March 24, 2016

8 Amazing Anthropologists Advancing Science Outreach


Anthropology is not known as a discipline with key public figures as well-known as Bill Nye or Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Chances are, the anthropologist most people have heard of is Margaret Mead, who was well-known for her research, museum work, policy creation, and public outreach in the first half of the 20th century. But I suspect that, looking back, 2016 will be seen as a watershed year for women anthropologists using blogs and media outlets to bring anthropology back into the public eye the way Mead did. In alphabetical order, here are the eight anthropologists that I read on a regular basis for their insights into humanity, past and present:

1. Krystal D’Costa writes the blog Anthropology in Practice for Scientific American, primarily showing our own society through the lens of a cultural researcher. Many of her posts tackle 21st century technology issues, such as “We’ve Modified Our Behavior So We Can Text and Walk,” but her four-part series on rice and beans showcases what food means in different contexts, and herdeconstruction of the ubiquitous red Solo cup is among my favorite pieces of online writing ever.

2. Dr. Holly Dunsworth (University of Rhode Island) is a biological anthropologist who teaches and researches human origins and evolution, and she’s just launched her blog Origins on the newSapiens platform, run by the Wenner-Gren Foundation. Just three posts in, and Dunsworth is already a pro at writing eye-catching headlines like, “Surprise! Semen Is Required!




3. Dr. Si├ón Halcrow (University of Otago) is a bioarchaeologist who works in Southeast Asia and has started a blog called The Bioarchaeology of Childhood. Here, Halcrow covers the latest research on children in the past, summarizing articles and news stories from around the world. One piece that sticks out for me is Halcrow’s volley into the always contentious discussion of infanticide in antiquity, which she writes about in “Infanticide in the Archaeological Record: Sense or Sensationalism?” She also writes about her own research, as well as her challenges and successes with bringing her own children into the field for research, as in “ My Work with Babies – Today and in Prehistory.” Halcrow’s candor in writing about work-life balance as an academic and a mother makes her blog an important read for early-career anthropologists like me.


4. Dr. Carie Hersh (Northeastern University) also recently launched a blog called Relevanth, where she tries to make anthropological ideas and knowledge relevant to day-to-day life. Dipping primarily into linguistics and cultural anthropology, Hersh’s recent posts have tackled differences between regional ways of talking (“Your Accent Is We-ahd“) and similarities between “The Hidden Cultural Values of Massholes and Y’all Qaeda.”

5. Dr. Rosemary Joyce (University of California, Berkeley) writes two blogs: one at Psychology Today called What Makes Us Human, and another called Ancient Bodies, Ancient Lives. Joyce is an archaeologist who has led the field of archaeology in understanding gender, sex, sexuality, and inequality from both artifacts and graves. Her blogging is sometimes reflective (“Grand Challenges for the Archaeology of Gender and Sexuality“) and sometimes political (“Aztec Marriage: a Lesson for Chief Justice Roberts“), but always fascinating.

6. Dr. Barbara King (College of William & Mary) contributes to the NPR blog 13.7: Cosmos & Culture. Through this platform, Dr. King, a biological anthropologist who has worked for years with primates, writes thought-provoking pieces about animal cognition, animal rights, climate change, evolution, and current political touchstones. Among my favorite of her pieces are “What Is the Psychic Toll of Gun Violence?“, “Should a Monkey Own a Copyright?“, and “Famous Gorilla ‘Gives’ a Climate Change Speech.”


7. Katy Meyers Emery (Michigan State University) is a PhD candidate with a specialty in bioarchaeology and mortuary archaeology. For several years, she has written Bones Don’t Lie, a blog about the dead and what their bodies and graves can tell us about life in the past. Meyers Emery posts a lot of summaries of breaking research, and also discusses her own research and academic activities in the field of bioarchaeology. I love her ongoing series called “Morbid Terminology,” where she demystifies jargon. The latest in the series, “New Morbid Terminology: Phossy Jaw, the Occupational Disease of Matchstick Makers” is particularly fascinating. She and I have even collaborated a few times on articles about blogging in bioarchaeology.



8. Dr. Jennifer Raff (University of Kansas) is both an anthropologist and a geneticist. She writes a blog called Violent Metaphors about her research, evolution in general, and her teaching (see, “Why There Are Still Monkeys: Lessons Learned from Teaching Evolution in Kansas“). Raff alsocontributes articles to the Huffington Post about vaccines and the anti-vax movement (see “Fighting the Anti-Vaccine Rhetoric with Science“), the application of new information in genetics, and scientific literacy.

This is not a comprehensive list by any means, and there are plenty more anthro bloggers out there doing excellent work whom you can find with a quick google search.

Do check out one or more of the above blogs, though, if you’re looking for new takes on anthropology. It’s important to click through, read, and share anthropology blogs because, if my own experience is a reflection of the current state of academia, most of these anthropologists get few direct benefits for blogging. It is often seen as a distraction from the “real” work of publishing research articles — and yet, many scholars choose to advance public outreach of anthropology anyway, in addition to their research and teaching obligations.

Give ‘em a read and find out more about how anthropology is relevant to the present as well as the past.

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This post is syndicated from my blog at Forbes. By syndicating content, I'll be able to bring you stories to read without ads and without dealing with the Forbes ad-blocker-blocker. Not all content will be syndicated, and there is at least a week delay between the original post and the syndicated one. Do click through the link in the first sentence, though, to keep up to date on the latest news items in the field of bioarchaeology -- you'll read it first on my Forbes blog.

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