Understanding the nature of human variation is a central research theme in biological anthropology. In this class we will tackle human variation and adaptation from a number of perspectives, which are reflected in the three broad sections of the course. First, we will explore the theoretical frameworks and concepts that are used to understand human variation. This includes explorations of our evolutionary past, the relationship between genes and phenotypes, and introductory concepts of biocultural approaches in biological anthropology.
The second main theme of the course will be human adaptation. Here we address how humans adapt (short term, long term, and developmentally) to various stressors.
For our third and final theme, we will draw from the earlier themes in the course to investigate through evolutionary and historical perspectives our current understanding of variation in modern humans, as well as the idea of the biocultural production of the body. A large component of this section of the course will revolve around the notion of race and human variation and how we might begin to think about such a complex topic more productively. Here we will address questions like: Does race exist on a biological level?What are some of the ways we can explore human morphological differences without invoking antiquated notions of race, and what do those differences really mean? This course is designed to be of interest to a broad variety of students. Emphasis will be placed on critical analysis and communication skills that can be useful to students pursuing careers in any field.
The class is intended to be an interactive learning process with an emphasis on discussion and students are required to take a very active part in class.