The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Evolving biological anthropology in twelve acts


Department of Anthropology, The University of Tennessee

Thursday 1:00-1:15, Ballroom A Add to calendar

As biological anthropology has progressed in the sixty years since Washburn’s call for a paradigm shift in the field, researchers have generally embraced the hypothesis-driven evolutionary approach advocated in the New Physical Anthropology. Along with the growth in the breadth of specialties within biological anthropology since 1951, researchers expanded collaborations with individuals in related fields. Yet, as we find ourselves increasingly relying on method and theory developed by other disciplinary researchers, a resultant anxiety is that we have had little novel theory of our own to offer, and therefore find ourselves at the margins of those collaborations. Even more problematic, researchers in other fields may address questions in the name of biological anthropology while not working with biological anthropologists. Our collective concern is exacerbated by the fact that we tend to have access to fewer financial resources along with greater teaching responsibilities relative to related fields.

This paper and accompanying symposium explore the sources for these impressions and work to prescribe solutions by showcasing productive approaches undertaken by researchers in specialties within biological anthropology. We demonstrate that biological anthropologists have a shared, unique perspective and methodology that are in fact integral to these multi-field partnerships. A key component of this vision is an emphasis on long-term cultural effects on biology. Moreover, we conclude that rather than constantly evaluating ourselves against sixty year-old measurements of progress, biological anthropologists should focus on these strengths to seek a more enterprising and goal-setting perspective as we forge an interdisciplinary future.

comments powered by Disqus