Dr. Elena Sesma is an assistant professor of anthropology, in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Kentucky. She earned her PhD in anthropology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and holds an MA in anthropology from UMass Amherst and a BA in Anthropology and Womens Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park. Trained as a historical archaeologist, Dr. Sesma’s research blends ethnography and archaeology to understand the ways that living communities relate to and reinterpret historic spaces and materials today. She has expertise in community-based and engaged research, historical and contemporary archaeology, and critical heritage studies, using collaborative and feminist approaches and methodologies to critically analyze collective memory, landscape and place, and the historical roots of inequality.
Her most recent work was a community-based project based around an early 19th century cotton plantation in Eleuthera, Bahamas, that brought collective memory and oral history of local descendants together with landscape survey and ethnographic understandings of life on the rural island in the past and present-day. At the University of Kentucky, Dr. Sesma is developing research focused on sites of slavery in the Bluegrass and their contemporary legacies today. Her experience in community-based archaeological research enables meaningful interpretations of historical materiality and cultural landscapes in the context of contemporary cultural values and public understandings of the past.