Faculty Research Interests

Current Faculty

ALDANA, GERARDO  (Joint appointment with Chicana and Chicano Studies)

Professor Aldana is interested in the cultural translation of science broadly considered. Past and current research has focused on the recovery of ancient Mayan astronomy within religious and political contexts, but other interests include modern considerations of science education, economics, and the environment. Professor Aldana has worked on adapting Science Studies methodology to address the astronomy and calendrics of Mesoamerican archaeological data, particularly in architectural orientations and Mayan hieroglyphic texts. This work has resulted in focused studies on the Classic Mayan cities of Palenque, Copan, and Tikal, and the Postclassic cities of Chich’en Itza and Mayapan. The Apotheosis of Janaab’ Pakal: Science, History, and Religion at Classic Maya Palenque (University Press of Colorado, Boulder, 2007), for example, recovers the invention of a calendric tool (the so-called 819-Day Count) and its application to the ritual, history, and mythology of the ruling dynasty. Recent work has concentrated on the Venus Table in the Dresden Codex—a screenfold, bark-paper manuscript from the Postclassic period. His newest projects involve indigenous medicine and the origins of Mesoamerican calendrics.



Professor Blackwell is a human biologist and behavioral ecologist whose research examines health and life history in small scale Amazonian societies. His research examines how immune function develops in populations exposed to high levels of pathogens and how early life experiences shape health later in life in both small scale and industrialized populations. His research incorporates both field and laboratory work to examine biological outcomes. His other interests include examining how market integration affects health and development, senescence and aging, and ecological effects on parental investment and growth.
The questions motivating Professor Blackwell’s research are the fundamental questions of life history theory: How do organisms allocate resources to the competing demands of growth, reproduction, and somatic maintenance? How do organisms use cues in their environments to predict future demands? How do early environments affect health and well-being later in life? How does our modern environment differ from the conditions under which we evolved, and what are the consequences of our novel environment on health and ontogeny?  His current work addresses what has come to be known as the hygiene hypothesis, which postulates that some of our diseases of “modernity” such as diabetes, obesity, and allergy, may occur because in our modern sterile environments our immune systems are not challenged by the pathogens we evolved with, and thus react in non-adaptive ways.


BROOKS, JAMES F. (Joint appointment with History)

James F. Brooks is an interdisciplinary scholar of intercultural borderlands, with a primary emphasis on the North American Southwest, although he has researched and published in the northern Plains of the US and Canada, the Argentine Pampas, as well as the Russian Caucasus and South Africa.  Borderlands scholarship for him is comparative, at least in its conception, and attentive to theory that informs and extends our understanding of identity formation, violence, race and gender studies, and relationships between the local and the state. In addition to the prize-winning Captives & Cousins: Slavery, Kinship and Community in the Southwest Borderlands, he has edited or co-edited volumes on the “Black-Indian” experience in North America, women and gender in the American West, interdisciplinary approaches to the genre of microhistory, “salmon cultures” across the northern Pacific from Kamchatka to the Columbia River, and have a volume on the varieties of human bondage in North America under peer review. He has published across multiple disciplines in refereed journal articles and essays – historical archaeology, feminist studies, cultural studies, Native American studies, film studies, historical epidemiology, anthropology, and history.  Most recently, the editors of the American Historical Review commissioned his contribution to a Forum in on “Investigating the History in Prehistory,” which saw print in June 2013.  This essay, “Women, Men, and Cycles of Evangelism in the Southwest Borderlands, AD 750 to 1750,” is a venture into “deep history” and serves as a preview for the appearing in 2016, Mesa of Sorrows: Archaeology, Prophecy, and the Ghosts of Awat’ovi Pueblo, under contract with W.W. Norton and Co.  This story, told in a kaleidoscope of perspectives, explores the ancient origins and modern valences of a notorious case of internecine violence in late 1700, when a coalition of Hopi villages combined to annihilate their neighboring town of Awat’ovi Pueblo. It is a history that unsettles popular notions of “the peaceful Pueblos” while simultaneously affirming a distinctly non-Western Hopi perspective on prophetic histories, which exist to guide humane behavior in the present and forecast crises in the future.



