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New Directions in Biocultural Anthropology

ISBN: 978-1-118-96296-1
536 pages
October 2016, Wiley-Blackwell
New Directions in Biocultural Anthropology (1118962966) cover image


Biocultural or biosocial anthropology is a research approach that views biology and culture as dialectically and inextricably intertwined, explicitly emphasizing the dynamic interaction between humans and their larger social, cultural, and physical environments. The biocultural approach emerged in anthropology in the 1960s, matured in the 1980s, and is now one of the dominant paradigms in anthropology, particularly within biological anthropology. This volume gathers contributions from the top scholars in biocultural anthropology focusing on six of the most influential, productive, and important areas of research within biocultural anthropology. These are: critical and synthetic approaches within biocultural anthropology; biocultural approaches to identity, including race  and racism; health, diet, and nutrition; infectious disease from antiquity to the modern era; epidemiologic transitions and population dynamics; and inequality and violence studies. Focusing on these six major areas of burgeoning research within biocultural anthropology makes the proposed volume timely, widely applicable and useful to scholars engaging in biocultural research and students interested in the biocultural approach, and synthetic in its coverage of contemporary scholarship in biocultural anthropology. Students will be able to grasp the history of the biocultural approach, and how that history continues to impact scholarship, as well as the scope of current research within the approach, and the foci of biocultural research into the future. Importantly, contributions in the text follow a consistent format of a discussion of method and theory relative to a particular aspect of the above six topics, followed by a case study applying the surveyed method and theory. This structure will engage students by providing real world examples of anthropological issues, and demonstrating how biocultural method and theory can be used to elucidate and resolve them.

Key features include:

  • Contributions which span the breadth of approaches and topics within biological anthropology from the insights granted through work with ancient human remains to those granted through collaborative research with contemporary peoples.
  • Comprehensive treatment of diverse topics within biocultural anthropology, from human variation and adaptability to recent disease pandemics, the embodied effects of race and racism, industrialization and the rise of allergy and autoimmune diseases, and the sociopolitics of slavery and torture.
  • Contributions and sections united by thematically cohesive threads.
  • Clear, jargon-free language in a text that is designed to be pedagogically flexible: contributions are written to be both understandable and engaging to both undergraduate and graduate students.
  • Provision of synthetic theory, method and data in each contribution.
  • The use of richly contextualized case studies driven by empirical data.
  • Through case-study driven contributions, each chapter demonstrates how biocultural approaches can be used to better understand and resolve real-world problems and anthropological issues.
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Table of Contents

Contributors, xv

Acknowledgements, xix

A biocultural tribute to a biocultural scholar: Professor George J. Armelagos, May 22, 1936–May 15, 2014, 1
Debra L. Martin & Molly K. Zuckerman

References, 6

1 Introduction: the development of biocultural perspectives in anthropology, 7
Molly K. Zuckerman & Debra L. Martin

Introduction, 7

The origins and development of the biocultural approach, 8

Using a biocultural model, 12

Difficulties in using the biocultural approach, 15

The case studies in this volume, 15

Conclusion, 24

References, 24

Notes, 26

Part I: Critical and synthetic approaches to biocultural anthropology

2 Exploring biocultural concepts: anthropology for the next generation, 29
R. Brooke Thomas

Introduction, 29

Background, 29

Case study: the Quechua of southern Peru, 1964 to the present, 31

Discussion, 41

Conclusion, 42

References, 44

Notes, 47

Endnotes, 47

3 Local nutrition in global contexts: critical biocultural perspectives on the nutrition transition in Mexico, 49
Thomas L. Leatherman, Morgan K. Hoke & Alan H. Goodman

Introduction, 49

Background, 49

Case study: the “coca-colonization” of diet in the Yucatán, 54

Conclusion, 61

References, 62

Notes, 65

Part II: Biocultural approaches to identity

4 Disease and dying while black: how racism, not race, gets under the skin, 69
Alan H. Goodman

Introduction, 69

Background, 72

Case study: race versus racism, 81

Discussion and conclusion, 85

References, 86

5 Beyond genetic race: biocultural insights into the causes of racial health disparities, 89
Christopher W. Kuzawa & Clarence C. Gravlee

Introduction, 89

Background, 90

Case study #1: hypertension in the African Diaspora, 99

Case study #2: does the experience of racial discrimination in the United States have intergenerational health consequences?, 101

Discussion and conclusion, 101

References, 102

6 Political economy of African forced migration and enslavement in colonial New York: an historical biology perspective, 107
Michael L. Blakey & Lesley M. Rankin-Hill

Introduction, 107

Background, 108

Case study, 109

Discussion, 125

Conclusion, 127

References, 129

Notes, 131

7 Identifying the First African Baptist Church: searching for historically invisible people, 133
Lesley M. Rankin-Hill

Introduction, 133

Case study: Afro-American biohistory, 134

Conclusion, 152

References, 153

Notes, 155

Part III: Biocultural approaches to health and diet

8 "Canaries in the mineshaft": the children of Kulubnarti, 159
Paul A. Sandberg & Dennis P. van Gerven

Introduction, 159

Case study: Nubia and Kulubnarti, 160

Conclusion, 176

Acknowledgments, 176

References, 176

9 Biocultural investigations of ancient Nubia, 181
Brenda J. Baker

Introduction, 181

Background, 183

Case study: operationalizing a biocultural investigation: the Bioarchaeology of Nubia Expedition, 191

Conclusion, 194

Acknowledgments, 194

References, 194

10 Life and death in nineteenth-century Peoria, Illinois: taking a biocultural approach towards understanding the past, 201
Anne L. Grauer, Laura A. Williams & M. Catherine Bird

