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Research Themes

Our faculty members engage in innovative research with a wide mix of sub-disciplinary approaches. Geographical strengths are centered on the Americas, the Caribbean, and Africa, with additional interests in Europe. The following research themes represent key strengths, specifically where faculty expertise crosscuts individual sub-fields of anthropology. These research themes are frequently reflected in course offerings; prospective graduate students are invited to use these as guides in planning coursework. In some cases, existing or planned graduate concentrations offer ways to group classes more formally.

Department faculty use a range of methods in their research, including traditional participant-observation and interviews, quantitative methods, discourse analysis, participatory action research, oral history and ethnohistory, visual methods and media analysis, archaeological science and field methods, anthropometrics, and DNA analysis techniques. This methodological expertise is reflected in the variety of courses offered at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Biocultural Dimensions of Human Health and Illness

By studying health and illness across space and time, USF faculty members engage numerous life and death questions such as, how do poverty and access to resources affect human health, nutrition, reproduction, infectious disease and mental health? How can anthropology inform ways of preventing or containing health disasters by changing the sociocultural circumstances in which they flourish? How do cultural and biological factors combine to condition health and demography? An integrated focus on human growth and development is a major strength of the department. Faculty research interests range from efforts to understand the underlying biological mechanisms of normal growth and development, including descriptive, mechanistic, and evolutionary perspectives, to investigations of sociocultural, nutritional, and environmental factors in the incidence and response to health issues. In curricular terms, these interests are reflected in the Graduate Concentration in Biocultural Medical Anthropology.

Faculty include: Roberta D. Baer, Heide Castaneda, David A. Himmelgreen, Erin Kimmerle, Daniel Lende, Lorena Madrigal, Elizabeth Miller, Nancy Romero-Daza, Robert H. Tykot, and Linda M. Whiteford.

Archaeological and Material Culture Studies

Several department faculty members focus their research around the documentation, interpretation, and preservation of past material culture, landscapes, and human remains. Of particular interest are such issues as contemporary conflicts between development and preservation of cultural and environmental resources; the relevance of traditional practices to modern environmental management; the fostering of appreciation, conservation, and advocacy for prehistoric and historic resources; the development of non-invasive technologies for documenting such resources. In curricular terms, some of these interests are reflected in the Graduate Concentration in Cultural Resource Management, which is expected to be in place Fall 2007.

Faculty include: Karla L. Davis-Salazar, Lori Collins, Antoinette T. Jackson, Erin Kimmerle, Thomas J. Pluckhahn, Robert H. Tykot, Brent R. Weisman, E. Christian Wells, and Nancy White.

Community Identity and Heritage

Anthropologists have been increasingly attentive to how identities are socially and culturally constructed amid fields of power. Moving beyond static notions of culture, the awareness that identity is an ongoing and contested process can articulate with more critical understandings of discourse, performance, history, and heritage. It also facilitates a greater and more critical understanding of how representation itself serves as locus of power and authority. A number of department faculty members are concerned with the ways that urbanism, history, and power combine with social practice to constitute identity and heritage. Heritage management studies at USF help communities in the U.S. and abroad to acknowledge and express identification and affiliation, and at the same time to identify, preserve, and maintain visual and material expressions of past events, activities, and lifeways.

Faculty include: S. Elizabeth Bird, Lori Collins, Karla L. Davis-Salazar,Tara Deubel, Antoinette T. Jackson, Angela Stuesse, Brent R. Weisman, E. Christian Wells, Nancy White, and Rebecca Zarger.

Communication and Representation in Cultural Mediation and Education

Drawing upon the diverse fields of sociolinguistics, semiotics, communication, education, and symbolic anthropology, several anthropology faculty members focus on how language and communicative practices are an integral mediating component of culture and society. Language and communication play a crucial role in constituting political authority, negotiating ethnic boundaries, generating and regulating performance and representation, and shaping notions of the self across cultural contexts. Faculty research projects span a range of verbal and nonverbal communications media, including art, photography, dress, ritual language, media language, computer mediated communication, museum exhibits, metaphors, and everyday conversation.

Faculty include: S. Elizabeth Bird, Tara Deubel, Daniel Lende, John A. Napora, and Nancy Romero-Daza

Global Dynamics of Sustainable Resource Management and Economic Development

Anthropology contributes to globalization studies by illuminating the local dynamics of economic development in the context of worldwide historical, political, and economic processes. As global forces increasingly transform local ecosystems, daily life, and webs of meaning, the anthropological perspective is vital. At USF, faculty members engage such questions as, how does the confrontation of values caused by globalization impact economic choices? What are the cultural and ecological consequences of human impacts on natural landscapes? How can anthropological insight address resource scarcity, sustainable development, and environmental crises?

Faculty include: Roberta D. Baer, Heide Castaneda, Karla L. Davis-Salazar, Tara Deubel, David Himmelgreen, John A. Napora, Thomas J. Pluckhahn, Brent R. Weisman, E. Christian Wells, Linda M. Whiteford, Kevin A. Yelvington, and Rebecca K. Zarger.

Social and Cultural Constructions of Race, Ethnicity, and Gender

As significant cultural constructions, race, ethnicity, and gender are key sites of power and meaning in contemporary societies. The work of several faculty members explores how individuals attempt to construct themselves through, and are constructed by, the institutions, social relations, and forms of power and inequality that shape their societies and daily interactions. Focusing on the body, representations, social practices, and ideologies of gender, race, and ethnicity, such work engages diverse and transdisciplinary theoretical perspectives, ranging from classic feminist theory through postmodern perspectives, critical race theory, human biology, and ecology.

Faculty include: Roberta D. Baer, Kathryn Borman, S. Elizabeth Bird, Heide Castaneda, Karla L. Davis-Salazar, Tara Deubel, Antoinette T. Jackson, Erin Kimmerle, Daniel Lende, Lorena Madrigal, Angela Stuesse, Nancy White, and Kevin A. Yelvington.