My research focuses on how collectives reckon with past violence. I use historical anthropology (including approaches derived from archaeology, ethnography, and historiography) to better understand how past violence influences present-day sociopolitical consciousness and collective imaginations of the future.


Cultural heritage and collective memory; political violence and colonialism; intersections of race, indigeneity, and gender; feminist anthropologies; indigenous and diasporic (historical) archaeologies; collaborative research methodologies

Areas of Competency

Latin American History; Native American History; landscape theory; time, temporality, materiality; Peircean semiotics

Geographic Areas

Americas (especially Maya Lowlands, Mexico, and USA); Australia


How does political violence materialize across timescales in settler colonial contexts? This central question of my working book manuscript, Things of War: Conflict & Heritage on Mexico's Maya Frontier, responds to what I see as a growing divide between war studies and everyday life studies in the humanities and social sciences. This divide has special influence in studies of colonialism writ large, and colonial violence in particular, because it can render indigenous and Afro-descendent peoples' experiences with and engagements in colonial projects unintelligible. In order to remedy this shortcoming, I present a framework for an archaeology of political violence, defined not as a synonym for war, but as the function of war and structural oppression. The framework I propose emerges from my involvement with a collaborative heritage initiative, the Tihosuco Heritage Preservation and Community Development Project, located in Tihosuco, Quintana Roo, Mexico. The project positioned me to draw on a wide range of media with which to think about the politics surrounding the history of the Caste War of Yucatan—a predominantly Maya contra-colonial insurrection that began in the former Tihosuco Parish in 1847. The war lasted until 1901, making it one of the longest (as well as most successful) indigenous insurrections to have been mounted in the Americas. My dissertation, "Materializing Political Violence: Segregation, War, and Memory in Quintana Roo, Mexico," began to contend with how political violence materializes by investigating the racial geographies of segregation, war, and memory practice in the region. Ultimately, the aim is to arrive at a more holistic approach to investigating violence—and its ramifications—in settler colonial contexts.


Edited Collections

Diserens Morgan, Kasey and Tiffany C. Cain, eds. Publication approved for 2021. Coloniality in the Maya Lowlands: Archaeological Perspectives. University Press of Colorado.

Cain, Tiffany C. and Maia Dedrick, eds. In preparation, proposal accepted. "Reckoning with Violence." Special Section, American Anthropologist.

Journal Articles & Book Chapters

Cain, Tiffany C. and Kasey Diserens Morgan. Forthcoming (February 2021). “Heritage Activism in Quintana Roo, Mexico: Assembling New Futures through an Umbrella Heritage Practice.” In Trowels in the Trenches: Archaeology as Social Activism, edited by Christopher P. Barton. University Press of Florida.

Cain, Tiffany C. Accepted. "Confronting Violence in the Layered Landscapes of East-Central Quintana Roo." In Coloniality in the Maya Lowlands: Archaeological Perspectives.

Diserens Morgan, Kasey and Tiffany C. Cain. Accepted. "Characterizing an Archaeology of the Recent Past in the Maya Region." In Coloniality in the Maya Lowlands: Archaeological Perspectives.

Cain, Tiffany C. Preparing to submit. "Heritage as Liberation." American Anthropologist.

Cain, Tiffany C. Preparing to submit. “Memorial Alienation, Material Intimacy.” Journal article.

Cain, Tiffany C. Preparing to submit. "Settler Colonialism without Treaties: Dos Republicas and the Structures of Colonialism in Latin America." Journal article.

Cain, Tiffany C. Preparing to submit. "Of Roads and Unknowns: An Indigenous Archaeology of Insurrectionist Infrastructures." Journal article.


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Contact: tiffany.cain[at]

© Tiffany C. Cain (all content and images)

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Çatalhöyük Archaeological Research Project Küçükköy/Çumra, Turkey 2008 and 2009 Director: Dr. Ian Hodder

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