AAPA’s Open Letter and Call-to-Action

If you haven’t seen, the AAPA Executive Committee issued an open letter with a call-to-action in response to the the Black Lives Matter movement:

An Open Letter to Our Community in Response to Police Brutality Against African-Americans and a Call to Antiracist Action

As a society of scholars committed to the study of human variation and diversity, the AAPA stands firmly with the people, organizations, and institutions protesting the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade (among many, many others).  Alongside the disproportionate deaths from COVID-19 occurring in Black, brown, and Indigenous communities, these fatalities stem from the systemic racism embedded in U.S. society and institutions. We are committed to using our work to dismantle the systems that have brought us to this painful place today.   

Our knowledge of human biology, variation, and history shows that race does not have roots in biology but in policies and practices of colonialism and oppression. This fact must be broadcast widely, loudly, and frequently until it is common knowledge.  

AAPA also recognizes that the discipline of biological (physical) anthropology played a central role in establishing these racist and discriminatory systems. Some of the founding and prominent leaders of physical anthropology used their research to justify policies that led to the inequity, oppression, and violence that continues to occur against Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color in the United States today.  One of our missions as an organization, which is important to restate here, is to counter the impact of harmful work done by our professional predecessors and to call out scientific racism today. 

To the public: 

The AAPA welcomes engagement with outside organizations. We are uniquely positioned to provide the scholarly, scientific, and history-of-science context of racism.

Many of our members have both the knowledge and the communication skills needed to effectively write Op-Eds, develop workshops on human variation and racism, and to engage in other forms of speaking truth to power. Please contact members of our Executive Committee or the Committee on Diversity if we can assist you with your mission.

To our members: 

We should not only be the disseminators of information about human variation and its disjunction with race/racism. As the academic discipline that provided a seemingly biological justification for colonialism, slavery, and continued oppression, it is on our shoulders to lead the way to a better future. This is a call-to-action at organizational, institutional, and personal levels.  In order to have any credibility and effect change, we need to have accountability and action within our own profession. 

Below we offer specific, actionable ways to start moving forward together.  We ask our members to advocate for change in their own institutions to revise the policies and procedures that perpetuate discrimination. Decolonize your teaching. Center marginalized voices in your classrooms, at meetings, and as editors, reviewers, and administrators.   And most of all, listen to your colleagues and students who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color; give them space to speak, to act, to exercise their judgment. They have had to edit themselves for too long. 

Please, do not forget to take care of yourselves and each other.  Check in on your colleagues.  Avail yourself of the resources below and at physanth.org if you are experiencing trauma.  Reach out to AAPA board members or Committee on Diversity members with ideas and concerns.  Stayed tuned for opportunities to build from the outrage of recent days.  And commit to our part in a better future.

U.S. Supreme Court Rules LGBTQ+ Protected From Job Discrimination

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 15: Joseph Fons holding a Pride Flag, stands in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building after the court ruled that LGBTQ people can not be disciplined or fired based on their sexual orientation June 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. With Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Neil Gorsuch joining the Democratic appointees, the court ruled 6-3 that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In major LGBTQIAA+ news beyond biological anthropology, the Supreme Court ruled a combined ruling for three cases (Altitude Express v. ZardaBostock v. Clayton County, and Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC) that LGBTQ individuals are protected from discrimination against sexual orientation and/or gender identity. The legal granting of this basic human right is long overdue but great news!

The above image was found in an article from the Rolling Stone site.

Intersectional Theory and Skeletal Studies

Listen to this episode of The Arch and Anth Podcast in which Derek Boyd (Ph.D. student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville) discusses intersectional theory and a range of topics in biological anthropology (including forensic anthropology, bioarchaeology, and paleopathology).

“What was happening socially and technologically in industrial-era #England? How does Derek want to study historical health in this context through a combination of scientific methodologies and archival research? Why is the application of #intersectionaltheory to studies of archaeological human remains becoming a more common approach? 🏭📚💭 How may we understand the past better by considering the intersections of age, sex, #race, #class and geographical location when interpreting data? What about Derek’s other research in #taphonomy facilities (or otherwise known as #bodyfarms), and does intersectional thinking play into his work as a forensic anthropologist too? 📊🦴 Listen to Derek’s answers on archandanth.com, or iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and anywhere else you find #podcasts! 🎧

Spotlight – Dr. Ryan Thoreson from Human Rights Watch

“Navigating Professional Spaces: Dr. Ryan Thoreson Provides Experience-Based Tips and Tricks for Creating a Queer-Friendly Environment in the Workplace”

Ryan Thoreson is the Robert M. Cover-Allard K. Lowenstein Fellow in International Human Rights at Yale Law School. He is also a researcher with Human Rights Watch’s LGBT Rights Program in New York City.

For our first ever spotlight, we sat down with Dr. Ryan Thoreson from Human Rights Watch (HRW) to talk about, among other things, navigating the world of human rights as a queer anthropologist. Our conversation centered around Dr. Thoreson’s experiences being out professionally as a practicing anthropologist at HRW. Upon reflecting on the experiences that led him to his position today, Dr. Thoreson also provided advice to students and professionals who are navigating similar circumstances. We present this information in several themes: How “out” to be when navigating professional spaces, advice to students and academics, advice to non-academics, and tips for engaging the LGBTQ+ community.

How “out” to be when navigating professional spaces.

