Director of Culture, Brain and Development Program
She has worked at the Smithsonian Museum and the American Museum of Natural History, as well as teaching at Western Michigan University and the University of Massachusetts.
Pamela's research focuses on the intersection of science and culture particularly exploring life and death to understand how biology is negotiated by culture at birth, and how life histories are explored through biology in death. The main focus of her research is on women's health in the past and present, across the globe. Her goals are to illuminate patterns of morbidity and mortality for women through biological, cultural, and ethnographic information, and use these data to understand women's lives beyond their maternal roles through time and space.
Her research has taken her all over the globe, but she is particularly interested in the American Southwest, Southwest Asia (Arabian Peninsula), Europe, Australia, and New England.
The main goal of this course is to examine inequality in the context of sickness and health in the United States. Using a biocultural perspective, the synergistic interface of biology and culture provides a framework for how to examine health in an interdisciplinary manner. We will examine the ways in which inequality engenders ill health, is socially constructed, and the important role that social institutions, ideology, and cultural and medical practices play in creating and perpetuating various forms of inequality. Using a series of case studies that will clarify the way to go about studying inequality and health, students will examine diverse health experiences and the ways in which culture constructs perceptions of health and effective delivery of health care. We also examine the role the medical research plays in setting health care agendas. Students will finish the term with a clearer understanding how health inequalities are generated and perpetuated, and how to think critically about their own health choices. Given time constraints, we will not be able to study everything related to this topic.
This course will focus on biologically female bodies and how they are impacted by cultural discourses around the globe and through time and space. From Lucy to Malala Yousafzai females have been seen as compromised by their reproductive capacity. From menstruation to menopause the development of a uterine economy has regulated female in all areas of life. This class aims to unpack many of the issues females around the world face, in the past and present. Through an examination of a wide-range of issues focused on the life-cycle; birth, menstruation, contraception, education, identity, conception, pregnancy, menopause and death. Students will consider the larger contexts that dis-able females and consider new models can recast morbidity and mortality and ultimately reveal the larger constellation of inequity that is often shadowed by assumptions of reproductive fragility
This course focuses on the biological and cultural components of reproduction from an evolutionary and cross-cultural perspective. Beginning with the evolution of the pelvis, this course examines the nutritional problems, growth and developmental problems, health problems, and the trauma that can affect successful childbirth. The birth process will be studied for women in the ancient world and we will examine historical trends in obstetrics, as well. Birthing customs and beliefs will be examined for indigenous women in a number of different cultures. Worldwide rates of maternal mortality will be used to reveal the larger constellation of risks for morbidity and mortality for biologically female bodies. In addition we will examine the recent dialogues surrounding the technocratic model of birth to understand the changing focus of birth as women centered to a medical condition, which needs to be controlled. Students will be required to present and discuss material and to work on a single large research project throughout the semester that relates to the course topic.
This course investigates the roles of law, culture and technology in creating and re-defining families. It focuses on the ways in which systems of reproduction reinforce and/or challenge inequalities of class, race and gender. We examine the issues of entitlement to parenthood, LBGTQ families, domestic and international adoption, surrogacy, birthing and parenting for people in prison, and the uses, consequences and ethics of new reproductive technologies. The questions addressed included: How does a person's status affect their relation to reproductive alternatives? What is the relationship between state reproductive policies and actual practices, legal, contested, and clandestine, which develop around these policies? How are notions of family and parenting enacted and transformed in an arena that is transnational, interracial, intercultural, and cross-class? Students are required to write three reflection papers, give an oral presentation, and write a final analytic paper based on independent research.