Bio and General Interests
Dr. Sabrina Higgins is a field archaeologist and art historian cross appointed between the departments of Hellenic Studies and Archaeology. Her work is inherently multidisciplinary, intersecting the fields of Late Antique Studies, Archaeology, Religious Studies, Art History, Papyrology, and Gender Studies.
In addition to her active research profile, Dr. Higgins is an active board member of five major national and international organizations that govern the academic bodies of various fields, including Archaeology, Classical Studies and Late Antiquity. Within these organizations, she assumes a variety of different roles on the Boards of Directors, including serving as a member-at-large of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) Vancouver Chapter, the Canadian Institute in Greece and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. She assumes more prominent roles, however, within the Section canadienne de l’Association pour l’Antiquité tardive, where she serve as the Webmaster for the organization, and the Archaeological Institute of America (Head Office, National Branch), where she is a member of the Societies Committee and the Chair of the Awards Committee. This committee is responsible for managing and governing all of the local chapters of the AIA.
Her primary area of research, however, is firmly situated within the field of Marian Studies, specifically the ways in which we can use material culture to understand the development and spread of the early cult of the Virgin Mary. This research largely stems from her dissertation project, entitled ‘Embodying the Virgin: The Physical Materialization of the Cult of Mary in Late Antique Egypt (5th-9th Centuries CE)’, which she is currently turning into a monograph. Several adjacent projects have emerged from this venture, including a forthcoming article in the journal Eastern Christian Art (‘Between Catacomb and Dome: The Creation, Diffusion and Elaboration of the Iconography of the Virgin Mary in Late Antique Egypt’). She was also recently awarded a Small SSHRC for her current research project, entitled ‘The Early Cult of the Virgin in the Eastern Mediterranean’, which explores and problematizes the traditional chronological framework applied to the Cult of Mary in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin through an examination of the available material and textual evidence. The initial findings of this project were presented at an international symposium, organized by Dr. Higgins and hosted by the Stavros Niarchos Centre for Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University in October 2018, where the world’s foremost experts on the Virgin Mary met for the first time in Canada. The resulting papers from this conference will be the subject of a collected volume co-edited by Dr. Higgins and Dr. Niki Tsironis.
In addition to these forthcoming works, Dr. Higgins also presented a paper at the 17th Annual International Congress of Christian Archaeology at Utrecht University and the Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. This paper, entitled ‘Mary, the Apocrypha and the Construction of a Visual Identity in Late Antique Egypt’ will be the subject of her next article. She is also presently collaborating with Dr. Niki Tsironis (NHRF, Athens) on a related digital humanities project to collect and digitize all of the known materials relating to the Virgin from the Mediterranean in Late Antique and Early Medieval periods. The Digital Mary Project currently employs two graduate students from Hellenic Studies, two undergraduate archaeology students and an additional seven undergraduate student volunteers, who are all actively working to get this venture off the ground.
In addition to the research projects stemming from her dissertation, Dr. Higgins has one forthcoming article, entitled ‘St. Thecla and the Art of Her Pilgrims: Towards a Feminist Aesthetic Praxis’, which will appear in the Journal of the Canadian Society for Coptic Studies in the Spring of 2019.
Aside from these various research projects, Dr. Higgins participated in her sixth season of excavations at Golemo Gradiste, a Late-Antique Church in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. This year, however, she was accompanied by her PhD student Aurora Camaño, who joined the team for her first season of excavations at the site.