and the Senses. London: Routledge, pp. 213-228.
  • Breithoff, E. (2016). Engraving Conflict: The Chaco War in a Shell Case. In B. M. Chesterton (ed.) The Chaco War: Environment, Ethnicity, and Nationalism. London: Bloomsbury, pp. 177-189.
  • Breithoff, E. (2015) Archäologie im paraguayischen Busch: Der Chacokrieg und seine materiellen Hinterlassenschaften. Jahrbuch für Geschichte und Kultur der Mennoniten in Paraguay. Asunción: Liticolor.
  • Breithoff, E. (2012). The Many Faces of the Chaco War: indigenous modernity and conflict archaeology. In N. J. Saunders (ed.) Beyond the Dead Horizon: Studies in Modern Conflict Archaeology. Oxford: Oxbow Books, pp. 146-158.
  • Book reviews
  • Book review of “Cultural heritage, ethics, and the military" by Peter G. Stone (ed.) in International Journal of Heritage Studies, pp. 1–2.

Grants and awards

  • UKRI Future Fellows Leadership award (2019-2023)
  • Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) QR “pump priming” allowance, UCL Institute of Archaeology/Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences (2019)
  • Santander Travel Grant Award for Research in Latin America on Business and Economic-related themes (2011 and 2013)
  • AFR Individual PhD Grant, Fonds National de la Recherche Luxembourg (FNR) under the Aides à la Formation-Recherche (AFR) PhD Grant scheme
  • ‘Outstanding PhD Thesis’ award for Excellence in Science and Research, awarded by the Fond National de la Recherche Luxembourg (Luxembourg National Research Fund) (2017)
  • ‘Best Doctoral Research Thesis’ award for the Faculty of Arts, awarded by the University of Bristol Research Degrees Exam Board (2016)