The department that I’m part of is a four-field anthropology department, meaning that it contains archaeologists, cultural anthropologists, linguistic anthropologists, and biological anthropologists. Four-field approaches are valuable because they encompass the whole scope of human cultural practices and behaviors, examining human existence from the perspectives of language, social norms, material culture, and the deep evolutionary past of our species. Unlike the highly specialized environment of the field today, many old school anthropologists dabbled in more than one field of anthropology, following in the footsteps of the discipline’s founding father, Franz Boaz:
However, in graduate school it’s pretty easy for that inclusive attitude to get lost in the shuffle, especially once you’re focused on the monolithic project that is your dissertation. That’s one of the reasons we have “Four Field Grad Talks,” which are an opportunity to learn about research from colleagues in each of the anthropological subfields. Over the years I’ve learned a lot from sitting in on these talks, from how subfields vary in their conference presentation styles, to how linguistic anthropologists interact with informants, and how much of a pain in the butt it is to chase non-human primates over hill and vale while trying to conduct focals.
In the spirit of four-field collaboration, tomorrow I’ll be giving short talk introducing the “sub sub-field” of bioarchaeology. The proximate reason for my participation is that I’m always excited to talk about my research with other anthropologists in my department. There are only two other graduate students here pursuing bioarch-related research, so I think we all feel a responsibility to publicize how valuable human skeletal remains are for learning about the past. My ultimate imperative, however, is the same as it has been through the course of my academic career.
So, if you’re in the area and interested in learning more about bioarchaeology, this is a great opportunity! Also, have I mentioned that there will be snacks? Details below.