Professor Brown is a primate behavioral ecologist interested in the evolution of social systems, the interplay of cooperative and competitive actions, and the effects of environmental change on the behavior of individuals, groups, and populations. Her current research focuses on individual motivations for participating in between-group conflicts, using redtail monkeys in Kibale National Park, Uganda as a study system. Other ongoing projects include an investigation of competitive interspecific interactions among blue monkeys, redtail monkeys, and grey-cheeked mangabeys at several sites in Kibale; and analyses of the motivations for female and male participation during between-group conflicts across primate, carnivore, and ungulate taxa. In addition to running a primate behavioral observation program at the Ngogo site in Kibale, Professor Brown's work incorporates habitat monitoring and endocrinology (urinary C-peptide of insulin, cortisol, and testosterone) to understand the drivers and physiological effects of competition.



Professor Gamble’s research is focused on emergent sociopolitical complexity among hunter-gatherer societies in southern California, especially the Chumash Indians. Her research interests encompass issues relating to this concentration. Other topics of  research interest for professor Gamble include economic structure, emergent socio-political complexity, household and settlement archaeology, culture contact, conflict and social integration,  cultural landscapes and working with Native American communities.



Professor Gaulin is a biological anthropologist with special interests in the force of sexual selection in human evolution and in evolution of psychological mechanisms.  He has several current research initiatives: the evolution of female fat metabolism and associated male mating preferences; sex differences in the human voice; sex differences in spatial cognition; and the role of immune factors in human mating.  He recently completed a ten-year term as an editor-in-chief of Evolution and Human Behavior. 



Professor Gurven focuses his research in two principal areas: human social behavior and life history evolution. He has studied how members of small-scale societies organize inter-personal relations to solve salient, recurrent economic problems. This includes the sharing of food and labor among foragers and horticulturalists, which can help reduce the chance of daily food shortages as well as signal important information about a donor's status or intentions. He has extensively investigated these and related topics concerning risk and among two Amazonian populations, the Ache of Paraguay and the Tsimane of Bolivia. Among the Ache, studying differences in behavior when switching from a nomadic foraging to a sedentary horticultural context reveals important aspects of social change as population’s transition from foragers to agriculturalists.

He currently directs the Tsimane Life History and Health Project, which aims to investigate aspects of demography, sociality, growth, development and senescence, in an attempt to better understand the evolution of our distinctly human life history traits, including long post-reproductive lifespan, extended development and delayed maturation, a highly encephalized brain, and widespread cooperation. This includes systematic revisions of age-related changes across the lifespan in morbidity and mortality, immunity and repair mechanisms, physiological development and decline, and both economic and social skills development, Professor Gurven emphasizes observational, experimental, and ethnographic-based methodologies.

Other interests include variable social norms of fairness and trust in small communities, intra-household allocation of labor, conflicts between the sexes in fertility preferences, population dynamics in transitional communities and the decision processes underlying changes in fertility, and the study of anonymous giving in modern societies.


HANCOCK, MARY (Joint appointment with the Department of History)

Professor Hancock is a cultural anthropologist with interests in the politics of public memory, the anthropology of space and place, nationalism and statecraft, and religion. She holds a joint appointment with the Department of History at UCSB, and courtesy affiliations with the Department of Feminist Studies and the Department of Religious Studies. She has served as Review Editor and Co-Editor of The Public Historian.

She has carried out fieldwork in the southern Indian city of Chennai (formerly Madras). Her first book, Womanhood in the Making: Domestic Ritual and Public culture in Urban South India (Westview, 1999), dealt with the relation of Hindu religious practice to sociocultural and political formations of caste, class, gender and nation in post-colonial India. Her most recent project deals with contemporary cultural debates on national and regional pasts that India’s globalization has triggered. Her new book, The Politics of Heritage from Madras to Chennai (Indiana, 2008), is a product of ethnographic and archival research on those topics. In it, she analyzes the expressions of collective memory and nostalgia that have taken shape in Chennai’s public spaces, considering how new modes of class formation and cultural and religious nationalisms intersect in debates around the representation of local pasts. Theoretical orientations from anthropology, memory studies, and cultural geography inform her interpretation of the spatial transformations associated with the city’s development and its new public memory sites. Following the work of Henri Lefebvre, she deals with public memory sites as examples of the “production of space,” by analyzing public memory sites and practices in relation to the spatial effects of the political economic transformations of the past two decades. In so doing, she grounds global change in the specific institutions, spaces and localities that shape and are shaped by globalization – in particular, how the political career of collective memory in a postcolonial context compares with that of the Eurowestern “heritage industry.” This examination of how transnational forces articulate with specific institutions, sites and interests aims to complicate the simplistic binary that pits “local” against “global” and too often romanticizes the local as a virtuous space of “resistance” to capitalist expansion. The book’s argument, as might be inferred, does not reiterate the economic determinism that often characterizes studies of globalization, but takes account of the interests in the past and its material legacy that are embedded in other social, cultural, and political projects, new and longstanding, such as religious practice, nationalism, and gender and ethnic identity issues. Attention to these different and sometimes contradictory concerns with the past is meant to bring a humanistic perspective to this work, particularly by underscoring the agentive role that memory-practices may fulfill in enabling people to envision structural conditions of the world around them as invented, unfinished, and malleable.

