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Elizabeth Brite

Elizabeth Brite

Courtesy Faculty // Anthropology

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Liz Brite earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2011. Prior to her appointment in the Purdue Honors College, she served as a postdoctoral teaching fellow in the Honors College at Auburn University, where she taught classes in sustainability, anthropology, and Central Asian studies.

Dr. Brite is an archaeologist who has worked on research expeditions in many parts of the world, including Uzbekistan, India, Peru, California, and the American Southwest. Her research focuses mostly on Central Asia (Uzbekistan), where she examines agricultural innovation and culture change in prehistory. Brite is fascinated by the role that ancient Central Asians played in the later development of agriculture, and how their especially diverse and syncretic cultures made important contributions to human food production long after agriculture's first beginnings in the Middle East. More generally, she likes to explore how human environmental behavior is shaped by culture, and how it evolves as people's daily practices intersect with natural processes, socio-political landscapes, and the trajectories of specific human histories. Some of Dr. Brite’s most recent work has examined the role of millet cultivation in the development of complex societies in Central Asia; the interpretation of irrigation canals as cultural artifacts of past societies; and the Central Asian origins of cotton agriculture.

As a clinical assistant professor in the Honors College, Dr. Brite teaches interdisciplinary courses that examine the cultural roots of human food, water, and other environmental resource practices. She finds these topics to have great value for a land-grant university, as she believes it is imperative to teach those who seek to change the world that material changes to food, water, and infrastructure systems are also social changes that affect people and their culture. As the Honors College's director of engaged learning, Dr. Brite develops curriculum and extra-curricular activities that provide service-learning and undergraduate research opportunities for honors students.

Recent selected publications:

Brite EB, Kidd FJ, Betts A, and Negus Cleary M. Agricultural intensification in Central Asia: a response to Miller, Frachetti, and Spengler. Submitted to The Holocene.

Brite EB, Khozhanivazov G, Marston JM, Kidd FJ, and Negus Cleary M. Kara-tepe, Karakalpakstan: evidence of agropastoral continuity and change in a Central Eurasian oasis in the 4th/5th centuries A.D. Submitted to the Journal of Field Archaeology.

Brite, EB (2016) Irrigation in the Khorezm oasis, past and present: a political ecology perspective. Journal of Political Ecology 23: 1-25.

Brite EB and Marston JM (2013) Environmental change, agricultural innovation, and the spread of cotton agriculture in the Old World. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 32(1): 39-53