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Personal profile

Research Biography

Professor Claire Smith is an anthropological archaeologist with the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. She specialises in symbolic communication. The materials she analyses range from rock art, statues and monuments to memorials, graves and social media. She decodes patterns in human behaviours to interpret the past, understand the present and envisage the future.

Claire Smith has produced 13 books and more than 150 publications in English, Spanish, Catalan, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese and Japanese. She is editor of the 11-volume Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology. Of 804 books, this is the 2nd most highly cited work in Springer's Humanities, Social Sciences and Law collections for 2014. It has had over 300,000 downloads.

In 2018, the Royal Anthropological Institute awarded Claire Smith the Lucy Mair Medal and Marsh Award, for sustained research with Australian Aboriginal communities that has contributed to human dignity. She is a University Medalist and former Fulbright PostDoctoral Fellow with the American University and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History.

Claire Smith has held one-year visiting posts at Columbia University in New York and at the University of Newcastle. In addition, she has been a short-term visiting scholar at Cape Town University, the University of Denver, Lock Haven University, Kyushu University and the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar.

As the twice-elected President of the World Archaeological Congress (2003-2014) Claire Smith is committed to intellectually enriching academia by strengthening the global impact of research by scholars from low-income countries.

Claire Smith has raised over $4 million in funding for humanities research projects, including two Fulbright awards and seven grants from the Australian Research Council. Her areas of specialist expertise include culturally informed sustainable development in Indigenouos communities, Indigenous archaeology, rock art, gender, archaeological ethics, global archaeology and socially mediated terrorism.

Research Interests

Claire Smith has a broad intellectual vision and an inter-disciplinary approach to research, teaching and engagement. While she conducts occasional fieldwork with Indigenous groups in Asia and North America, her primary research is with Indigenous Australia. Her theoretical focus is symbolic communication. She has undertaken collaborative projects with scholars from cultural studies, history, Indigenous studies, Indonesian studies, philosophy, anthropology and theology.

Since 1990, Claire has worked annually with Aboriginal communities in the Barunga region, Northern Territory, Australia. In 2019, her fieldwork is focusing on 1) identifying unmarked graves and 2) developing culturally sustainable health care services. She is working in partnership with Sunrise Health Service Aboriginal Corporation and the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Her research draws on generative and ground-up methods in which change is generated by collaborative research that engages Aboriginal knowledge practices. It takes a family-centred, culturally-informed, strengths-based approach that foregrounds cultural leadership, Aboriginal family values and individual aspirations. The research team aims to Bridge the Gap of cultural knowledge between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in order to Close the Gap in health, longivity, education and employment.

Claire has supervised the completion of 36 research theses: eleven Doctoral, five Masters and twenty Honours. She has examined 28 Masters and Doctoral theses for universities in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain and the USA. Her former students, postdoctoral researchers and formal mentees have established high level careers in government, museums, research organizations, and archaeological consulting companies. A significant number have launched academic careers, at Griffith University, Charles Darwin University, and Flinders University in Australia; the University of Valencia and the University of Barcelona in Spain; and the University of Cologne, Germany.

Her current book, with Koji Mizoguchi, is Global Social Archaeologies: Making a Difference in a World of Strangers (Routlege 2019).  

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Research Output

Global Social Archaeologies: Making a Difference in a World of Strangers

Smith, C. & Mizoguchi, K., 2019, 1st ed. London: Routledge. 298 p.

Research output: Book/ReportBook

  • Pursuing social justice through collaborative archaeologies in Aboriginal Australia

    Smith, C., Burke, H., Ralph, J., Pollard, K., Gorman, A., Wilson, C., Hemming, S., Rigney, D., Wesley, D., Morrison, M., McNaughton, D., Domingo, I., Moffat, I., Roberts, A., Koolmatrie, J., Wilika, J., Pamkal, B. & Jackson, G., 30 Sep 2019, In : Archaeologies. 15, 3, p. 1-34 34 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • 2 Citations (Scopus)

    A new framework for interpreting contact rock art. Reassessing the rock art at Nackara Springs, South Australia

    Smith, C., Ralph, J., Lower, K., McKinnon, J., Ebbs, M. & Copley Senior, V., 2017, The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology and Anthropology of Rock Art. David, B. & McNiven, I. J. (eds.). Oxford University Press, p. 587-610 24 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

  • 1 Citation (Scopus)