I am an Associate Professor in the Department of History and Public History faculty. I am also the Director of the Self-Design Program in Interdisciplinary Studies.
I have always been fascinated by human diversity in the past and present and the ways that people connect with history and have conducted archaeological and cultural anthropology research in Cyprus, Honduras, Belize, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. Prior to teaching at NC State, I was a visiting assistant professor at Indiana University, South Bend.
I have conducted extensive research in Belize, focusing on the ways constructions of the past are promoted through public venues like tourism, education, and archaeological practice, and how these constructions shape the cultural production of young citizens. I am particularly interested in the ways messages about the past are interpreted and negotiated by teachers and youth as they navigate racial and ethnic politics in the present. My most recent publications focus on national cultural diversity rhetoric in the Belizean state and intersections between colonial dynamics, community connections with the natural landscape, and local heritage work.
Teaching and Research Interests
Heritage Studies, Public History, Cultural Resource Management, International Public History, Historic Preservation, Latin America and the Caribbean, Interdisciplinary Methods and Theories, Anthropology of Education, Public Archaeology, Community-based Research
My book, Negotiating Heritage through Education and Archaeology: Colonialism, National Identity, and Resistance in Belize (August 2021) is part of the Cultural Heritage Studies series with the University Press of Florida (UPF). https://upf.com/book.asp?id=9780813066974
The research that provides the basis for this book is an interdisciplinary analysis of cultural heritage practices (e.g. formal education and archaeology) in the Central American and Caribbean nation of Belize, from the late 19th century to today. Drawing from ethnographic and historical approaches, this project provides emic and etic perspectives on heritage processes within two primarily African-descendant (Belizean Kriol) communities in north-central Belize (Crooked Tree Village and Biscayne Village), and situates heritage values in an entangled web of local, national, and global factors, thus revealing how heritage practices are culturally and historically constructed.
UPF description of the text:
“Through an innovative approach that combines years of ethnographic research with British imperial archival sources, this book reveals how cultural heritage has been negotiated by colonial, independent state, and community actors in Belize from the late nineteenth century to the present. Alicia McGill explores the heritage of two African-descendant Kriol communities as seen in the contexts of archaeology and formal education.
McGill demonstrates that in both spheres, Belizean institutions have constructed and used heritage places and ideologies to manage difference, govern subjects and citizens, and reinforce development agendas. In the communities studied here, ancient Maya cities and legacies have been prized while Kriol histories have been marginalized and racial and ethnic inequalities have endured. Yet McGill shows that at the same time, Belizean teachers and children resist, maintaining their Kriol identity through storytelling, subsistence practices, and other engagements with ecological resources. They also creatively identify connections between themselves and the ancient cultures that once lived in their regions.
Exploring heritage as a social construct, McGill provides examples of the many ways people construct values, meanings, and customs related to it. Negotiating Heritage through Education and Archaeology is a richly informed study that emphasizes the importance of community-based engagement in public history and heritage studies.”
Click here to read about my recent work with two NC State graduate students and other colleagues on a public history research practicum in Belize. Click here for an article about this project from the perspectives of the graduate students.
Click here to read about a recent project from my Cultural Resource Management graduate class on North Carolina properties from the “Green Books” which were guidebooks compiled by Victor H. Green that highlighted businesses welcoming to African Americans from 1936-1966.
Click here to read about another project from my Cultural Resource Management graduate class on cultural properties associated with Civil Rights activism in North Carolina.
Recent Individual Grants and Research Fellowships
2016 Wenner-Gren Foundation Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship, “A History of Heritage: Cultural Education, Community-based Archaeology, and Heritage Management in Belize,” Fellowship for the 2017-2018 academic year
2015 North Carolina State University, Office of Research, Innovation and Economic Development, Faculty Research and Professional Development Grant, “Claiming the Past, Directing the Future: An International Public History Research Practicum in Crooked Tree Belize,”
2014 North Carolina State University, CHASS Scholarship and Research Award, “Community-based Heritage Preservation and Public History Research in Belize”
2013 Wenner-Gren Foundation Engaged Anthropology Grant, “Cultivating Heritage Dialogue: An Engaged Anthropology Program with Belizean Teachers, Youth, and National Actors”
2009 Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences Dissertation Year Research Fellowship
2008 Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grant in Cultural Anthropology, “Students, Teachers, and Community Leaders Negotiating National and Local Heritage Ideologies in Belize”
2016 Worked with Eleanor Harrison-Buck, University of New Hampshire (Project Director) on University of New Hampshire Emeriti Council Student International Service Initiative Grant, “Kriol Public History”
2015 Worked with Eleanor Harrison-Buck, University of New Hampshire (Project Director) on University of New Hampshire Center for the Humanities, Publicly Engaged Humanities Fellowship, “Reclaiming the Past, Directing the Future of Kriol Culture in Belize: Public Outreach and Education With, By, and For the Local Community”
Extension and Community Engagement
- Member of the City of Raleigh Historic Resources and Museums Advisory Board since fall 2017 (appointed by the Mayor of Raleigh). For more information see: https://www.raleighnc.gov/mordecai
- Member North Carolina National Register Advisory Committee 2016-2022 (appointed by the NC State Historic Preservation Officer). For more information see: http://www.hpo.ncdcr.gov/nrhome.htm
- Member of the NC African American Heritage Commission Green Book Advisory Board since fall 2017. For more information see: https://aahc.nc.gov/programs/green-book-project and https://www.ncdcr.gov/imls-funds-african-american-heritage-commission-project
- Member of the Friends of Oberlin Village, a community organization that strives to preserve, honor, and educate people about the rich heritage of historic Oberlin Village in Raleigh. For more information see: https://friendsofoberlinvillage.org/
2021 Negotiating Heritage through Education and Archaeology: Colonialism, National Identity, and Resistance in Belize, https://upf.com/book.asp?id=9780813066974
Refereed Journal Articles
2012 “Old Tings, Skelintans, and Ruins: Belizean Student Perspectives about Archaeology,” Chungara Revista de Antropología Chilena 44(3):475-486 (special issue: “Shifting from Object-Centered Research to People-focused Application: Current Approaches to Public Archaeology from Latin America and the Caribbean”)
2011 “Dis da fi wi Hischri?: Archaeology Education as Collaboration With Whom? For Whom? By Whom?” Archaeological Review from Cambridge, 26(2): 153-169
2015 “Cultural Diversity: Cultivating National Identity and a Productive Citizenry through Belizean Education,” In Heritage Unbound: Rhetoric and Justice in Cultural Heritage, Edited by Kathryn Lafrenz Samuels and Trinidad Rico. University Press of Colorado.
