Christopher C. Fennell

Christopher C. Fennell

Visiting Professor of Law

Chris Fennell is a Professor of Anthropology and Law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, specializing in legal anthropology, African diaspora studies, and historical anthropology. He has been appointed a University Scholar in recognition of excellence in his research, scholarship, and teaching. Fennell has conducted archaeological investigations at 19th century sites in Illinois, Virginia, and South Carolina with grant support by the National Science Foundation and National Endowment for the Humanities. After clerking for the Honorable Jane R. Roth (D. Del./3d Circuit), he was a practicing attorney for several years in Washington, DC, in the areas of antitrust, contracts, product liability, torts, false claims, and securities disputes.

He has also taught at the University of Texas Law School, University of Virginia, Roosevelt University, and Texas State University. Fennell offers law school courses on anthropology, social norms, and the dynamics of racism, as well as archaeology courses for undergraduate and graduate students, and has received a number of awards for teaching excellence.

Fennell served as the Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Head of the Department of Anthropology and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Society for Historical Archaeology. He currently serves as President of the Illinois Archaeological Survey and as a member of the Executive Board of the Collaborative for Cultural Heritage and Museum Practices. He is the founding editor of the peer-reviewed Journal of African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage (Taylor & Francis). His publications include the book Crossroads and Cosmologies: Diasporas and Ethnogenesis in the New World (University Press of Florida, 2007), for which he received the 2009 John Cotter award from the Society for Historical Archaeology and the 2010 Gustave Arlt award from the Council for Graduate Schools for outstanding contributions to the humanities. Fennell’s latest book is Broken Chains and Subverted Plans: Ethnicity, Race, and Commodities (U. Florida Press, 2017).


University of Virginia
PhD in anthropology, 2003

  • Concentration in historical archaeology and African diaspora archaeology.

MA in anthropology, 2000

Georgetown University Law Center
JD, 1989

  • Research Editor, American Criminal Law Review, Volume 26 (1988-1989)
  • Managed final review of all articles
  • Chaired committee for selecting articles for publication

University of Pennsylvania
MA in American civilization, 1986

  • Interdisciplinary program applying anthropological theories and methods to subjects in American history, with concentration in historical archaeology.


The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Professor of Anthropology and Law, 2018-present
Associate Professor of Anthropology and Law, 2010-2018
University Scholar, 2014-2017
Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Head of Anthropology, 2010-2013
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, 2004-2010

  • Designing and teaching courses in anthropology, archaeology, African diaspora studies, and law
  • Faculty affiliate of the College of Law
  • Teaching interdisciplinary seminars in anthropology, law, social norms, and dynamics of racism
  • Faculty affiliate of the Department of Landscape Architecture, the Center for African Studies, and the Department of African American Studies.

The University of Chicago Law School
Visiting Professor of Law, 2010; 2013-present

  • Offering courses in anthropology, law, social norms, and the dynamics of racism.

University of Illinois
Archaeology of Edgefield, South Carolina Pottery Communities, Archaeology Project Co-Director, 2009-present

  • Co-director, collaborating with George Calfas, Carl Steen, and Sean Taylor
  • Conducting archaeological investigations and field schools at nineteenth century sites in Edgefield County, South Carolina

New Philadelphia Archaeology Project, Archaeology Project Co-Director, 2008-present

  • Principal Investigator and Co-Principal Archaeologist, with Anna Agbe-Davies (DePaul U.) and Terrance Martin (Illinois State Museum)
  • Conducting archaeological investigations and field schools at nineteenth century town site of New Philadelphia, Illinois

Aerial Thermal Survey Research, 2007-2008

  • Principal Investigator and co-Principal Archaeologist, with Tommy Hailey (Northwestern State University) and Bryan Haley (U. Mississippi)
  • Conducting low-altitude high resolution thermal survey at nineteenth century town site of New Philadelphia, Illinois

Archaeology Project Co-Director, 2004-2006

  • Co-Principal Archaeologist, with Paul Shackel (U. Maryland) and Terrance Martin (Illinois State Museum)
  • Conducting archaeological investigations and field schools at nineteenth century town site of New Philadelphia, Illinois

Society for Historical Archaeology
Member of the Board of Directors, 2012-2015

  • Formed in 1967, the Society for Historical Archaeology is the largest scholarly group concerned with the archaeology of the modern world

Illinois State Museum Springfield, IL 
Adjunct Research Associate in Anthropology, 2008-2009

  • Conducting research on nineteenth century history in Illinois and Midwest region, including social history of New Philadelphia

University of Texas School of Law
Adjunct Professor of Law and Senior Research Fellow, 2003-2004

  • Designed and taught seminar in Anthropology and Law and course in Social Norms and the Law.