Professor Hancock’s research and writing has been supported by Fulbright-Hays, the American Institute of Indian Studies, the School of Advanced Research (Santa Fe) and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Her articles have appeared in American Ethnologist, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Modern Asian Studies, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, Material Religion, and City and Society as well as numerous edited collections.



Professor Barbara Herr Harthorn is a cultural, medical, and psychological anthropologist who studies risk and perception, the gendered and raced social production of health inequality, responsible development of new technologies, and public participation in techno-scientific systems. Since 2005, she has served as the Director of an NSF national center, the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at UCSB (CNS-UCSB), as well as a group leader and executive committee member in the NSF/EPA-funded UC Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology (UC CEIN) at UCLA. She holds a courtesy affiliation in the Department of Sociology.

In both CNS-UCSB and UC CEIN Professor Harthorn leads international, interdisciplinary teams of researchers using mixed quantitative and qualitative social science research methods to study risk and perception regarding new technology development among diverse stakeholders in the US and abroad. Her past research projects have included studies of California farmworker health, primary care physicians as gatekeepers to mental health services, gender, illness, and healing in rural Fiji, and women urban migrants in Kampala, Uganda. Professor Harthorn is author with John Mohr of The Social Life of Nanotechnology (2012, Routledge) and with Laury Oaks of Health, Culture and Risk: Shifting Perceptions of Danger & Blame (2003, Greenwood/Praeger), as well as numerous articles, chapters, reports, and other publications. She was elected to Fellowship in the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2008.



Professor Jeffrey Hoelle combines his interests in ecological, economic, and applied anthropology to examine the expanding cattle economy in the western Brazilian Amazon state of Acre, Brazil.  He analyzes cattle raising at the intersection of several factors that contribute to its appeal over forest-based livelihoods, including: political economic structures, developmentalist discourses and policies, cauboi (cowboy) and contri (country) popular culture, and perceptions of “appropriate” forms of human-nature interaction. He seeks to understand how three different rural social groups (forest-extractivist rubber tappers, agricultural colonists, and large-scale ranchers) negotiate and respond to these multi-scalar influences and constraints through cattle.  Professor Hoelle is also in the initial stages of a long-term research project in which he compares of human-livestock interactions and “cattle cultures” in Amazonia, the American West, southeastern Africa, and southern India.



Professor Danielle Kurin is an anthropological bioarchaeologist, whose scholarship broadly investigates the bio-cultural impacts of societal collapse and reorganization using multi-method approaches. She currently lead cross-disciplinary, international field research program in the south-central highland region of Andahuaylas, Peru. Kurin and her collaborators employ skeletal and mortuary analysis, biogeochemistry, morphometric and  geospatial data, elemental analyses and archaeometrics in the lab, ethnohistoric research in archives, and ethnographic fieldwork, to analyze and interpret cultural data in integrated, interdisciplinary ways. This type of comprehensive approach is exemplified in several  publications, including articles in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology and International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. Her upcoming book, Between Empires: The Bioarchaeology of Societal Collapse and Regeneration in Ancient Peru, to be published in Springer’s new Bioarchaeology and Social Theory series, focuses on the relationship between ethnogenesis and ethnocide during the early Chanka period of Andean pre-history (AD 1000-1250). Her next book, The Bioarchaeology of Disaster, under contract with Left Coast Press, will demonstrate the application of bioarchaeological theory and method to a full range of historic and pre-historic natural and man-made calamities, hazards, and devastation.



