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Matthew Reilly
Position: Assistant Professor
Campus Affiliation: City College of New York
Degrees/Diplomas: PhD Syracuse University 2014
Research Interests: Intersections of race, class, slavery, freedom, colonialism, and capitalism in the Atlantic World; origins of modern racial discourse and the development of whiteness as a racial identity and ideological concept; archaeological approaches to time, materiality, memory, and praxis
Subfield: Archaeology
Dr. Reilly is an anthropological archaeologist interested in race formation processes, whiteness, and colonial modernity in the Atlantic world. His work on the Caribbean island of Barbados, the subject of his forthcoming book, Archaeology below the Cliff: Race, Class, and Redlegs in Barbadian Sugar Society, explores how a group of poor whites known as the Redlegs fit within the social matrix of a system of sugar production and slavery. He is currently working on two related projects in Barbados and Liberia. His work in Barbados focuses on heritage management and the process of building futures with the material remains of the dark histories of plantation slavery. He is also collaborating on a project in the West African nation of Liberia investigating a small village established by Barbadian settlers in 1865. The project uses archaeological and ethnographic approaches to explore the process of “reverse diaspora” and settler-native interactions. At the heart of his research is a critical exploration of the complex relationships between slavery and freedom, colonialism and sovereignty, race, class, and capitalism, the social construction of race and structural racism, and the past, present, and future.

Dr. Reilly is currently working on projects on the Caribbean island of Barbados and in the West African nation of Liberia. In partnership with a visual artist, his work in Barbados explore post-plantation landscapes and heritage. Surveys and excavations on a former sugar plantation inform interpretations about enslaved lifeways while also inspiring artwork committed to post-plantation futures in the Caribbean region. In Liberia, he co-directs the first archaeological project to explore the 19th-century Back-to-Africa movement. In collaboration with Liberian partnering institutions, the project explores sites of settlement and place-making processes through a lens of colonialism, race, and freedom in the post-conflict present. Additionally, he is working on an archival project that investigates the relationship between archaeology and white supremacy as the field took shape in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Books: Archaeology below the Cliff: Race, Class, and Redlegs in Barbadian Sugar Society (2019) []
Pre-Colonial and Post-Contract Archaeology in Barbados: Past, Present, and Future Research Directions (2019) []
For recent article and book chapter publications, see Dr. Reilly’s page [].