Introduction, 201

Case study: life and death in nineteenth-century Peoria, 203

Discussion, 210

Conclusion, 212

Acknowledgments, 213

References, 213

11 Does industrialization always result in reduced skeletal robusticity?, 219
Ann L. Magennis & Joshua G.S. Clementz

Introduction, 219

Background, 220

Case study: testing ideas about robusticity and industrialization, 225

Discussion, 232

Conclusion, 235

Acknowledgments, 236

References, 237

12 Stable isotopes and selective forces: examples in biocultural and environmental anthropology, 241
Christine D. White & Fred J. Longstaffe

Introduction, 241

Background, 244

Case study: isotopes and epidemiological risk factors/synergies at Wadi Halfa and surrounding regions, 247

Discussion and conclusion, 252

Acknowledgments, 253

References, 254

13 The cuisine of prehispanic Central Mexico reconsidered: the "omnivore’s dilemma" revisited, 259
Randolph J. Widmer & Rebecca Storey

Introduction, 259

Case study: prehispanic cuisine of Central Mexico, 263

Conclusion, 272

Acknowledgments, 273

References, 274

Part IV: Biocultural approaches to infectious disease

14 The specter of Ebola: epidemiologic transitions versus the zombie apocalypse, 279
Ronald Barrett

Introduction, 279

Case study: Ebola and the epidemiological transitions, 282

Discussion and conclusion, 290

References, 291

Notes, 293

15 Beyond the differential diagnosis: new approaches to the bioarchaeology of the Hittite plague, 295
Nicole E. Smith-Guzmán, Jerome C. Rose & Kathleen Kuckens

Introduction, 295

Case study: investigating the cause of the Hittite plague, 297

Discussion and conclusion, 313

Acknowledgments, 313

References, 313

16 Paleoepidemiological and biocultural approaches to ancient disease: the origin and antiquity of syphilis, 317
Molly K. Zuckerman & Kristin N. Harper

Introduction, 317

Background, 319

Case study: biocultural and paleoepidemiological approaches to the origin and antiquity of syphilis, 324

Discussion, 328

Conclusion, 330

References, 331

Notes, 335

Part V: Biocultural approaches to understanding population dynamics

17 Population and disease transitions in the Åland Islands, Finland, 339
James H. Mielke

Introduction, 339

Background, 340

Case study: Åland archipelago, 346

Discussion, 352

Conclusion, 357

Acknowledgments, 358

References, 358

18 The hygiene hypothesis and the second epidemiologic transition: using biocultural, epidemiological, and evolutionary theory to inform practice in clinical medicine and public health, 363
Molly K. Zuckerman, Jonathan R. Belanich & George J. Armelagos

Introduction, 363

Background, 366

Case study: applying the hygiene hypothesis to practice in public health and clinical medicine, 373

Discussion and conclusion, 377

References, 379

19 An emerging history of indigenous Caribbean and circum-Caribbean populations: insights from archaeological, ethnographic, genetic, and historical studies, 385
Theodore G. Schurr, Jada Benn Torres, Miguel G. Vilar, Jill B. Gaieski & Carlalynne Melendez

Introduction, 385

Case study: exploring Caribbean genetic history, 387

Discussion, 394

Conclusion, 395

Acknowledgments, 396

References, 397

Notes, 402

20 Explorations in paleodemography: an overview of the Artificial Long House Valley agent-based modeling project, 403
Alan C. Swedlund, Lisa Sattenspiel, Amy Warren, Richard S. Meindl & George J. Gumerman III

Introduction, 403

Background, 407

Case study: the Artificial Long House Valley (ALHV) Project models, 408

Discussion, 419

Conclusion, 422

Acknowledgments, 424

References, 424

Part VI: Biocultural approaches to inequality and violence 21 Biocultural perspectives in bioarchaeology, 429
Bethany L. Turner & Haagen D. Klaus

Introduction, 429

Background, 430

Case study: understanding European contact in the Americas, 437

Conclusion, 446

Acknowledgments, 446

References, 447

Notes, 451

22 The poetics of violence in bioarchaeology: Integrating social theory with trauma analysis, 453
Ventura R. Pérez

Introduction, 453

Background, 454

Case study: the Sierra de Mazatán massacre, 458

Conclusion, 465

Acknowledgments, 467

References, 467

23 Broken bodies and broken bones: Biocultural approaches to ancient slavery and torture, 471
Debra L. Martin & Anna J. Osterholtz

Introduction, 471

Background, 474

Case study: slavery and torture in the prehispanic Southwest, 475

Discussion, 486

Conclusion, 487

References, 488

Notes, 490

Part VII: The next generation

24 Concluding thoughts: a bright future for students trained in using a biocultural perspective, 493
Debra L. Martin & Molly K. Zuckerman

Introduction, 493

Teaching, pedagogy, and ethics, 494

The past as a guide, 496

A bright future for biocultural scholarship, 496

References, 498

Notes, 498

Index, 499

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Author Information

Molly K. Zuckerman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures at Mississippi State University. The author of numerous peer-reviewed publications employing the biocultural approach, Dr Zuckerman also teaches graduate and undergraduate introductory courses in anthropology and biological anthropology, osteology, diet and nutrition, and human behavior and disease.

Debra L. Martin is the UNLV Barrick Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her expertise is in the biocultural approach as it can be applied to understanding poor health, inequality and violence. She has published four co-edited volumes, three co-authored volumes, and over 100 chapters and peer-reviewed articles on biocultural approaches in anthropology.

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