CASS Researcher Dr Catherine Frieman awarded Future Fellowship

Dr Catherine Frieman Photo by Neha Attre

Dr Catherine Frieman Photo by Neha Attre

Associate Professor Dr Catherine Frieman from the School of Archaeology and Anthropology is the recipient of the prestigious four-year Future Fellowship from the Australian Research Council and has received $1,057,210 in funding.

Dr Frieman has been awarded the fellowship for her project ‘Kin and connection: Ancient DNA between the science and the social’, which aims to capitalise on the emerging wealth of ancient DNA data to build bridges between social and scientific archaeologies. 

“The goal of the project is to create a new framework to bring complicated social models of people, as kind of fluid dynamic beings, together with more categorical genetic narratives of biological development and population structure, to try to bridge those gaps and build something that’s neither disconnected from the science nor entirely interacts in biological essentials,” she says.

Dr Frieman “accidentally” became a part of the wider world of technology studies, which mostly sits outside archaeology, as many of her research projects sat adjacent or attached to that space.

She was awarded a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) from 2017-2020 built on technology and innovation studies. She has previously worked with scientists at ANU who have been building bimolecular maps of human mobility.

“A time has come when archaeologists, geneticists and laboratories are trying to reach out, grasp hands and move forward in a better and more productive way. Today, you can’t talk about mobility and archaeology without also talking about ancient DNA,” says Dr Frieman. 

She feels happy that the Future Fellowship has brought the focus on humanities.

“Usually, researchers are expected to instrumentalise their research by turning it into a product or a policy. While this project talks to sciences, it is based on anthropology, sociology, science technology studies and feminist theories. And it has no policy implications. However, it will have an impact on how we construct narratives of the past which should have resonance in public discourse,” Dr. Frieman says.

“V Gordon Childe, a famous Australian archaeologist, who died in the 1950s, lamented about the state of archaeology in his last letters and said that it’s not long for this world because it produces neither bombs nor butter. And ‘Kin and connection: Ancient DNA between the science and the social’ project is also not a bombs or butter project. However, I think that we sometimes forget that the best research project is the one that is built out of your interests, strengths and love.”