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.
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 reproductive females in the ancient world, historical trends in obstetrics, and worldwide rates of maternal mortality today will also be used to understand the risks that some birthers face. Birthing customs and beliefs will be examined for indigenous females in a number of different cultural contexts. We will examine the technocratic model of childbirth to understand the changing focus of birth as female centered to a medical condition, which needs to be controlled. In addition, we will consider changing understandings of the birthing body. 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 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?
Life and death are central to our everyday experience -- our thoughts, our emotions, our conversations, our creations and our inquiries. It is therefore not surprising that there are many lenses through which one can study life and death. The goal of this class is to study various phenomena, each through a distinct lens, in which life and death are central. On Thursdays, we will have a guest speaker (different each week) addressing a diverse range of topics such as birth, abortion and reproductive justice, euthanasia, the afterlife, evolution, suicidal notes, war and genocide, horror/zombie films, gangster rap. On Tuesdays, we will lead a series of group exercises in which students will discuss the presented material and develop skills in writing and public speaking. This class will be link with a theme in CBD on life and death, and we envision this course as a complement to the first semester tutorial with the goal of offering essential practical skills and continuing to support the first year experience and community. This class is open only to first year students.
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.