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Migration, Displacements and Violence

Migration, Displacements and Violence

This cluster investigates the movements of peoples, at all scales, across time and space and the tensions arising from every day and episodic violence. 


Global research areas include ancestry/ethnicity/class, racism, archaeological & forensic sciences, and regional and international mobility.


Megan Brickley

Professor | Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Bioarchaeology of Human Disease 

Chester New Hall (CNH) 518 


Tel: (905) 525-9140, ext. 24256 


Megan Brickley has a background that includes both forensic work and use of text-based sources to investigate past communities.  Her experience has informed varied work on traumatic injuries from sites linked to the War of 1812 in Canada and both the 18th/19th century urban centers and prehistoric burial monuments in the UK. Consideration of past mobility is integral to collaborative work undertaken in the context of past human health.

Tristan Carter


Chester New Hall, Room 507 


Tel: (905) 525-9140, ext. 23910 


Tristan Carter has a long interest in the nature and scale of human movement in prehistory, the interrelationship of migrant and indigenous populations, and the larger societal significance of these processes. Through his work at Stelida (Greece) he is engaged with documenting the date and routes involved in the movement of Homo sapiens into Europe, and the dispersal of earlier humans through the Aegean region. He has also interested in the spread of farming westwards from SW Asia, initially with Y-chromosome geneticists to detail the influx of agro-pastoralists into Crete and continental Greece, and now via his excavations at Freston (England), its introduction to Britain some 6,000 years ago. His graduate seminar on ‘the archaeologies of identity’ further engages with how we conceptualize and detail migration in the past.

Basit Iqbal

Assistant Professor 

CNH 530 


Tel: (905) 525-9140, ext. 24283 


I study the dynamics of displacement and refuge, forced migration and hospitality, and community and estrangement. This has involved extended fieldwork with Syrian refugees in Jordan and in Canada, including a research focus on Islamic ethical practices and political solidarity in spaces of humanitarian government. I also have an emerging interest in the topologies of contemporary violence and their possible representation, which has led me back to the question of theodicy (across religious and secular forms of life) in our time of generalized cruelty.

Hendrik Poinar


Chester New Hall (CNH), Room 537 


Tel: (905) 525-9140, ext. 26331 


Hendrik Poinar and his group are interested in illuminating human and animal migrations into and across the American continents (South and North) through the terminal Pleistocene and into the Holocene. We are interested in how large mammals (mammoths, sloths, horse and bison) as well as first peoples moved across space and responded to glacial, interglacial cycling especially during the Pleistocene/Holocene transition. At the tail end of the Pleistocene, as the continent adjusted to massive climate oscillations, nearly 80% of all large mammals went extinct. To what degree did climate and environmental feedback drive these extinctions as well as the interaction with migrating peoples and a rapidly changing environment? Fortunately, these migration and extinction events as well as environmental landscapes can be reconstructed using animal, plant and microbial DNA data extracted from macro, micro and trace-fossils as well as sedimentary DNA remains in highly specialized clean labs here at McMaster University.

Tracy Prowse

(she/her); Associate Professor; Associate Dean Academic, Faculty of Social Sciences; Associate Editor, American Journal of Biological Anthropology 

Chester New Hall, Room 514 


Tel: (905) 525-9140, ext. 20191 (ADA Office) 


My research explores diet, health and mobility in past populations, using palaeopathological and isotopic analyses of human bones and teeth. My approach is interdisciplinary, combining skeletal, isotopic, and archaeological evidence embedded within the historical and archaeological context of the people I study.  

My ongoing research project is a bioarchaeological investigation of a rural Roman cemetery on an Imperial estate at Vagnari, south Italy.

