"I believe strongly in blurring disciplinary boundaries in teaching and research, which is reflected in the kinds of classes that I teach and the research that I do."
Jennifer Mathews is a professor of anthropology in the sociology and anthropology department at Trinity University, where she teaches courses in archaeology and biological anthropology. She takes students to Mexico to study Maya and historic archaeology, as well as issues of sustainability and tourism.
She received her master's and Ph.D. in anthropology, with a specialization in Maya archaeology, from the University of California at Riverside. Her undergraduate degree was in anthropology from San Diego State University (1991). She co-directs the Yalahau Regional Human Ecology Project in Quintana Roo, Mexico and has been conducting fieldwork and archival research in Mexico since 1993.
She has written several journal articles and book chapters and edited two books on Maya archaeology: Quintana Roo Archaeology (with Justine Shaw) and Lifeways in the Northern Maya Lowlands: New Approaches to Archaeology in the Yucatán Peninsula (with Bethany Morrison). She also published Chicle: Chewing Gum of the Americas: From the Ancient Maya to William Wrigley. She is currently working on co-edited (with Tom Guderjan) volume on Maya commodities (jade, salt, chocolate, pottery, etc.), from the prehistoric to contemporary periods.
Professor Mathews's research has focused on the ancient Maya, studying roads, architecture, and the layout of sites. More recently, she has been focusing on the historic period of the Yucatan Peninsula (1850–-1950), looking at the extraction of commodities like sugar and rum production, chicle (the base for chewing gum), and logwood (used for dye). Over the next several summers she plans to document several sugar and rum processing camps, including one at the site of Xuxub, where an infamous murder took place in 1875.
I work regularly with local museums such as the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) to teach docents about the ancient cultures of Mesoamerica, and my students provide copies of their semester-long research papers on pieces in their collection. I have a service project every semester in my classes to raise money for a cause related to the class, such as adopting primates at the San Antonio Zoo or supporting Maya women artisans in Mesoamerica. I was also recently the curator of the exhibit "The Modern Maya: The Photographs of Macduff Everton."