Professor David W. Lawson is an evolutionary anthropologist and population health scientist with interests in the family, childhood and human wellbeing, particularly in the context of the social and demographic changes that accompany economic development. His research practice combines primary data collection in the field and secondary analysis of existing large-scale demographic and health surveys from both contemporary African and European contexts. Current research topics include: the health and wellbeing implications of polygynous marriage and child marriage, evolutionary perspectives on variation in human fertility and the demographic transition, and time allocation trade-offs between child labour and schooling. Professor Lawson is an advocate of the applied potential of evolutionary anthropology to both critique and guide the international development sector. Professor Lawson’s research is carried out in collaboration with research partners in Tanzania, including the NGO ‘Savannas Forever Tanzania’ in Arusha (northeast Tanzania) and the National Institute for Medical Research in Mwanza (northwest Tanzania).



Professor Smith's research interests include imperialism and culture contact between ancient Egypt and Nubia, legitimization and ideology, funerary practice and the social and economic dynamics of ancient Egypt. His methodological focus is on the study of ancient pottery, including the scientific analysis of absorbed residues. His book Askut in Nubia (Kegan Paul, London, 1995) examines the nature of Egyptian imperialism in Nubia. Continuing analysis by Smith of the collection from the Egyptian fortress of Askut addresses household archaeology and the cultural dynamics of colonial situations. Smith has worked on five archeological expeditions to Egypt, including the Nile Delta, Middle Egypt and Luxor's Theban Necropolis. His Dongola Reach Expedition in Sudan investigates Nubian-Egyptian interactions, exploring the rise of Kerman complexity (2000-1500 BC), its conquest by the Egyptian New Kingdom (1500 BC), and the rise of the Napatan Kingdom of Kush, who turned the tables on their conquerors and became Pharaohs of Egypt's 25th Dynasty (1050-750 BC).



For the last two decades, Professor Tooby and his collaborators have been integrating cognitive science, cultural anthropology, evolutionary biology, paleoanthropology, cognitive neuroscience and hunter-gatherer studies to create the new field of evolutionary psychology. The goal of evolutionary psychology is the progressive mapping of the universal evolved cognitive and neural architecture that constitutes human nature, and provides the basis of the learning mechanisms responsible for culture. This involves using knowledge of specific adaptive problems our hunter-gatherer ancestors encountered to experimentally map the design of the cognitive and emotional mechanisms that evolved among our hominid ancestors to solve them. Prof. Tooby is co-director of UCSB's Center for Evolutionary Psychology, where Prof. Tooby and his collaborators use cross-cultural, experimental, and neuroscience techniques to investigate specific cognitive specializations for cooperation, social exchange, threat, friendship, incest avoidance, foraging, predator-prey interactions, coalitions, group psychology, and human reasoning. Under Prof. Tooby's direction, the Center maintains a field station in Ecuadorian Amazonia in order to conduct cross-cultural studies of psychological adaptations and human behavioral ecology. He is particularly interested in documenting how the design of these adaptations shapes cultural and social phenomena, and potentially forms the foundation for a new, more precise generation of social and cultural theories. Prof. Tooby is also working on several projects in evolutionary biology, including a book on the evolution of sexual reproduction and genetic systems that interprets their design features as a series of adaptations to parasitic infections.



Professor VanDerwarker’s research interests are broad in scope, focusing geographically on Mesoamerica and the southeastern United States, and thematically on general foodways studies, including the origins and maintenance of agricultural systems and the overlap between gender and food-related activities. Methodologically, she is interested in integrating both zooarchaeological and archaeobotanical data to achieve a fuller understanding of past subsistence practices. It is her belief that subsistence studies need to incorporate a more complementary approach through the dual consideration of both plant and animal data. She is currently conducting survey and excavation research with her colleague Dr. Philip Arnold (supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation) at the Classic-period site of Teotepec, located in the Sierra de los Tuxtlas, southern Veracruz, Mexico. This ambitious field project will document the role of Teotepec in the broader Mesoamerican exchange system that is a hallmark of the Classic period.



Professor Walsh's research falls into two general areas. The first is the anthropological political economy of the Mexico-US borderlands. For the past ten years he has studied the ways in which water, land and labor have been organized to produce commodities in areas marked by aridity, especially northern Mexico and the southwestern United States. This work took the form of a socioeconomic and cultural history of irrigated cotton agriculture in the borderlands, and in particular, northeastern Mexico. The book that resulted, Building the Borderlands, tells this story of cotton, water, colonization and migration. The other major thrust of his research concerns the history of anthropological thought. Professor Walsh is particularly interested in perspectives that have developed outside of Europe and North America, and has dedicated a good deal of energy to tracing the histories of different traditions within Latin American Anthropology, and the ways in which anthropological thought has been applied to development.



