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Sam's research focuses on the visual cultures of late ancient and early medieval Europe, with a special interest in the mobilisation of art and architecture in performance, spectacle, and ritual. His dissertation, entitled ‘The Fitting Face of Empire’: Palaces and Power in the Early Middle Ages, investigates the palaces used by rulers in the territory of the Roman Empire’s western provinces between the fourth and ninth centuries CE. Though a constant across this period and beyond, palaces underwent dramatic changes architecturally and functionally after the fragmentation of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century. By viewing them simultaneously as physical architecture, as social spaces, and as nodes in ‘royal landscapes’, this study argues that palaces were not simple assertions of political power, but rather engines of the reordering of political space in the post-Roman West. His research has been supported by the International Center for Medieval Art, the Lemmermann Foundation, and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst.
Aside from his dissertation research, Sam is also interested in the history of medieval art broadly construed (including its historiography); in social and anthropological theory, particularly concepts of landscape, space, and materiality; and in group identity and community in the Early Middle Ages.
- Archaeology Program
- Medieval Studies Program
- Late Ancient and Early Medieval Art and Architecture
- Ritual, Liturgy, and Performance
- Landscape, Space, and Social Theory
- Group Identity and Community in the Early Middle Ages
- Cities and Urbanism
- "Defining Difference or Connecting Spaces? Similarity and Meaning in the Arian Baptistery, Ravenna." In Place and Space in the Medieval World, edited by Meg Boulton, Jane Hawkes, and Heidi Stoner, 149–58. Routledge Research in Art History. New York: Routledge, 2018.