Latin American and Latino/a Studies spotlights faculty and staff who are affiliated with the program that examines the history and politics of Latin America and Caribbean nations, the social and economic issues facing U.S. Latina/o communities, and the literary contributions of Latino cultures across the Americas.

Dr. Kathryn Sampeck is a professor of anthropology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology here at Illinois State Unievrsity, as well as an affiliated faculty member of the Latin American and Latino/a Studies Program. Dr. Sampeck received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in anthropology from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Dr. Kathryn Sampeck

Sampeck’s research centers around political economy, identity, and colonialism in Latin America. She approaches these topics by looking at material culture, ethnohistory, and landscape archaeology. Her research interests also include food history. Meanwhile, her work focuses on the everyday practices of pre-colonial people and how they were changed and transformed by the introduction of colonial practices. Her research has received fellowships from the John Carter Brown Library, John D. Rockefeller Library, Colonial Williamsburg as well as grants from the National Science Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Social Science Research Council, Fulbright Program, and the Cherokee Preservation Foundation.

Her works and contributions include, but are not limited to, book chapters in multiple anthologies and articles. She’s been a co-editor, guest editor as well as a visiting scholar in the Afro-Latin American Research Institute at Harvard University and serves on the Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association. In addition, she is the editor of Historical Archaeology and serves on the editorial boards for the Ethnohistory and the International Journal of Historical Archaeology.

Sampeck’s current project is called “Chocolate and Vanilla: Dialogues of Race.” The focus of this project is the connections between race and food. She is investigating the history of vanilla, cacao, and chocolate in Latin America and the Caribbean islands. In an Illinois State University News article from June of 2021, Dr. Sampeck discussed the meanings associated with the words chocolate and vanilla, which can have strong racial connotations. “As a Latin-Americanist and an archaeologist, I know that in pre-Columbian history, chocolate and vanilla were twins, basically. They grew in the same agroforest and were part of the same dishes. These terms did not begin to be used in contrasting terms until the heavy usage of enslaved African labor,” she said.

For students interested in learning from Sampeck, she teaches classes in historical archaeology, Afro-Latin America, and the anthropology of food and is currently teaching ANT 386/486 Archaeological Theory as well as ANT 105 People and Food.

We are very fortunate to have Dr. Sampeck in our program.