August 1, 2011

Biocultural Bodies and the Anatomy of Controversy

I wrote an essay for this month's Anthropologies on what biological anthropology contributes to the discipline as a whole.  The first paragraph is below to whet your appetite, but do click through to read about Cleopatra, the Tarim Mummies, and our anachronistic application of the modern construct of race to the past:

Why should we study the dead…?  This question has been posed to me numerous times in slightly different ways by students, interviewers, and granting agencies. Sometimes I answer that it’s important to listen closely to what the dead are telling us about their lives; their experiences in a remote time and in a foreign culture can give us insight into what a past civilization was really like. But other times I respond that it’s important to pay attention to what the dead are telling us about our own lives; the way that we use the dead to bolster or dismantle the ideology of our contemporary societies throws into stark relief the limits to our understanding of the past.  [Read the rest...]
The entire issue this month is well worth a read, and each essay is under 1,500 words.

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