Departmental Research Themes
Departmental Research Themes.
Faculty teaching and research interests have coalesced around contemporary themes in anthropological and social science traditions, including medical anthropology, political-economy, ecological approaches, economic anthropology, power and identity, gender, social organization, transnational systems, and cultural complexity.
Faculty from all three sub-disciplines—archaeology, biological, cultural—engage in discussions across these themes, with the outcome that the department promotes, in the great anthropological tradition, a holistic approach to examining the human experience.
Faculty have identified five broad themes around which the department's research, teaching, and outreach converge: critical studies of health; livelihoods, ecology, and change; power, economies, and governance; identities and transnational flows; and gender and social relations. These broad themes are described in more detail below.ecology, and change
Critical Studies of Health — This research and graduate teaching concentration examines the gendered, sexed, racial/ethnic, and economic dimensions of health and affliction as dynamic cultural processes occurring in fields of power. Anthropology faculty engaged in critical studies of health consider wellness and illness from the standpoint of lived experience, as well as through the myriad ways that social location, institutions, and access to resources might affect wellbeing. We employ qualitative and quantitative methods and theoretical approaches that intersect critical medical anthropology; bio-cultural analysis; ethnography of science and technology; gender and sexuality studies; anthropology of the body; globalization studies and public health. Current faculty research includes: women's health activism; health concerns among rural populations; sexuality and the body; medicine and postcoloniality; chronic and infectious diseases; environmental influences on health; nutrition and health; and global health policies.
Livelihoods, Ecology, and Change — This cluster of research and teaching interests brings together theoretical frameworks and disciplinary content from economic and ecological anthropology, and intersects with analysis of social process, in the past and present. A focus on livelihoods captures the ways in which access to social, economic, and ecological resources shape people's pursuit of different income and social strategies. Some of the faculty research in this concentration includes: migration, land use practices and environmental change in Zambia; livelihood and nutrition security among migrants in Zambia; fair trade coffee and commodity chains in Central America; nutrition and poverty in eastern Kentucky, USA; socio-economic and political complexity among the Olmec; Spanish contact period economic and political systems in the U.S. Southeast, agricultural origins in the eastern U.S., and prehistoric household economy in Mesoamerica.
Power, Economies, and Governance — This theme engages the interconnections among personal and institutional power and control over material resources. Study in this area encompasses diverse topics falling within the realms of political and economic anthropology. Current faculty research focuses on national and global political-economies, state violence and resistance, and the origins of sociopolitical hierarchy, specialized craft production, and property rights.
Identities and Transnational Flows — Several of the sociocultural anthropology and archaeology faculty specialize in the catalytic capacity of objects to transform facets of identities and, in turn, for the meaning of objects to be transformed. These capacities are examined both in the circumstances of their production and consumption, and as they flow across regions, ethnic, or national boundaries. Others consider similar themes with respect to the transcultural and transnational voluntary, impelled, or forced movements of humans. Aspects of identities being researched include political, economic, ethnic, national and social organizational (including gendered and generational). Theoretical approaches to these research foci include commodity chain analysis, the cultural biography of things, and practice theory. Advocacy aspects of these research foci include indigenous peoples' rights, and the ethics of cultural heritage and cultural property.
Gender and Social Relations — Gender dynamics and social relations in collectivities on various scales from households to the transnational are important themes in the work of our faculty. Recent research has included analysis of gendered selves negotiating health delivery systems; the role of kin networks in mitigating scarcity; the social context of resource exploitation and exchange; the impact of kinship and descent ideology on gendered constructs, agency and gendered sodality groups; gendered citation practices in archaeology journals; and "honor" violence in state-building. This work represents a variety of theoretical approaches and both quantitative and qualitative methods. Activism on behalf of people and resources rendered vulnerable by gendered and broader social relations has ranged from advocacy for site preservation along prehistoric trading routes to raising awareness about gender inequities in poverty and displacement.
Faculty Research Projects
Faculty are engaged in numerous research projects, many of which are collaborative endeavors with other UK faculty and staff or researchers at other universities and institutions. Graduate students will often work directly with a faculty member on aspects of their research or may design related research in regions of their own choosing. A brief summary of current faculty research projects may be found on this linked page.
Recent Publications and Grants
The department actively encourages students as well as faculty and staff to publish results of their research in prominent journals and academic books. We have compiled a list of recently published books and journal articles by faculty, staff, and students, which reflects the strength of the department's academic program, and is a convenient way to browse current and recently completed research projects.
Successful grant writing is a skill learned at the graduate school level that has life-long application whether in academia, government, or the private sector. Students as well as faculty and staff commonly apply for external funding to support their research. We have compiled a list of recently funded research grants by faculty, staff, and students as an indicator of the department's strength in obtaining extramural funding.
Dissertation topics also reflect the cutting edge of a department's graduate program. A complete list of doctoral students and their dissertation titles since inception of the Ph.D. program may be found on this linked page.