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I am a professor of biological anthropology at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. I have served as Hampshire’s Vice President of Academic Affairs & Dean of Faculty. Previously I served as Dean of the School of Natural Science. I am a founding member of the 5-College (Amherst, Mt. Holyoke, Hampshire, Smith and UMass/Amherst) Culture, Health and Science program and on Anthropology graduate faculty of Anthropology at UMass/Amherst. I have worked in a variety of roles with the 11,000 member American Anthropological Association (AAA), including one of a handful of president-elects (2003-2005) and presidents (2005-2007) that are biological anthropologists. My training includes a BS (magna cum laude) in Zoology and Ph.D. in Anthropology from UMass/Amherst and multi-year fellowships in stress physiology at Karolinska Institute, Stockholm and International Nutrition at University of Connecticut and with the Mexican National Institute of Nutrition.
Much of my teaching, research, and writing focus on better understanding the processes by which political/economic systems such as inequality and racism have biological consequences as indicated by measures of stress, health, and nutrition.
I have a long political and scientific interest in how race became reified (made real) and is still frequently used as if it was a “natural” reality, rather than a politically useful cultural tool. I am especially interested in finding better ways to measure and understand human variation and the biological consequences of racism. I co-lead a public education project with an award winning website and traveling exhibit and have recently published a companion book Race: Are We So Different?
A group of students at Teotihuacan, Mexico. We worked in the Solis Valley, Mexico to study nutrition and pollution as part of a grant titled Are we what we eat?
My main theoretical interest focuses on how we think about “what is (human) biology” and how political-economic processes such as inequality and racism dialectically intersect with human bodies and biologicals. This work includes measuring childhood health and nutrition in the present, mostly in Egypt and Mexico (including what Tom Leatherman and I call coca-colonization). It also includes developing method and theory in paleo-epidemiology, from studying the transition to horticulture at Dickson Mounds, Illinois to the biological consequences of enslavement (New York African Burial Ground Project).
I also work on teeth as nutritional markers. Looking at tooth enamel is much like the news — it is mostly the bad news that is of interest. Enamel, the hard coating of teeth, uniquely provides a nearly permanent, chronological record of physiological states: stress, nutrition, pollution, as well as movements and migrations. I’m fascinated with methods and results by which one can “read” this information from old and contemporary teeth. In addition to a long-standing interest in reading abnormal histological events (caused by cellular processes) I collaborate with Dula Amarasiriwardena to evaluate chemical changes over time in lead, other pollutants, and nutritionally significant elements such as iron and zinc.
I live in Leverett, MA with Chaia Heller, my wife, Ruby, our daughter, and Mazel, our Australian Labradoodle.