Christopher Lowman

PhD Candidate in Anthropology, Berkeley
Class of 2010

Although I knew I liked history, I thought history classes would just fulfill a few general requirements. I enjoyed them so much and took so many that I was a senior before I realized I only had a few classes to go to earn a double major.


Current Job: PhD Candidate, Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley

First Job after Graduation: Archaeological Researcher, San Francisco Planning Department. Archival research for the creation of a GIS map of San Francisco history, particularly related to the Chinese in the 1800s.

How did you end up pursuing your career? Do you have any advice for students contemplating similar career paths? What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were an undergraduate?

After working for the San Francisco Planning Office, I worked part-time as an archaeological consultant for a Cultural Resource Management Company excavating sites in San Francisco, and then worked as a researcher in Stanford's Archaeology Center for two years. I knew I wanted to go back to school, so in 2012 I started my PhD at UC Berkeley (I still root for Stanford football though!).

My dissertation work led to two different projects. One has been the study of museum collections of material culture from the Ainu, the Indigenous people of northern Japan, and how the collectors shaped what got preserved in museums across the United States, Canada, and Japan. The other project took me back to Stanford, where I worked on excavating one of the sites where the Chinese employees of the Stanford family and, later, the university, once lived. That project also involved oral history with descendants and other members of the local Chinese American community. I'm planning to wrap up my PhD by June 2018.

My advice would be this: there's no one way to do things. When I was thinking about grad school right around the time I was graduating undergrad, I approached my favorite professors in the History department to find out what their career trajectories has been. I spoke with Kären Wigen, Thomas Mullaney, Allyson Hobbs, J.P. Daughton, Matthew Sommer, and Caroline Winterer, expecting to hear versions of a single ideal career path that got them to where they were. Except each one had something completely different to say, and none of their stories matched into any single ideal. I'm really glad I talked to all of them, since it encouraged me to look for opportunities to take jobs or pursue activities I enjoyed rather than imagining only one path would get me to one right place.

Has your History training helped you along the way - and if so, how?

I was actually a double major at Stanford, in History as well as Archaeology. I was interested in pursuing graduate work in anthropology in order to continue excavating and studying objects from the past, but the past that interested me most was fairly recent: the 19th and early 20th century, so my classes focused on that time period have all been very helpful. Learning to study maps, archival records, and first-person accounts have all been just as important as my classes on anthropological theory and methods. At Stanford, the classes that took advantage of campus resources like Special Collections or encouraged individual research projects outside of class readings were the most helpful for my graduate work.

Do you have any particularly fond memories of the History Department?

I never intended to double major. Although I knew I liked history, I thought history classes would just fulfill a few general requirements. I enjoyed them so much and took so many that I was a senior before I realized I only had a few classes to go to earn a double major.

I particularly liked J.P. Daughton's History 10S: "The Witness in Modern History" since all the readings were first-person perspectives. His class changed how I wrote about history, and caused me to focus more on everyday lives rather than single events.

Taking Thomas Mullaney's modern China course and Kären Wigen's class on medieval Japan at the same time was fun partly because both areas of history were new to me. In a later course on maps and borders in East Asia, Kären Wigen was one of the first professors to require me to create a pedagogy-related assignment, in which I developed a lesson-plan as my final project (on the history of mapping in India). I've thought about that project frequently since I have gone on to teach and to design my own courses here at Berkeley.

Allyson Hobbs's guidance for seniors conducting capstone projects or working on theses introduced me to multiple authors I continued to consult throughout my graduate work. She helped me structure my first long-term research project, incredibly valuable since as time has gone on, the scope and duration of my projects have continued to increase. I have very fond memories of my History classes and the faculty.