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Dr Kate Franklin

  • Overview



    I am an archaeologist of medieval Armenia and the Caucasus and an indiscriminate enthusiast of speculative fiction, cuisine, and vintage textiles. I have been working on collaborative projects in the Republic of Armenia for a decade, exploring the ways that local politics and Silk Road culture were tangled together in landscape and space-time. I was trained as an anthropologist at the University of Chicago, and I am curious about the experiences of medieval travel, intimacies of medieval embodiment, and the profound and mundane practices of medieval and early modern hospitality. I am field co-director of a project that combines thinking about routes and infrastructure, contemplating ‘domestic’ space, and appreciating the canyon landscapes of Vayots Dzor, Armenia. I received an MPhil degree specializing in Cultural Heritage and Museums from Cambridge, and for three years I put that to work on a cultural heritage management project focused on the archaeology of Afghanistan, directing both GIS data-collection strategy and original research into the pasts of Afghanistan and Central Asia. As Doumanian Visiting Professor of Armenian Studies at the University of Chicago I juxtaposed literary histories of travel through Armenia with teaching on the millennia-long archaeological history of the Caucasus. For two years I lectured in Anthropology at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, looking at imagined worlds in recipes, table-settings, archaeological assemblages and science-fictions. My work at the moment is concerned with world-making as a locus of politics, with material culture as a mediator of spatio-temporal distances, and with the interpenetration of literary and ‘real’ landscapes in archaeological work.



    • BA Archaeological Studies, Yake University, 2005
    • MPhil Archaeology, University of Cambridge, 2006
    • PhD Anthropology, University of Chicago, 2014
    • FHEA, 2020

    Administrative responsibilities

    • BA Director of Studies, HCA
    • Director, MA Program in Medieval History


  • Research


    Research overview

    My research interests fluctuate, but a representative list includes:
    -Late medieval material culture, architecture, history, and travel accounts, focusing on East-West encounters and the greater Near East
    -Cosmopolitanism and the everyday: “world building,” material cosmology/cartography, landscape
    -The co-construction of subjects and spaces, the history of naturecultures and feminist approaches to space and landscape
    -Materiality, assemblage/assembling, critical posthumanisms
    -Food and place-making, cuisine and imagined community
    -Heritage politics and ethics, specifically connected to the Silk Road and cultural routes
    -The archaeological heritage landscape of Central Asia
    -Retrofuturism, nostalgia as political discourse, steampunk and dys/utopian science fiction, and speculative fiction/fabulation as a method and metaphor for writing histories in/of the Anthropocene. 

    I am currently the co-PI of two international collaborative projects on landscapes of the medieval Silk Road world: 

    The Vayots Dzor Silk Road Survey is rooted in the medieval landscape of Vayots Dzor, Armenia, and investigates the world-makings of local people under Mongol 'world-rule'

    The Inner Tian Shan Passages Project investigates the long-term negotiation of contingency and seismic precarity within the mountain passes around Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan

    Research Centres and Institutes

    Research clusters and groups

    • Mobility, migration and globality
    • Material Cultures
    • Mind and Body
    • Environment: Urban, Rural, Global
  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    I am happy and excited to supervise research topics in the material culture and history of the Global Medieval, as well as broader chronological periods in the Near East and Central Asia. I love thinking about trade and commerce, travel and displacement, memory, nostalgia, and spatial categories like monumental/domestic and everyday/ritual. Come talk to me about matter, space and time, about architecture, bodies, mobility and the work of writing history/archaeology

    Current doctoral researchers



    I am the Course Director for the MA in Medieval History. I am committed to centering on the global and interdisciplinary, and to interrogating the Middle Ages as a place in text, landscape, architecture, sense, and memory.

    Modules I have convened or taught on:

    The Medieval World: from Constantine to the Khans (BA Level 4)
    Space, Architecture and Landscapes of the Middle Ages (BA Level 5) 

    Archaeology of the Everyday (BA Level 5)

    Blood and Faith: Violence, Religion and Heresy in Medieval and early modern Europe (BA level 6)

    Stories in Stuff: the medieval and early modern world in 20 texts and objects (BA Level 6)

    Mastering Historical Research: Birkbeck Approaches (MA)

    Imagined Landscapes of the Middle Ages (MA)

    The Silk Road: Imagining Global Cultures from the Middle Ages to UNESCO and the BRI (MA)

    Teaching modules

    • Mastering Historical Research: Birkbeck Approaches (SSHC247S7)
    • Research Skills for Historians (SSHC386Z7)
    • Writing the Past: Dissertation (SSHC408D6)
    • The Medieval World: From Constantine to the Khans (SSHC409S4)
    • Space, Architecture and Landscapes of the Middle Ages (SSHC467S5)
    • Imagined Landscapes of the Middle Ages (SSHC488S7)
    • Stories in Stuff: the medieval and early modern worlds in 20 texts and objects (SSHC540S6)
  • Publications




    Book Section