The 86th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2017)


Alterity and Anthropometrics: Blackness, Vulnerability, and Post-Colonial Identities in Biological Anthropology

ROBIN G. NELSON.

Anthropology, Santa Clara University

April 21, 2017 2:30, Riverview 1 Add to calendar

Alterity, the state of being outside of, or a stranger to a particular space or cultural orientation, is imbedded within the ethos of our discipline. From its inception, Anthropology has investigated the other, necessitating that researchers travel to distant field sites for data collection, analysis, and collaboration. Because scholars of color are a minority within the discipline, alterity speaks not only to disciplinary discourses about our study participants, but to the negotiations that scholars of color navigate in both our home institutions and our research locales. There is, thus, a constant work to be done substantiating oneself as an expert to study participants and colleagues – both of whom may be resistant to accepting one's professional status within their particular contexts. In this paper, I explore how the intersections of (1) Caribbean colonial histories and post-colonial present(s), (2) theoretical and methodological traditions in biological anthropology, and (3) unethical medical practices in communities of color have created a specific set of challenges regarding trust and intellectual authority for scholars of color. While my Blackness others me within the discipline, it has also provided access and insight into the enduring oppression that shapes everyday resistance and survival strategies in my study communities. Using original data from the Caribbean as the situational frame, I will provide an evidence-based examination of my methodological choices and topics of study, exploring how they have been shaped by a negotiation of DuBois’ double consciousness, when those observing me are both the study participants and my intellectual peers.

Funding for the research was provided by The Wenner Gren Foundation, Santa Clara University, and Skidmore College