It was a late Friday afternoon in April, and it was raining — again. Meghan Howey, professor of anthropology at UNH, was in her car outside her veterinarian’s practice awaiting word on her injured cat. When she had left home, her first grader and third grader were in tears, worried about their pet. The sky had now grown dark. It started to hail.
As a distraction, Howey checked her phone and found an email from Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation and learned she had just been named a 2020 Andrew Carnegie Fellow.
“I honestly couldn’t believe it. It was so surreal, to be in this surreal moment in the world and read this message from the president of the Carnegie Corporation about one of the most major awards I could get in my career,” Howey says. “Being an archaeologist is just such a privilege. The excitement of finding out about the myriad lives and experiences and socioecological changes that never got written down has been with me ever since I went on my first dig, that moment of breaking into the earth, looking for past artifacts, it was transformative for me.”
The Carnegie Fellows program is one of the country's most generous and most prestigious research fellowships in the social sciences and humanities. Howey is among 27 scholars selected for an award this year. Fellows receive $200,000 to fund research and writing aimed at addressing some of the most important issues confronting society today. As a fellow, Howey will advance and expand her work on a multifaceted exploration of the socioecological “shock” of colonialism and the lasting imprint of colonial legacies in the current geological age.
"...ever since I went on my first dig, that moment of breaking into the earth, looking for past artifacts, it was transformative for me.”
Howey plans to continue her work on the Great Bay Archaeological Survey (GBAS), a multi-year interdisciplinary and community-engaged research program that has found and excavated 17th and early 18th century residences (e.g., garrisons and homesteads), natural resource extraction sites (e.g., sawmills) and amassed a systematic collection of early colonial artifacts, ecofacts and geospatial data.
“In these first decades of colonialism, it was not foretold that land would become property and something you could take away and sell and fight over; it was not foretold that trees and fish would become commodities rather than sustaining resources, and amidst all of this, it was not foretold that conflict with indigenous communities was some kind of inevitability,” Howey says.
“There could have been different actions, different responses to social inflection points, a different approach to the environment,” she says. “When I think now of us living in a moment of threshold change with COVID-19, there are so many changes happening, but it is the decisions we make about them that will foretell our future. Colonialism came with many devastating consequences for people and nature — what can we learn from this, anything? I hope so.”
UNH Provost Wayne Jones says, “I am thrilled to see professor Howey receive the recognition she deserves on a national stage, The Carnegie Corporation’s recognition of the important research being done every day at public flagship institutions like UNH is a great honor.”
And from Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, “The pursuit of knowledge and the generation of ideas were critically important to Andrew Carnegie, whose mission is especially relevant today as our society confronts problems that have been greatly exacerbated by COVID-19. Fellows from earlier classes are actively addressing the coronavirus through their research on topics such as its impact on rural America, government authority during a pandemic and ways in which different countries address infectious diseases. The work of this exemplary class of 2020 will also be of service across a range of other crucial issues.”
Howey is the James H. Hayes and Claire Short Hayes Professor of the Humanities and director of the Great Bay Archaeological Survey (GBAS), a community-engaged and interdisciplinary archaeology program.