How I got here: an interview with Dr. Hendrik Dey (IPCAA PhD, 2006)

by Jenny Kreiger

Dr. Hendrik Dey graduated from IPCAA in 2006. His dissertation, “The Aurelian Wall and the Refashioning of Imperial Rome, A.D. 271-855,” took him to Rome for several years of research and writing, and now he balances teaching and departmental service with an active field project in Caesarea Maritima (Israel). He has a new book out: The Afterlife of the Roman City: Architecture and Ceremony in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (Cambridge University Press, 2014), which you can check out at the linkI interviewed him over e-mail about his time in IPCAA, what he does now, and his accomplishments in between.

JK: Please describe your current position. What is your institution like? What are your responsibilities?

HD: I’m tenured associate professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Hunter College, CUNY. Hunter is the flagship campus of the City University of New York, with an exceptionally diverse and generally capable student body. The Department of Art History has both lots of undergraduates and one of the largest and most successful terminal art history MA programs in the country (ca. 100 students). I teach both undergraduate and MA lectures and seminars; I serve as undergraduate advisor, and also coordinator of our intro to art history lecture class, with ca. 300 students. I supervise MA theses, and occasionally also Ph.D. theses for the CUNY Graduate Center. I also serve on the department’s executive committee (we make the policy and budgeting decisions, together with the chair).

JK: What were you doing before you entered this position? What other opportunities did you have between graduating and taking this job (e.g. postdocs, visiting positions, lectureships)?

HD: Before this, I had a two-year Rome Prize fellowship at the American Academy in Rome; a one-year postdoc in the department of Classical Archaeology at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, and a Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at CASVA [Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts] at the National Gallery of Art [in Washington, DC]. I also spent a year (between the American Academy in Rome and Aarhus) adjunct professoring at two Roman universities, John Cabot and the American University in Rome.

JK: Which of the skills or content that you learned in IPCAA have been most valuable to you in your career? Which have you used the least?

My years at IPCAA corresponded with its absolute nadir in terms of in-house field-archaeology projects, so I can’t say I learned much about fieldwork through IPCAA; however, it was through IPCAA connections that I became involved in my first underwater archaeology project in Turkey at Liman Tepe, which led me to my current fieldwork project at Caesarea Maritima in Israel (see JRA 2010 and 2014 for what we’re up to). My years at IPCAA also provided me with an excellent foundation in archaeological theory; epigraphy; numismatics; paleography and historiography, all of which continue to be of great use to me in my written work. They also funded me generously, providing me with two years of dissertation-writing fellowships in Rome, which then turned into five years in Rome in total, during which I became what I am professionally today.

JK: If you could change one thing about your time in IPCAA or your career up to this point, what would you change?

HD: I could deplore the lack of fieldwork projects at the time I was in IPCAA, but things ended up working out well in the fieldwork department, so I won’t complain.

JK: What could a current IPCAA student do today to prepare for a career like yours?

HD: Try to be multi-faceted. My fieldwork and the resulting publications are one part of my scholarly profile; but a larger part is my monographs on architecture and urbanism, which have undoubtedly gotten me more recognition in the field, not to mention tenure. Field archaeology is worthy and important, but if possible, it should be accompanied by more ambitious, synthetic articles and monographs that transcend the confines of whatever particular site one works on. Excavation publications and catalogs of sherds and assorted finds are necessary, but are unlikely to bring much recognition, or get people talking. A related point: think of your Ph.D. thesis as a book! If at all possible, pick a topic that’s worth publishing as a book once the thesis comes out, and try to structure the thesis as much like the final book as possible. This will result in a more exciting, relevant and readable thesis, and allow the subsequent book to come out much sooner, with less remedial work involved.

And travel if at all possible, as much as possible. I wrote my thesis in Rome, and both my life and my thesis were far better for it. Spending as much time as possible in the country you work in will also be helpful in other ways. You’ll learn the language properly, for one thing, which opens up all sorts of opportunities to work and publish with local scholars.

JK: What new opportunities do you hope to pursue in the next five or ten years?

HD: Hmm. I expect to continue our underwater fieldwork at Caesarea Maritima. Beyond that, I hope to write books that reach a wider readership than specialist scholarly monographs tend to do. I have a co-authored textbook in the works, and am thinking about some more popularizing history/archaeology too.



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