I am an anthropological archaeologist whose research has focused on understanding 19th- and 20th-century life in the United States and Caribbean, combining documentary and material sources of evidence to understand the recent past. Through a focus on household archaeology, my work has focused upon two principal themes: how expressions of social difference - gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sex, socioeconomics and politics - can be understood through the materiality of everyday life; and how a sense of material heritage has shaped human life in the recent past, and continues to do so today.
My work has always been closely engaged with stakeholder communities. I have long been concerned about how to make archaeological knowledge accessible and widely available to a range of interdisciplinary and public audiences. I have worked closely with community heritage groups in Louisiana, California, Alabama and the Bahamas, collaborating with descendent groups, local museums and state agencies.
My current research (with Dr Dan Hicks, Oxford University explores the history of the modern preservation movements in New York City and London. This research aims to rewrite traditional narratives of historical preservation, acknowledging the significance of the past to the practice of modern urbanism in the 20th century, using methods from historical archaeology and anthropological material culture studies to contribute to current debates over the material remains of the modern city.
2010. The Lost Boys of Zeta Psi: A Historical Archaeology of Masculinity in a University Fraternity. University of California Press, Berkeley.
2005. Sampling Many Pots: A Historical Archaeology of a Multi-Ethnic Bahamian Community. University Press of Florida. [With Paul Farnsworth]
2003. The Archaeology of Mothering: An African-American Midwife’s Tale. Routledge, New York. Awarded 2005 James Deetz Book Prize by the Society for Historical Archaeology.
2000. Creating Freedom: Material Culture and African-American Identity at Oakley Plantation, Louisiana, 1845-1950. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge. Awarded 2002 James Mooney Book Prize for by the Southern Anthropological Association.
According to the accounts of two white officers, on the evening of November 20, 1872, Corporal Daniel Talliafero, of the segregated Black 9th cavalry, was shot to death by an officer’s wife while attempting to break into her sleeping apartment at the military post of Fort Davis, Texas. Historians writing about Black soldiers serving in the West have long accepted the account without question, retelling the story of Daniel Talliafero, the thwarted “rapist.”
In Unburied Lives Wilkie takes a different approach, demonstrating how we can “listen” to stories found in things neglected, ignored, or disparaged—documents not consulted, architecture not studied, material traces preserved in the dirt. With a focus on Fort Davis, Wilkie brings attention to the Black enlisted men and non-commissioned officers. In her archaeological accounting, Wilkie explores the complexities of post life, racialized relationships, Black masculinity, and citizenship while also exposing the structures and practices of military life that successfully obscured these men’s stories for so long.