University of Virginia
Archaeology Project Director, 1997-2003

  • Conducted excavations, research, and analysis of eighteenth and nineteenth century archaeology sites at St. Peter’s Church and School House, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and Demory farmstead site, Loudoun County, Virginia

Texas State University
Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, fall 2003

  • Designed and taught Introduction to Cultural Anthropology course, including elements of anthropology’s four sub-fields, history of humankind, and diversity of cultures.

Texas Civil Rights Project Austin, TX
Volunteer, 2002

Roosevelt University
Instructor, School of Policy Studies, spring 2001

  • Designed and taught course on Cross-Cultural Anthropology, including analysis of diverse cultures and economic, environmental, class, gender, and ethnic dynamics.

University of Virginia
Instructor, Department of Anthropology, summer 1999 and 2000

  • Designed and taught course on Witchcraft and Magic and an intensive, six-week Field School in Historical Archaeology theory and methods, including excavation, surveying, artifact and documentary analysis.

D.C. Superior Court, Multidoor Dispute Resolution Division Washington, DC
Court-appointed Mediator, 1995-1997

  • Provided mediation services on pro bono basis for D.C. Superior Court's civil docket cases
  • Conducted confidential conferences with parties in litigation to evaluate nature of disputes and formulate basis for settlement before trial

Crowell & Moring Washington, DC
Associate Attorney, 1991-1997

  • Conducted seminars for corporate managers and personnel on applicability of antitrust, contract, trade and environmental laws and regulations to their business activities and strategies
  • Trial work in complex cases involving antitrust, contracts, products liability, torts, false claims, commercial real estate, and securities disputes
  • Provided pro bono services to obtain benefits for elderly persons and individuals disabled by AIDS

Dechert, Price & Rhoads Philadelphia, PA
Associate Attorney, 1990-1991

  • Experience in trial and appellate litigation of complex antitrust, intellectual property, and contract disputes

Honorable Jane R. Roth Wilmington, DE
Judicial Clerk, 1989-1990

  • Researched and wrote bench memoranda and opinions for Hon. Jane R. Roth of U.S. District Court for District of Delaware, now on United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit


  • Register of Professional Archaeologists
  • American Anthropological Association
  • Society for American Archaeology
  • Society for Historical Archaeology
  • Society of Africanist Archaeologists
  • African Diaspora Archaeology Network
  • Illinois Archaeological Survey
  • Association for Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora
  • Bar admissions, state and federal courts in Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Supreme Court


  • University Scholar, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (2014-2017)
  • Gender and Minority Affairs Diversity Field School Competition Award, Society for Historical Archaeology, Second Place Award (2013)
  • Award for Distinguished Service, Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (2012-2013)
  • Archaeological and Historical Examination of a Nationalist Mythology of an Authentic Irish Past, University of Illinois Research Board (2013)
  • New Philadelphia Archaeology and the Digital Archaeological Record, Digital Antiquity initiative (2011)
  • Gustave O. Arlt Award recipient, Council for Graduate School (2010)
  • LiDAR and Archaeological Analysis of the Pottersville, SC Production and Village Site, University of Illinois Research Board (2010-2011)
  • Community Informatics Initiative (2010-2011)
  • John L. Cotter Award recipient, Society for Historical Archaeology (2009)
  • Community Engagement with Lincoln's Legacies, Speaker Series, Illinois Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Illinois General Assembly (2009)
  • National Science Foundation, Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program Grant (2008-2011)
  • Community Informatics Initiative (2008-2009)
  • African-American Heritage in the Midwest, Speaker Series, Illinois Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Illinois General Assembly (2008)
  • National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (2007-2008)
  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Faculty Fellowship (2006-2007)
  • National Science Foundation, Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program Grant (2004-2006)
  • University of Illinois, Research Board Grants (2004-2008)
  • Voted "Outstanding" Anthropology Faculty member by the Undergraduate Anthropology Students Association (2004-2005)
  • University of Illinois, included in "List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent" (fall 2004 and 2007)
  • West Virginia Humanities Council Grants (2000-2003)
  • DuPont Fellowship, University of Virginia (2001-2002)
  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Research Fellowship (2000)
  • Governor's Fellowship, University of Virginia (1997-2000)
  • American Jurisprudence Awards, Georgetown University Law Center (1988 and 1989)


  • Founding editor, Journal of African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage (2011-present)
  • Editorial board member, International Journal of Historical Archaeology (2005-present)
  • Editor, African Diaspora Archaeology Network and Newsletter (2005-present)
  • Referee, American Anthropologist Journal; International Journal of Historical Archaeology; Historical Archaeology Journal; Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology; University Press of Florida (2004-present)
  • Editor, Plymouth Colony Archive Project (1998-present)