Kent Lightfoot

Fellow: Awarded 2014

Field of Study: Anthropology and Cultural Studies

Competition: US & Canada

Kent G. Lightfoot is Professor of Anthropology and Class of 1960 Chair in Undergraduate Education at the University of California, Berkeley.  Trained in the field of North American archaeology, he specializes in the study of late pre-colonial people and their subsequent encounters with diverse European colonial regimes.  After receiving his B.A. in anthropology from Stanford University (1975), and his Ph.D. in anthropology from Arizona State University (1981), he taught at Northern Illinois University (1982) and  SUNY Stony Brook (1982–1987), before joining the faculty at UC Berkeley in 1987.  He currently serves as the Curator of North American Archaeology in the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology and as a Faculty Associate of the Archaeological Research Facility on the Berkeley campus. Lightfoot has directed archaeological projects in New England, the American Southwest, and along the Pacific Coast of North America.  In the last ten years he has focused his studies on the impressive shell mounds of the greater San Francisco Bay, the Russian colony of Fort Ross (1812–1843), and nearby historic Spanish missions in northern California, and landscape management practices employed by complex hunter-gatherers in central California.  These collaborative research programs, involving local tribes, state and national parks, and students and faculty from a diverse range of fields, have been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Joint Fire Science Program.  The interdisciplinary nature of this work has been facilitated by the Berkeley Initiative in Global Change Biology at UC Berkeley.  Lightfoot and his collaborators have published their work in a series of book chapters and journal articles, including a special issue of California Archaeology (2013).  Lightfoot’s recent books include Indians, Missionaries, and Merchants: The Legacy of Colonial Encounters on the California Frontiers (UC Press, 2005) and California Indians and their Environments: An Introduction (with Otis Parrish) (UC Press, 2009). During his tenure as a Guggenheim Fellow, Lightfoot will work on a new theoretical perspective for understanding complex hunter-gatherers in California that synthesizes a wealth of recent information about their sophisticated management practices designed to enhance the biodiversity and sustainability of biotic communities.  He will explore how these strategies of diversification may have differed fundamentally from other Native American populations involved primarily in agrarian production.  He will then evaluate how these indigenous enhancement practices may provide new insights for policies and practices currently employed in the management of open spaces and wild lands in California.