Petra Rethmann

Professor | Director/Graduate Advisor of IGHC 

L.R. Wilson Hall, Room 2020 


Tel: (905) 525-9140, ext. 26259 


Petra Rethmann’s interests lie at the intersection of cultural anthropology, politics, history, philosophy and art. In drawing on a number of ethnographic/experimental methodologies and theoretical approaches, she explores – for example – the ways in which experiences of historical grievances and injuries shape political imaginations. Through SSHRC-funded research she concretely examines this issue through the global entanglements of Germany, Russia and Kazakhstan. In regards to her interests in philosophy and art, Petra is very interested in understanding how the former both act in and expand our understanding of the world. In this regard, she is currently working on two book-length projects, asking about art as a form of becoming and as a putative source of political and economic redemption in especially post-industrial societies. Petra is also deeply invested in questions of writing. She teaches seminars and classes on the interconnection between politics, activism, futurity and hope; history and memory; and ethnographic and other forms of writing, Petra has provided logistic and research support for a number of politically progressive movements and NGOs, and considers ethics and commitment as integral to the research process and to working towards a better world.

Yana Stainova

Assistant Professor 

Chester New Hall (CNH), room 511 


Tel: (905) 525-9140, ext. 26296 


My research explores how people summon art practices to pursue visions of social justice in the face of political turmoil and barriers to immigration. My current book project focuses on migration and collective art practices among Latinx communities in Los Angeles, Veracruz and Toronto. In a field of scholarship understandably focused on suffering, my project asks: what is the place of joy, creativity and beauty in the experience and afterlives of border crossings, usually framed as hardship and endurance? The collective art practices at the heart of my research also inform my teaching and research methods. My graduate seminar on “collaborative ethnography” explores collaboration as central to ethnographic method, pedagogy and theory-building.

Kee Yong

Associate Professor 

Chester New Hall, Room 535 


Tel: (905) 525-9140, ext. 23907 


Kee Yong’s background is on the ethnography of the nation-state, with an emphasis on the memory literature, conflict, migration, and the legality and legitimation of the modern state. Drawing on these complementary theoretical currents, Kee has done research on communism and the sacrificed of the Chinese Hakkas in Cold and post-Cold War Sarawak and on the recurring conflict in Muslim majority provinces in Thailand’s far south. His research on Sarawak and Thailand’s far south focuses on the relationship between the construction of minorities – and thus majority – and on issues on violence, history, memory, forgetting, silencing, economics, and political formations. Kee Yong is currently working on a collaborative project, one that seeks to understand analytically the potential geopolitical and economic realignment under China’s Belt and Road Initiatives (BRI) across the World Of Ocean Shores, referring here to Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean that encompasses parts of East Africa and the Middle East.

Affiliated Courses

1AA3: Sex, Food and Death 

1AB3: Race, Religion, and Violence

2BB3: Ancient Mesoamerica

2HE3: Heritage, Economy, and Ethics 

2OO3: Themes in the Archaeological History of North America 

2PA3: Intro to Anthropological Archaeology 

2PC3: Aliens, Curses, and Nazis 

2UO3: Plagues and Peoples 

2WA3: Neanderthals to Pyramids

3AS3: Archaeology and Society 

3EM3: Current Deabtes in Eastern Mediterranean Prehistory 

3FA3: Forensic Anthropology 

3FO3: Anthropology and the Other(ed) 

3GG3: Anthropology of Europe 

3PP3: Paleopathology 

3FFF3: Key Debates in Andean Archaeology

4DO3: Zombies and the Undead 

4EE3: Archaeology In (And Of) the Present 

4GS3: Genetics and Society 

4HF3: Archaeology of Hunter-Fisher-Gatherers

4SG3: The Secret of the Gift 

4KK3: Archaeology of Neanderthals & other early humans 

4AH3: Archaeology & Heritage: Ethics, Politics & Practice 

702: Contemporary Problems 

720: Politics of Desire 

733: Archaeologies of Identity 

734: Indigenous Knowledge 

740: Biocultural Synthesis 

743: Anthropology of Space, Place, and Landscape 

782: Diasporas, Transnationalism and Religious Identities 

746: Bioarchaeology 

Research Programs

Research Clusters

While the department covers four main Research Programs (sub-fields) in Anthropology, we also integrate these Research Programs in six key areas of expertise and investigation: Art and New Materialisms; Ecologies, Resilience and Change; Embodiment, Health and Wellbeing; Foodways, Diet and Nutrition; Heritage, History and Memory; and Migrations, Displacements and Violence. 


Art and New Materialisms 

Ecologies, Resilience, and Change 

Embodiment, Health, and Wellbeing 

Foodways, Diet, and Nutrition 

Heritage, History, and Memory