Lyra D. Monteiro
Lyra D. Monteiro (she/zie) received her PhD from Brown University in 2012, and specializes in public humanities, early United States history, and race and ethnic identity. Her work focuses on the uses of the past in public culture, with a particular emphasis on issues of race and representation in the telling of the United States’ pasts. She is the recipient of the 2016 Walter and Lillian Lowenfels Award for Criticism from the American Book Awards for her work on the Broadway musical Hamilton. Her review essay in The Public Historian, titled “Race-Conscious Casting and the Erasure of the Black Past in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton,” argued that despite its celebrated multiracial casting, the play reinforces the idea that the United States’ past was populated solely by white people, thus normalizing and legitimizing white power in the present. Her current book project Liberation Archaeology, introduces an anti-oppressive, trauma-informed approach to engaging with the past, specifically designed for people of color in the US. Responding to traditional, teleological models of history, which selectively narrate the past as if it inevitably led us to the hierarchies of power that characterize our present, this book turns that model on its head, and instead approaches the past explicitly from the perspective of the present; and from the perspective of a specific site: the reader. Through a series of case studies, the book guides readers through an excavation of the many layers of empire and other matrices of power that have shaped them. Written at this moment in history, when books supporting white education about anti-racism proliferate, Liberation Archaeology is an intervention and an offering: It reframes the past as a site of liberation from the lies of nationalism, capitalism, and patriarchal white supremacy, and it teaches a practice to support our individual and communal efforts to get free.
Dr. Monteiro also directs The Museum On Site, a public humanities/art project that aims to help people understand their worlds through site-specific, free public experiences that share ideas and information in accessible and stimulating ways. Previous projects have included an installation at the public festival WaterFire Providence, combining public performances and participatory ritual to address the history and legacy of Rhode Island’s transatlantic slave trade; a photo-based diorama of a busy street in downtown Providence, Rhode Island, displayed in a store window with labels that shared stories from the past and present of the people, buildings, and things on two blocks (www.westminsterstories.com); and a pop-up museum that filled a real street with hundreds of museum labels about that street (www.tinyurl.com/museumvideo). Dr. Monteiro's current project with The Museum On Site is called "Washington's Next!" and was originally presented in October 2018 as part of the Art in Odd Places BODY Festival and Exhibition (www.washingtonsnext.com). Last summer, "Washington's Next!" explored the hundreds of statue attacks that took place in 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, through the project "How to Kill a Statue" on Instagram and Twitter, as well as an interactive digital map of the more than 100 racist statues removed between May 30, 2020 and June 30, 2020.
She has also worked on curatorial, education, and development projects for over a dozen museums and cultural institutions, including the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, Harvard Art Museum, Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.
In addition to public-facing writing in magazines and blogs, her work has been published in Current Anthropology, Archaeologies: The Journal of the World Archaeological Congress, International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, and the Journal of Roman Archaeology.
Walter & Lillian Lowenfels Award for Criticism, American Book Awards, 2016
Create Change Fellowship, The Laundromat Project, 2016
Sawyer Postdoctoral Fellowship, Department of English and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania, July 2013-June 2014
J.M. Stuart Fellow, John Carter Brown Library, September 2009-June 2010
Jay and Deborah Last Fellow, American Antiquarian Society, January 2010
Summer Seminar Fellow, American Numismatic Society, June-July 2007
Mellon Fellowship for Humanistic Studies, 2004-2005
Ph.D., Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown University, 2012
M.A., Public Humanities, Brown University, 2009
M.A., Classical Art and Archaeology, University of Michigan, 2006
M.A., Classical Studies-Latin, University of Michigan, 2006
B.A., Anthropology and Classical Civilizations, summa cum laude, New York University, 2004