Lynn Meskell

Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) Professor in AnthropologyProfessor of Historic Preservation (Weitzman School of Design)

Lynn Meskell is the Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) Professor in Anthropology (School of Arts and Sciences) and Professor of Historic Preservation (Weitzman School of Design). At the Penn Museum she is curator in the Middle East and Asia sections. She is currently AD White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University (2019-2025). She holds Honorary Professorships at the University of Oxford and University of Liverpool (UK), at Shiv Nadar University (India) and the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). Previously Lynn was the Shirley and Leonard Ely Professor of Humanities and Sciences in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. She is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. Over the past twenty years she has been awarded grants and fellowships including those from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Australian Research Council, the American Academy in Rome, the School of American Research, Oxford University and Cambridge University. She is the founding editor of the Journal of Social Archaeology. Lynn has broad theoretical interests including socio-politics, archaeological ethics, global heritage, materiality, as well as feminist and postcolonial theory. Her earlier research examined natural and cultural heritage in South Africa, the archaeology of figurines and burial in Neolithic Turkey and social life in New Kingdom Egypt.

Over the last decade Lynn has conducted an institutional ethnography of UNESCO World Heritage, tracing the politics of governance and sovereignty and the subsequent implications for multilateral diplomacy, international conservation, and heritage rights. Employing archival and ethnographic analysis, her award winning book A Future in Ruins: UNESCO, World Heritage, and the Dream of Peace (2018, OUP New York), reveals UNESCO’s early forays into a one-world archaeology and its later commitments to global heritage. Building on this research, she is currently examining the entwined histories of colonialism, internationalism, espionage and archaeology in the Middle East coupled with a new largescale survey project in Syria and Iraq to assess public opinion on heritage destruction and reconstruction. Other recent fieldwork explores monumental regimes of research and preservation around World Heritage sites in India and how diverse actors and agencies address the needs of living communities. Given the sheer scale and complexity of archaeological heritage in India, no nation presents a more fraught and compelling array of challenges to preserving its past.