Justin Armstrong

Senior Lecturer in Writing and Anthropology

Research focuses on experimental ethnography, anthropology of exchange, Iceland, Micronesia and the Faroe Islands, as well as island cultural ecology and ghost towns.

My research is situated primarily in cultural geography and human ecology, ethnographic perspectives on fiction, and the anthropology of exchange. My doctoral research examined the unique cultural geography of near-abandoned and isolated farming communities throughout the North American High Plains (South Dakota, North Dakota, Saskatchewan, and Wyoming) and island fishing villages in the North Atlantic (Maine and Newfoundland). Specifically, I examined how a sense of place, or the idea of home is (or is not) maintained in these spaces through local histories and personal narratives, particularly in light of contemporary patterns of globalization and increased rural to urban migration.

My current research projects include an ethnographic examination of stone money on the Micronesian island of Yap (supported by a Marion and Jasper Whiting Travel Fellowship), and a cultural geography of Iceland's abandoned Hornstrandir peninsula.

I am dedicated to the continual re-imagination of academic writing and research, constantly encouraging students to experiment and look for new ways to convey their ideas. I believe in experiential and experimental teaching and learning. To this end, my courses often include games, simulations and multi-modal assignments and exercises. I also believe that both writing and anthropology are essential components of a well-rounded liberal arts education, and my teaching and research reflect this engagement.

Outside of my academic pursuits, I am also a novelist and sound artist. In 2018 I published my debut novel, Wyomings, and I am currently working on the follow-up. For several years, I have been partnered with the Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland, Canada to produce a series of ethnographic 'sound portraits' for the Inn composed entirely with sounds collected from Fogo Island.

I am also the faculty director of the Wellesley-in-Iceland exchange program, a partnership that I established with the University of Akureyri in northern Iceland in 2016. I have also organized and taught an anthropological field course to Iceland for several summers, and I hope to continue running this trip in the future.

In my spare time I enjoy drawing, fermenting food and beverages, making music with modular synthesis, traveling with my wife, and trail running with our two dogs, Winnipeg and Trout Fishing in America.

Education

  • B.A., Wilfred Laurier University (Waterloo, ON)
  • M.A., McMaster University (Hamilton, ON)
  • Ph.D., McMaster University (Hamilton, ON)