In 1951, Sherwood Washburn proposed a new physical anthropology. Central to Washburn’s vision, and borrowed from the modern synthesis in evolutionary biology, was a re-centering of the focus of research on the population. The population was the unit through which evolutionary processes can and should be understood, avoiding the pitfalls of atheoretical taxonomization. Nearly 70 years removed, the population remains the focal unit of biological anthropology, and yet, in practice, it is not clear this category has either consistency or clarity. In 2003, Caspari pointed out that although the language of biological anthropology has changed substantially over the past century, from “types to populations,” the underlying logic--populations as discrete branches of a tree-like structure--remains quite similar. At its root, this inertia in the discipline reflects an unfinished theoritization of populations as a unit of study, particularly given the diverse scales (temporal and geographic) and kinds of evidence (fossil, skeletal, archaeological, medical, anthropometric, biometric, genetic) employed in biological anthropology research.
This panel aims to bring together researchers from across the spectrum of biological anthropology in a focused conversation on several related questions central to the discipline. What is a population? What connections can be drawn between the ways in which populations are constructed across the discipline? What are the implications for how anthropologists communicate about populations, both with each other and with diverse publics? These questions have taken on an even greater importance given advancing knowledge within the field (e.g. aDNA, primate hybridity), as well as an increasing awareness and availability of “population” data to the public (e.g. DTC genetics, ancestry). The challenges faced by anthropology around this topic also present an opportunity for biological anthropology to lead the way in developing new frameworks for constructing populations that are of relevance for the broader fields of evolutionary biology.
|2:30PM||Demes in Disarray: Reconciling Evidence, Observation, and Population Structure in the Pleistocene. Adam P. Van Arsdale, Michelle M. Glantz.|
|2:45PM||Spatial Demography, Population Size, and Genetic Drift: A Model-Based Approach. Andrew A. White.|
|3:00PM||The fuzzy nature of paleopopulations defies typology. Sheela G. Athreya, Rebecca R. Ackermann.|
|3:15PM||Balancing the Scales of Bioarchaeology: Meaningful Studies of Health and Function in Past Populations, Communities and Individuals. Sabrina C. Agarwal.|
|3:30PM||Discussant: Rachel Caspari|
|3:45PM||From Kin to Kind: Becoming Molecular in the Time of American Settler Colonialism. Rick W. A. Smith.|
|4:00PM||Navigating identity politics in genomics research: a case study of Afro-descendants in Puerto Rico. Jada Benn Torres.|
|4:15PM||Population, Race, or Racism?: slippery usage of the population concept in studies of health inequities in minoritized communities. Robin G. Nelson.|
|4:30PM||What a population is, and is not, matters: ancestry, evolution and racist science. Deborah A. Bolnick, Agustín Fuentes.|
|4:45PM||The misuse of “hunter-gatherers” as a discreet unit in population studies. Alyssa N. Crittenden, Trevor R. Pollom.|
|5:00PM||When populations are porous: admixture dynamics in a wild baboon hybrid zone. Jenny Tung, Tauras P. Vilgalys, Arielle S. Fogel, Susan C. Alberts.|
|5:15PM||Primate populations/communities, the role of humans in shaping them, and why it matters. Erin P. Riley.|
|5:30PM||Variation in adolescent male chimpanzee reproductive tactics: implications for understanding what is a “population” of chimpanzees. Rachna B. Reddy.|
|5:45PM||Discussant: William Leonard|