Jack Rooney | April 23, 2018
Mark Schurr is committed to conducting engaged anthropology.
For Schurr, professor and acting chair of the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Anthropology, that means he and his colleagues are dedicated to research that doesn’t just serve academic ends, but can also do good for the world.
At his latest research site — the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie near Joliet, Illinois — Schurr leads by example. Along with postdoctoral research associate Madeleine McLeester, he is pursuing the answers to two critical questions.
First, they are exploring what life was like for the Native Americans who inhabited the area right before French settlers arrived and began recording history around 1673. And second, Schurr and his team are working to determine how to best restore their research site, a former World War II arsenal, to a natural environment that allows visitors to enjoy and learn from the land.
The former is a standard anthropology research question. The latter aligns the Kankakee Protohistory Project with Schurr’s mission to do engaged anthropology. He hopes that whatever answer he and his team come up with will become a model for environmental reconstruction of natural sites.