Rosemary Joyce's research is concerned with questions about the ways people employ things in actively negotiating their place in society, the lives and itineraries of objects, and the reframing of human engagement with the world in terms of materiality.
Her published writing includes books and articles on the use of representational imagery to create and reinforce gendered identities, ranging from examinations of Classic Maya monumental art and glyphic texts, to Formative period monumental and small-scale images. Some of this work also involves mortuary analysis. She is an expert in the study of ceramic materials, including studies of crafting, use of pots in everyday life and on special occasions, and meaning-making with painted pottery vessels and figurines.
Rosemary Joyce participated in field research in northern Honduras from 1977 to 2009, in the Ulua and Cuyumapa valleys, Lake Yojoa, and the Caribbean coast. The sites where she conducted research date as early as before 1500 BCE to the Spanish colonial period. She employs multi-scalar approaches that consider regional patterns and detailed household archaeology together.
Since 2010, she has been developing collaborations with colleagues in Mexico that bring the household scale approaches we developed in Honduras into a regional scale project in the hinterland of Classic Maya Palenque, in Chiapas.
As a museum anthropologist, Joyce works with curated collections, including photographs and historical archives, in museums in North America, Europe, and Honduras. She has engaged in collections management and exhibition work at Harvard's Peabody Museum, the Wellesley College Museum and Cultural Center, the Heritage Plantation at Sandwich, Massachusetts, the Museo de Antropología e Historia in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution.
Her work with museum collections inspired an interest in disciplinary history. She has published work about women who were early archaeologists in Honduras, and more broadly on the history and sociopolitics of archaeology, using Honduras as a case study. This led to her current work on cultural policy and histories of collecting.