Professor Wilson’s research interests focus on the emergence and collapse of political hierarchies in middle-range societies. Recently, his research efforts have been directed towards investigating the scale and intensity of warfare among late Prehistoric Native American societies in the Midwestern and southeastern United States, particularly the impact of chronic warfare on daily life. He investigates these issues through a household archaeological approach that entails the analysis of large-scale artifactual and architectural data sets from domestic contexts. This research is also facilitated by the use of Geographic Information Systems.


Emeriti Faculty

GLASSOW, MICHAEL - Professor Emeritus

Professor Glassow is investigating cultural responses to environmental changes occurring between 7000 and 4000 ago in the Santa Barbara Channel region of California. He has been undertaking fieldwork at sites along the coastal mainland and on Santa Cruz Island dating to this time interval and is currently involved with processing and analyzing collections from these sites.


JOCHIM, MICHAEL - Distinguished Professor Emeritus

Professor Jochim's research focuses on land use and subsistence change in the European Palaeo-, Meso- and Neolithic, exploring the role of both environmental change and processes of social interaction. To explore these issues he is presently conducting regional surveys and test excavations in southern Germany and Southern France, using GIS to facilitate data integration and analyses.


PALERM, JUAN-VICENTE - Professor Emeritus

There are two research foci to Professor Emeritus Palerm's current research:

1. Agribusiness and the formation of Chicano/Mexican enclaves in rural California, 1960-present. This is a study about the intensification of farming and the expansion of agricultural labor markets, immigration and rural poverty.

2. A binational system of agricultural production: the case of California agribusiness and the Mexican Bajio, 1936-present. This research is on the internationalization of agricultural labor markets, peasant household economies, sojourn migrant workers and capitalist agriculture.

Both programs offer graduate students the opportunity to pursue doctoral research and/or to receive field research training in California and Mexico.


SCHREIBER, KATHARINA - Professor Emerita

Professor Schreiber's research is focused on prehistoric imperialism in Andean South America, on which she based her book entitled Wari Imperialism in Middle Horizon Peru (Anthropological Papers, Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, 1992). In Peru she has completed a multi-year program of survey and excavation in the Nasca region of the south coast, looking at the development of large-scale irrigation systems, the evolution of the Nasca civilization, and Wari imperial conquest.


STONICH, SUSAN - Professor Emerita

Professor Stonich's major research effort examines the globalization of resistance movements to industrial shrimp farming in tropical coastal zones of Latin America, Asia, and Africa. She is directing an interdisciplinary project that addresses the following major research questions: (1) Why have grassroots resistance movements emerged in response to the globalization of the shrimp farming industry? Is collective social action linked to declines in the biophysical environment, to access/equity issues, and/or to national/identity issues? (2) How have local grassroots groups and non-governmental organizations been able to transcend their locality (and diversity in terms of ethnicity, culture, nationality, etc.) to become part of a global network? (3) What are the roles of advanced information (communication and spatial) technologies in facilitating and/or hindering global integration, in providing crucial information, and in achieving shared objectives? (4) To what extent can globalization of resistance activities promote social justice and environmental conservation through strengthening civil society and contributing to alternative visions of development?

As part of her interest in coastal development more generally, she also is engaged in a project demonstrating the human and environmental consequences of tourism development in the Caribbean Basin. The goal of this project is to enhance community-based tourism and natural resource management.

Finally, she has expanded her local project on farm worker health and environmental justice to include problems emanating from conflicts at the agriculture-urban interface. One of the major goals of this project is to investigate the deployment of science in environmental debates.


VOORHIES, BARBARA - Professor Emerita

Professor Emerita Voorhies specializes in the prehistory of Mesoamerica with a particular interest in early, pre-farming peoples of the Pacific coast. In particular her research has focused on why, when and how these people transformed themselves from hunter-fisher-gatherers of wild foods to farmers of a variety of crops. The majority of her work on this topic has taken place on the coast of Chiapas, but recently she has joined other colleagues in working in the vicinity of Acapulco, Guerrero. Voorhies' research is informed by an ecological perspective.