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Applying Human Biology

Rennie Ferguson (BA '09, Anthropology Major, Mathematics Minor)The IHB seeks to encourage a renewed relevancy of biological anthropology for identifying and solving societal problems. Reconnecting biology and society as social history provides an alternative to the excesses of past social Darwinist and positivist assumptions. The Institute seeks to be a place where researchers can investigate a more dialectical understanding of biology and history. How might a social scientific or humanistic human biology work? Such a program is obviously multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary. The applications of such research may be relevant to public policies for ameliorating conditions that have a negative impact on human biology, in contrast with the eugenical applications of genetic determinism.
A pitting pattern on the skull provides evidence of active anemia in this 3 to 5 year old child from the New York African Burial Ground.

How might we practice human biology when cultural influences on our subject and ourselves become undeniable and even valuable to us? What should be the role of the studied groups or their descendants in research decisions? What new epistemological and ethical issues need to be considered for publicly-engaged research? These are questions for which the Institute may serve as a forum.


"The Rites of Ancestral Return," October, 2003