Notre Dame Anthropologist Deb Rotman Awarded Fulbright Fellowship

Author: Carrie Gates

Deb Rotman Deb Rotman

Anthropologist Deb Rotman, Paul and Maureen Stefanick Faculty Director of Notre Dame’s Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE), has received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award for the 2015-16 academic year.

Rotman will spend the year in Ireland, collaborating with University College Dublin (UCD) and the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) on her project, “Clachans and Cultural Landscapes of County Mayo, Ireland: Local History, Folklore, and Archaeology of 19th-Century Domestic Sites.”

“It is a tremendous honor for my project to have been selected for this highly competitive award,” she said, “as well as an amazing opportunity to be in community with other researchers, thinkers, and artists as a Fulbright Scholar.”

The award is also exciting for the Department of Anthropology and the University, said Professor Agustín Fuentes, chair of the department. “In addition to her own excellent work in historical archaeology, Deb Rotman has been a terrific teacher and mentor to a wide array of undergraduate researchers at Notre Dame.

“Her project will not only develop insight into the clachans and cultural landscapes of County Mayo, but also enhance our already robust research and collaborative relationships with Irish scholars and affirm Notre Dame’s reputation as one of the top-tier locales for the studies of Ireland, Irish language and culture, and the Irish Diaspora.”

Rotman’s research focuses on the historical archaeology of Irish immigrants in the United States. In particular, she has conducted extensive field research with Notre Dame students at a 19th-century Irish immigrant enclave on Lake Michigan’s Beaver Island.

“In all my research on Irish immigrants in the U.S., I have often thought it would be much easier to interpret this material culture and what we’re seeing in the archaeological record if we had a better understanding of the domestic sites from which they emigrated,” she said. “That was what drew me to this project.”

While she is in Ireland, Rotman will be hosted by GMIT, which she called “an ideal home base” for the project because of its Heritage Studies Program and its location. “Castlebar is uniquely situated in an historically and archaeologically rich landscape,” she said.

Rotman has worked for years with archaeologists at University College Dublin and hopes the Fulbright Award will open the door for further collaboration with Notre Dame, UCD, and GMIT faculty and students. She envisions a multi-year project with excavations at field schools in Ireland one summer and in the United States the next.

“Alternating between the two sites will give us a lovely, holistic and transatlantic view of what immigrant life was like in the 19th century,” she said.

This type of field research is a tremendous opportunity for students, Rotman added. “The students get so much out of the experience because they’re able to work with these highly varied data sets that include the archaeological record, archival research, oral histories, and folklore.”

Upon her return to Notre Dame, Rotman looks forward to sharing her experiences with her students through a course on historical archaeology.

As director of CUSE, Rotman also connects students across the university with opportunities for research, scholarship, and creative projects. The center assists them in finding faculty mentors, funding, and venues for the publication or presentation of their work. It also promotes application to national fellowship programs and prepares students in their application process.

“It is a crowning achievement,” Fuentes said, “for the director of the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement, herself, to receive such a prestigious fellowship.”