Dr. Thoreson described how an important first step in navigating professional spaces as a member of the LGBTQ+ community is assessing how rewarding the environment is going to be. He described his colleagues at the HRW as more than understanding and accepting, but we all know that not all work environments are LGBTQ+ friendly and that not all colleagues will be allies. A way to assess this environment is by evaluating corporate policy through the human resources department. How does your company handle parental leave or transitioning at work? How do they define discriminatory practices and how do they respond to them? While some of these situations can be mediated with a simple visit to Human Resources (HR), others can be an uphill battle. It is important to recognize which is which.

Whether you find your professional space to be welcoming or not, Dr. Thoreson also stated the importance of finding professional working groups both in your field or adjacent fields. These groups can foster solidarity with peers and serve as platforms from which to change corporate policy.

Next, Dr. Thoreson described gauging how your unique perspective can contribute to your anthropological training, research, and/or work. Dr. Thoreson found that his interest in theories on sexuality and gender from his beginnings in anthropology fed well into his research interests, and as he pulled from his own personal experience, being a queer anthropologist became a part of his developing professional identity. His identity was relevant to put on his resume because it meshed will with his own research. How relevant is your identity to your own research and can being out professionally strengthen your work?

Advice to students and academics.

While Dr. Thoreson has incorporated his queer identity into his professional identity, he emphasized that working on deeply personal issues may not be sustainable if you do not love your work. However, LGBTQ+ individuals are in the unique position to enrich their research with their own personal experiences and reflections. If you are interested in incorporating gender and sexuality into your work,

Dr. Thoreson recommends to not shy away or be afraid of broadening your horizons with the inclusion of these interests.

We also talked about how in today’s current sociopolitical climate, it is easy to become defensive and singularly focused in anything that we say or do. Dr. Thoreson stated that by making bridges and connections between your research interests, gender and sexuality can more easily become components of research that enrich your work overall. Students and academics should also further look to make connections and engage with LGBTQ+ communities and allies in your department and in larger structures within the university. Not only does this set the foundation for future collaboration, but can help us, as queer anthropologists, to help legitimize queer scholarship both within our own research and that of others.

Advice to non-academics.

Dr. Thoreson also provided advice to non-academics and those students who are interested in pursuing careers outside of the academy. Most importantly, find your allies. Think carefully about what sorts of allies you want in your life and think broadly as to the sorts of positions that they might occupy both in the workplace and in your personal life, if necessary. Through our allies, you may be able to forge strong connections that help create positive workplace experiences and promote your well-being. He suggested that a good rule of thumb is to always be as generous with your allies as you’d like them to be with you. Recalling upon his past experiences, Dr. Thoreson suggested that we mobilize our allies to encourage positive change in the workplace through interrogating HR policies, institutional policies, and being vocal about issues pertaining to discrimination based on, for example, sexual orientation and gender diversity.

Tips for engaging the Queer community.

When asked about how to engage the queer community through our research and/or professional employment, Dr. Thoreson recommended that we continue to produce content. Get that information out to those who need it most, to those who view that information as a source of empowerment and those who look to that same information to make sense of themselves and their surroundings. This means finding existing social media platforms that are producing content and forging relationships with the people running those platforms. Doing so will help us make our voices heard. Specifically, it will help to promote queer scholarship, to build and sustain new platforms for communication, and provide a precedence for the formation of ad hoc committees, such as the one that prompted the creation of this blog.

Authors: Caroline Znachko (cznachko@vols.utk.edu) and Derek Boyd (dboyd15@vols.utk.edu).

Queer and Trans Identities in the Ancient World

Listen to this amazingly interesting and powerful episode of The Arch and Anth Podcast about queer and trans identities in the ancient world! #TransArchaeology

“Today, Johnny Miller (The University of Tennessee, Knoxville) talks about his research looking at gender and sexual identities in the ancient Mediterranean. Johnny’s studies are concentrated on the Cult of Cybele, or, according to the Romans, Cybele was considered the Magna Mater (“Great Mother”). Worship of her spread into the Roman world from the east, and her priests (the Galli) castrated themselves upon entering her service. Why did they do this and what was the socioreligious function of worshipping Cybele? While our conceptions of transgender identity likely cannot be extrapolated to accurate understandings of gender in classical times, what can we say about gender identity (or other aspects of identity like sexual identity) in the early historical period? You can find more information in the show notes under the episode on our website. You can e-mail the podcast address if you have any questions or feedback for Johnny, and find Michael Rivera on Twitter and Instagram as well. The Arch and Anth Podcast is on Twitter and Instagram, and it has a Facebook page. If you liked this episode and you want to help contribute to the show, please visit the Patreon page for details on how to do that.”

Transgender Experience and Health with Zachary DuBois

Listen to this episode of The Sausage of Science Podcast with Cara & Chris podcast, produced with the Public Relations Committee of the Human Biology Association, as Dr. Zachary DuBois discusses his recent publication, “”Stigma and diurnal cortisol among transitioning transgender men.”

“In episode 32, we chat with Dr. Zachary Dubois, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Oregon. Dr. Dubois discusses his most recent research publication, featured in his 2018 HBA talk, “Stigma and diurnal cortisol among transitioning transgender men”, as well as his upcoming collaborative research projects. Dr. DuBois joined the Department of Anthropology in the Fall of 2018. As a biocultural anthropologist, his research draws on both qualitative and quantitative methods to ask questions at the intersection of biology and culture. Most broadly, he is interested in social determinants of health and the ways in which our social lives become embodied. Relatedly is an interest in how we adapt and remain resilient in the face of dynamic (environmental and bodily) changes and how these impact health and well-being. For more information on his work, check out his webpage with the University of Oregon at :anthropology.uoregon.edu/profile/zdubois/, or get in touch with him through Twitter @Zachsjack or email at: zdubois@uoregon.edu.”