Biological Anthropology Represented at the AAA Annual Meeting

This year, the BAS offerings speak eloquently about the breadth of biological anthropological inquiry and the myriad intersections that are possible among the prime subdisciplines. For example, BAS teams with the General Anthropology Division to sponsor “A Four Fields Anthropology of the Fetus,” bringing together a diverse set of scholars whose work is anchored in the study of this critical life history stage. The interaction between human biological and social realities fuels “Can the Future Escape the Past: Biosocial Factors in the Reproduction of Poverty.” “Entangling the Biological: Steps Toward an Integrative Anthropology” will specifically interrogate the need for biology within anthropology, drawing from work by both established and emerging experts in juvenile biology and behavior, functional morphology, parental care, primate ecology, race, and infant sleep. The Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition is teaming with BAS to sponsor the session “Ethnographic Perspectives on the History of Hunger.” This list is of course not exhaustive, but I hope it illustrates the remarkable complexity of our field and our ability to engage with anthropologists of many different backgrounds to address issues of relevance across the entire discipline. For more sessions and papers of interest to BAS members, please check out the AAA program online and search by section or topic.

Getting to Zero Incidence of Sexual Harassment in the Discipline

In my April AN column, I mentioned the Biological Anthropology Fieldwork Survey project I’m collaborating on with Kate Clancy (UIUC), Robin Nelson (Skidmore C), and Katie Hinde (Harvard U). Clancy’s presentation at the 2013 American Association of Physical Anthropologists meeting (“I had no power to say ‘that’s not okay:’” Reports of harassment and abuse in the field”)made clear that sexual harassment, assault and loss of access to research resources (eg, sites, fossils, primates, funding, recommendations, publications, etc) are experienced at an unacceptably high rate in fieldwork settings, especially by females students and junior faculty. Similarly troubling has been some of the feedback we have received, suggesting that many of our colleagues feel these claims are overblown and that those reporting their experiences are overly sensitive, lack a sense of humor, or just need to understand that “what happens in the field stays in the field.”  In light of our preliminary findings, the AAA issued a statement pledging “zero tolerance for sexual harassment in academic, professional, fieldwork or any other settings where our members work.” To that end, the Committee for Gender Equity in Anthropology (CoGEA, formerly the Committee on the Status of Women in Anthropology or COSWA) will be hosting a panel discussion at the Chicago meeting to discuss ways in which we can define and enforce a zero tolerance policy. I will be representing the above-mentioned fieldwork study; other panelists include organizer M Gabriela Torres, Chair of CoGEA; Keri Brondo, Chair of the Committee on Practicing, Applied, and Public Interest Anthropology; Jane Henrici, President of the Association of Feminist Anthropology; and Naomi Quinn, author of the CoSWA-sponsored “What to do about sexual harrassment? A Short Course for Chairs.” The general goal for the panel is to discuss institutional support mechanisms for those who have faced sexual harassment as well as concrete steps the association can take to reduce the incidence of harassment in the discipline.

Please send contributions for the BAS news to AN Contributing Editor Julienne Rutherford at ruther4d@uic.edu. 

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