Halperin is an anthropological archaeologist whose research examines ancient Maya politics from the perspectives of household political economies, gender, materiality, and everyday life. She has published extensively on topics such as Classic Maya textile production, ceramic figurines, polychrome pottery, and landscape archaeology. Her forthcoming book, Maya Figurines: Intersections between State and Household, will be published in spring 2014 by the University of Texas Press. This book examines the relationship between households and the state through the perspective of ceramic figurines and asserts that the state should be seen as a series of relationships produced both through its interaction with and constitution from households. Her research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, a Fulbright IIE grant, the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Sciences, Inc., and Sigma Xi, as well as a number of fellowships and grants from the University of California, Riverside. She is also coeditor of the book Mesoamerican Figurines: Small-Scale Indices of Large-Scale Social Phenomena (2009), which was named an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice.
At Princeton, Halperin has been a Cotsen Fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts, and she is currently affiliated with the Program in Latin American Studies and the Department of Anthropology. Her activities and affiliations outside Princeton include the American Anthropological Association, the Society for American Archaeology, the Society for Economic Anthropology, and Sigma Xi.
Halperin has taught introductory courses in archaeology, world prehistory, and Mesoamerican archaeology, and more advanced courses in archaeological theory, gender in Latin American states, ritual economy, gender and archaeology, Maya art, and the anthropology of religion and ritual.
In the spring 2014 semester, she will teach a freshman seminar on ceramics, FRS156, “Pottery: Art, Archaeology, and Technology,” and ART268, “Mesoamerican Material Culture.” Many of her courses involve experimental work (e.g., testing questions about the past through replication studies) and collaboration with the Princeton University Art Museum so that students can examine ancient artifacts and artworks first hand: http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S38/26/23A19/index.xml?section=featured
Halperin has conducted archaeological field investigations, laboratory analysis, and museum research at numerous sites in Guatemala, Mexico, and Belize since 1997. Currently, she is directing the North Central Tayasal Archaeological Project at the site of Tayasal, Peten, Guatemala, where she investigates changes in household practices between the Classic and Postclassic periods. This work has stimulated new investigations, looking at cultural heritage and ruins from an archaeological perspective. She also serves as the principal investigator of the Maya Lowlands Regional Figurine Project, in which she has identified broad regional trends in the production, distribution, and iconography of small figurative images and has trained students in the analysis of ceramic figurines. Halperin is a principal collaborator in a Maya ceramic paint analysis project, a project involving specialists from Princeton University and institutions across the country to detect the chemical and mineralogical composition of Classic Maya polychrome vessel pastes and paints as a means to examine political networks through the production and gifting of portable media.
Maya Figurines: Intersections between State and Household (University of Texas Press, forthcoming 2014)
“Circulation as Place-making: Late Classic Maya Polities and Portable Objects,” American Anthropologist 116.1 (2014)
“The Political Economy of Motul de San José Figurines.” In Motul de San José: Politics, History, and Economy in a Classic Maya Polity, edited by Antonia E. Foias and Kitty F. Emery (University Press of Florida, 2012)
“Late Classic (ca. A.D. 600–900) Maya Textile Political Economies: An Object History Approach,” in Weaving Across Time and Space: The Political Economy of Textiles, edited by Walter Little and Patricia McAnany (AltaMira Press, 2011)
With Antonia E. Foias, “Pottery Politics: Late Classic Maya Palace Production at Motul de San José, Petén, Guatemala,” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 29 (2010)
Coeditor, with, Katherine A. Faust, Rhonda Taube, and Aurora Giguet, Mesoamerican Figurines: Small-Scale Indices of Large-Scale Social Phenomena (University Press of Florida, 2009)
With Ronald L. Bishop, Ellen Spensley, and James M. Blackman, “Late Classic (A.D. 600–900) Maya Market Exchange: Modal, Petrographic, and Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis of Figurines from the Motul de San José Region, Guatemala,” Journal of Field Archaeology 34.4 (2009)
“Classic Maya Textile Production: Insights from Motul de San José, Petén, Guatemala,” Ancient Mesoamerica 19 (2008)
“Economic Representations in Archaeology: Cultural Evolution, Gender, and Craft Production.” In Economic Representations: Both Academic and Everyday, edited by David F. Ruccio (Routledge, 2008)
“Social Power and Sacred Space at Actun Nak Beh, Belize.” In Stone Houses and Earth Lords: Maya Religion in the Cave Context, edited by Keith M. Prufer and James E. Brady (University Press of Colorado, 2005)