Elizabeth Brumfiel

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Elizabeth M. Brumfiel (born Elizabeth Stern; March 10, 1945 – January 1, 2012) was an American archaeologist who taught at Northwestern University and Albion College. She had been a president of the American Anthropological Association.

Brumfiel conducted an archaeological project at the site of Xaltocan in Mexico starting in 1987. Before that, she participated with Richard Blanton at Monte Alban in Mexico and directed research at the Mexican sites of Xico and Huexotla.

Her publications focused on gender, political economy, and the relationship between these areas of scholarship. She also worked to show how archaeology, as an academic discipline, is connected to other fields of anthropology and to other disciplines such as gender studies and political science.

In 2006, conservative author David Horowitz listed her among the most dangerous professors in his book "The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America" because of her strong voice on social justice and human rights.[1] She died at a Skokie, Illinois hospice in 2012.[2]


Early life[edit]

Brumfiel was born in Chicago, Illinois and attended Evanston Township High School. She participated as a Peace Corps volunteer in La Paz, Bolivia in 1966-1967.


Professional life[edit]

  • 2008-2009 Lead Curator, "The Aztec World" presented at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois.
  • 2003-2005 President, American Anthropological Association
  • 2000-2002 Distinguished Lecture, Sigma Xi
  • 1995-1997 Editorial Committee, Annual Review of Anthropology

Brumfiel was one of the first scholars to examine the role of women in Aztec culture through their interactions. Brumfiel studied how these interactions evolved over time through food preparation methods as well as textile manufacturing. “Mexican archeologists respected her very strongly,” said Gabriela Vargas-Cetina, an anthropology professor at Autonomous University of Yucatán, in Mérida, Mexico. Brumfiel also served on the editorial boards of Latin American Antiquity and Ancient Mesoamerica. She helped found the World Council of Anthropological Associations and held strong feminist and liberal views. Brumfiel taught at Albion College in Michigan for 25 years before joining Northwestern alumni in 2003.

Family life[edit]

Brumfiel and her husband, Vincent, have a son, Geoffrey.

Significant works[edit]

Edited volumes[edit]

  • 2010 Gender, Households, and Society: Unraveling the Threads of the Past and the Present (Cynthia Robin, co-editor) Wiley-Blackwell.
  • 2008 The Aztec World (Gary M. Feinman, co-editor) Abrams.
  • 2008 Specialization, Exchange and Complex Societies (Timothy K. Earle, co-editor) Cambridge University Press.
  • 2005 La Producción Local y el Poder en el Xaltocan Posclásico -- Production and Power at Postclassic Xaltocan Instituto Nacional De Antropologia e Historía
  • 2003 Factional Competition and Political Development in the New World (John W. Fox, co-editor) Cambridge University Press.
  • Alien bodies, everyday people, and internal spaces: Embodiment, figurines and social discourse in Postclassic Mexico (with Lisa Overholtzer). In C. Halperin, K. Faust, and R. Taube, eds. in press
  • Mesoamerica. In The Oxford Handbook of Archaeology, C. Gosden and B.

Cunliffe, eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press. in press.

Journal entries[edit]

  • Gender, cloth, continuity and change: Fabricating unity in anthropology.

American Anthropologist 108:861-877. in press .

  • Methods in Feminist and Gender Archaeology: A Feeling for Difference—and Likeness. In The Handbook of Gender in Archaeology, S.M. Nelson, ed., pp. 31–58. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira. 2006
  • Opting In and Opting Out: Tula, Cholula, and Xaltocan. In Settlement and Subsistence in Early Civilizations: Essays reflecting the contributions of Jeffrey R. Parsons, R.E. Blanton and M.H. Parsons, eds, pp. 63–88. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, Los Angeles.20. 2005.
  • Materiality, Feasts, and Figured Worlds in Aztec Mexico. In Rethinking Materiality, E. DeMarrais, C. Gosden, and C. Renfrew, eds., pp. 225–37. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. 2005.


  1. ^ Horowitz, Daniel (2006). The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. Washington DC: Regnery Publishing.
  2. ^ [1]

External links[edit]

(article about The Aztec World, a Field Museum exhibit curated by Brumfiel)