2014 “Situating Public Archaeology in Crooked Tree, Belize,” In Public Participation in Archaeology, Edited by Joanne Lea and Suzie Thomas. Boydell & Brewer, Ltd.: Suffolk, UK.
2010 “Heritage Education in Belize: Crossing Disciplines and Incorporating Diverse Voices,” In Arqueologia Amazônica Volume 2, Edited by Edithe Pereira and Vera Guapindaia. Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, Belem, Brazil.
Panels Organized and/or Chaired
2016 Chair and Panelist, “Using Ethnography in Public History to Challenge the Exclusive Past,” National Council on Public History Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD
2015 “Meeting at the Edges of Heritage Preservation: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Protecting History at Risk,” National Council on Public History Annual Meeting, Nashville, TN
2014 “Diverse Voices: Alternative Knowledge, Communities, and Heritage in Latin America,” 10th Annual UNC-Duke Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies Conference
2013 “Role-Playing, Case Studies and Debates as High-Impact Practices,” Edward C. Moore Symposium on Teaching Excellence, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis
2010 “‘Saving the Lore’ Version 2.0?: Sustainability, Heritage Studies, Cultural Revitalization and Development,” 109th Annual American Anthropological Association Meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana
2017 “Meeting in the “Middle” Using Public History and Anthropology in an International Community-Based Field Experience,” (Poster) with Hannah Scruggs, and Lisa Withers, National Council on Public History Annual Meeting, Indianapolis, IN
2016 “Claiming the Past, Directing the Future: An International Heritage Research Practicum in Belize,” 8th World Archaeological Congress, Kyoto, Japan
2016 “Claiming the Past, Directing the Future: An International Public History Research Practicum in Crooked Tree Belize” with Hannah Scruggs, Lisa Withers, and Eleanor Harrison-Buck, Belize Archaeology and Anthropology Symposium, San Ignacio, Belize
2016 “More than Dark: The Diverse Application of Ghosts in Public History” (Panelist), National Council on Public History Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD
2015 “‘Language Problems, Village Improvement, and the Dullness of Rural Life’: Colonial Education Reports and Implications for Culturally-Relevant Pedagogy in Belize,” 13th annual Belize Archaeology and Anthropology Symposium, San Ignacio, Belize
2015 “Community-based Heritage Preservation and Cultural Exchange in Belize,” 75th Annual Society for Applied Anthropology Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA
2014 “Characterizations of Village Life in the Home of the Cashew: Cultural Preservation, Self-Determination, and Cultural Tourism,” 10th Annual UNC-Duke Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies Conference
2013 “Tourism, Heritage, and the Politics of Culture in Belize,” 7th World Archaeological Congress, Amman, Jordan
2012 “Assessing Student Learning: What does it Mean for Students to “Understand” Archaeological Ethics?,” 77th Annual Society for American Archaeology Meeting, Memphis, TN
2012 “Da Ruins, Kolcha, and Hischri through the Eyes of Belizean Youth: Conceptualizing Heritage through Tourism Education,” 72nd Annual Society for Applied Anthropology Meeting, Baltimore, MD
2011 “Cultural Diversity: Dress + Food + Dance = Culture. Misconceptions about Past and Present Cultural Diversity in Belize.” 110th Annual American Anthropological Association Meeting, Montreal, QC
I teach courses on Pre-Columbian Latin America, Frauds and Mysteries in History, Cultural Resource Management, and International Cultural Heritage. I have also developed an international public history and heritage practicum to take NC State students to Belize where they learn about Belizean history and culture, tourism, and environmental conservation, develop applied heritage projects, and utilize public history and anthropological skills.
Ph.D. Anthropology Indiana University 2012
M.A. Anthropology Indiana University 2007
B.A. Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology Bryn Mawr College 2001