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Kelli Carmean

Kelli Carmean

Kelli Carmean is EKU Foundation Professor 2017-19 and Associate Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work, having joined the EKU faculty in 1993 and served as coordinator of the anthropology program from 2003 to 2010, and as department chair from 2009 to 2015. She currently serves as faculty liaison for the University’s education abroad program and is active in the Kentucky Institute for International Study, teaching and directing programs in Denmark, Peru and Barcelona.

Carmean earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and her Ph.D. degree in anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh, where she wrote a dissertation on household architecture in the residential area of Sayil, a major Maya site in the Yucatan Peninsula. She was also a President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2002, Dr. Carmean published a scholarly monograph entitled, Spider Woman Walks This Land: Traditional Cultural Properties and the Navajo Nation, which was recognized by The American Indian Quarterly as a “noteworthy success… not just as an anthropology or archaeology textbook but also as a study of Navajo cultural geography, history, and religion.” Dr. Carmean’s scholarship led to her being selected to present the EKU College of Arts and Sciences Roark Distinguished Lecture in 2010; and she was a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute participant in 2011, researching Mayan culture in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize.

In addition to her scholarship and her teaching at EKU and internationally, Dr. Carmean has pursued an active literary career by writing novels that connect to aspects of her research and expertise. Her first work of archaeological fiction was Creekside: An Archaeological Novel, which alternates between the present and life on the early Kentucky frontier. Her brand new novel, House of the Waterlily: A Novel of the Ancient Maya World, set in the Mayan civilization’s Late Classic Period (ca. 550–830 CE), is an affecting historical novel centering around Lady Winik, a young Maya noble girl. Through a series of adventures that mirror the political calamities afflicting the Maya, Winik’s story immerses the reader in her daily life—the architecture of ancient cities, the different roles of Mayan society, and the decisions Maya men and women must have been faced with as they tried to navigate a rapidly changing world. As it weaves this story combining scientific research and imaginative reconstructions, Dr. Carmean’s novel brings alive a people and an era remote from our own, yet recognizably human all the same. Set for release on August 30 of this year, the novel has received advance praise:

House of the Waterlily is an excellent introduction into the world of the Classic Period Maya in large part because Carmean is a fine storyteller who weaves her narrative as beautifully as a ‘fine-spun’ huipil. This book would be an excellent addition to the course reading list for undergraduate students who are studying the ancient Maya.” ~ Scott Simmons, UNC Wilmington.

“Although fiction, House of the Waterlily is a powerful platform from which to begin a discussion of vast catastrophic events in the context of daily life in the late Classic period of this fascinating pre-Columbian civilization.” ~ Rob Swigart, author, Xibalba Gate: A Novel of the Classic Maya.

Sponsored by the Department of Anthropology, Sociolology, and Social Work, the Department of History, and the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences.


Published on November 16, 2017

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