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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, Yale 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 cultural history of the Global Medieval, as well as broader chronological periods in the Near East and Central Asia. I am enthusiastic about interdisciplinary approaches across history, archaeology, literature and anthropological/social theory, on a range of topics: the making and imagining of place; the creation of medieval space-times and life-worlds in craft and matter; travel and encounter; gender, the body and the senses; and the intersections between everyday life and cosmology, politics and cultural representation.

    Come talk to me about matter, space and time, about nature, architecture, bodies, mobility and the work of writing history/archaeology.

    Current doctoral researchers


    Doctoral alumni since 2013-14



    I am the Course Director for the outgoing MA in Medieval History, and on the new Interdisciplinary MA in Medieval Studies. 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:

    Approaching the Past (BA Level 4 Hub)

    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

    • Working in the Middle Ages (AREN275Z7)
    • Medieval and Early Modern Worlds (AREN293S7)
    • Approaching the Past (HICL200S4)
    • Research Skills for Historians (SSHC386Z7)
    • Exploring the Past (SSHC407S5)
    • The Medieval World: From Constantine to the Khans (SSHC409S4)
    • Archaeology of the Everyday (SSHC487S5)
    • Imagined Landscapes of the Middle Ages (SSHC488S7)
    • Ruins: The Creation of the Past (SSHC566S6)
  • Publications




    Book Section