Departmental Papers (HSS)

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Journal Article

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Publication Source

Current Anthropology





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We introduce a special issue of Current Anthropology developed from a Wenner-Gren symposium held in Teresópolis, Brazil, in 2010 that was about the past, present, and future of biological anthropology. Our goal was to understand from a comparative international perspective the contexts of genesis and development of physical/biological anthropology around the world. While biological anthropology today can encompass paleoanthropology, primatology, and skeletal biology, our symposium focused on the field's engagement with living human populations. Bringing together scholars in the history of science, science studies, and anthropology, the participants examined the discipline's past in different contexts but also reflected on its contemporary and future conditions. Our contributors explore national histories, collections, and scientific field practice with the goal of developing a broader understanding of the discipline's history. Our work tracks a global, uneven transition from a typological and essentialist physical anthropology, predominating until the first decades of the twentieth century, to a biological anthropology informed by postsynthesis evolutionism and the rise of molecular biology, a shift that was labeled "new physical anthropology." We place biological anthropology in a broad historical context and suggest how the histories we document can inform its future.

Copyright/Permission Statement

© 2012 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.



Date Posted: 24 October 2017

This document has been peer reviewed.