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Dr. Elizabeth Brite

Clinical Associate Professor & Director of Scholarly Project Grants


Liz Brite

Greetings! I am an archaeologist and educator with nearly a decade of experience in university honors education. I received my Ph.D. in Anthropology (archaeology subfield) from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2011. Following a postdoctoral teaching fellowship in the Honors College at Auburn University (2011-2014), I joined the faculty of the Purdue Honors College in 2014. I am also affiliated faculty in the Department of Anthropology.

As a scholar, I have had the incredible privilege to work on and direct archaeological research expeditions in many parts of the world, including my core area of expertise in Uzbekistan, as well as various projects in India, Peru, California, and the American Southwest. My principle research questions focus on processes of agricultural innovation and change in prehistory; I am especially interested in how these processes unfolded in the contexts of pre-modern globalization, and in the evolving political ecologies of ancient states and empires in Central Asia. In addition to interests in the pre-Islamic and early Islamic periods of this region, I have also explored these questions as they pertain to the contemporary past, most notably the Soviet and post-Soviet periods, where I have done some work examining diachronic and posthumanist perspectives on the Aral Sea Disaster and related phenomena. My current research initiative, the Khorezm Ancient Agriculture Project (2018-present), is a collaboration with colleagues from the Karakalpak Branch of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences and Boston University that examines agricultural changes following the Arab conquests of Central Asia in the mid-1st millennium A.D. We have been exceptionally fortunate to receive funding from the National Geographic Society and the American Philosophical Society to support our work.

As an educator, I teach interdisciplinary honors courses that examine the cultural roots of human food, water, and other environmental resource practices. I find these topics to have great value for a land-grant university that seeks to make improvements to these material relations in human social life, and I have had productive and exciting collaborations working with faculty in Purdue’s College of Agriculture, including co-leading two study abroad programs for students, one to Peru (with the Department of Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication, formerly the Department of Youth Development and Agricultural Education) and another to Kenya (with Purdue’s Center for Global Food Security). My pedagogy seeks to train students to think critically about the interface between social and scientific inquiry, and between the deep past and contemporary experience, to learn anthropology/archaeology in ways that are relevant to their own lives and the lives of those they wish to serve. As the director of the grants program for undergraduate research in the Honors College, I also have the distinct pleasure of facilitating our students’ development of their own research goals and self-driven endeavors, a mentorship role I especially value. In 2020, I was honored with Purdue’s Exceptional Early Career Award from the Center for Instructional Excellence.

Scholarship information:

Selected courses:

  • HONR-19900: Beyond Afghanistan
  • HONR-19900: Scholarly Project Exploration
  • HONR-19901: Evolution of Ideas: Food
  • HONR-19902: Evolution of Ideas: Water
  • HONR-29900: Food Security
  • HONR-39900: The Holocene
  • HONR-39900: The Anthropocene

Contact Info

HCRS 1081