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.
How did Victorians conceive of the body? In a culture associated in the popular imagination with modesty and propriety, even prudishness, discussions of sexuality and physicality flourished. This course explores both fictional and non-fictional texts from nineteenth-century Britain in conjunction with modern critical perspectives. We will discuss debates over corsetry and tight-lacing, dress reform, prostitution and the Contagious Diseases Acts, sexology, hysteria, and other topics relating to science and the body, alongside novels, poetry, and prose by major Victorian writers. The writings of Freud, Foucault, and other theorists will assist us in contextualizing nineteenth-century discourses of gender, sexuality, and embodiment. Several shorter papers and a longer research project will be required.
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. Worldwide rates of maternal mortality will be used to understand the risks that some women face. Birthing customs and beliefs will be examined for indigenous women in a number of different cultures. 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.
This course will investigate the roles of law, culture and technology in creating and re-defining families. We will focus on the ways in which systems of reproduction reinforce and/or challenge inequalities of class, race and gender. We will examine the issues of entitlement to parenthood, domestic and international adoption, surrogacy, birthing and parenting for people in prison, and the uses, consequences and ethics of new reproductive technologies designed to help people give birth to biologically-related children. Questions to be addressed include: 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, that 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?
This course examines the biological, cultural, and political frameworks that put females at risk for high rates of morbidity and mortality. Using the (8) Millennial Development Goals (MDGs) set by the United Nations and its partners to frame our conversations, we will work to understand the UNs targeted programs. We will unpack the complex global issues that reproductive aged women face, and investigate how obstetric death rates can be used as a litmus test to understanding the underlying health contexts, disparities, and political/cultural systems that impact wellness. We will juxtapose the roles of biological health, specifically pregnancy and birth, with cultural practices, to consider other factors that adversely impact women's health including: endemic and epidemic diseases, domestic violence, and structural violence. Through this course we will aim to understand the larger contexts and complexities of improving and supporting reproductive aged women's health and wellness as we near the MDGs target date of 2015.