Alan C. Swedlund
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RESEARCH INTERESTS: My primary research lies in questions of population and health in prehistoric, historical, and contemporary settings. I am particularly interested in measures of changing health through time and how these relate to environmental, biological and cultural processes.

AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION: I have broad geographic interests but my research experience is in the prehistoric southwestern U.S., historical New England, and contemporary Southwest and Central America, particularly the eastern Yucatan. In the Southwest I have been most interested in issues of population aggregation and expansion of Puebloan (Anasazi) groups and in the associated inferences about health that are possible through skeletal biology and modeling. Recent work has been in collaboration with research scientists at the Santa Fe Institute, and the project is under the direction of Dr. George Gumerman, SFI.

The major area of my research is in New England utilizing historical records of the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I have been focusing on a series of communities located in the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts that go through a number of demographic, economic and health transitions. One of the goals is to be able to pinpoint when important transformations take place in the demography or disease ecology and then to isolate the key social, economic, and environmental variables responsible. Emphasis has been on mortality of infants, children, and women (see publications).

In the Yucatan I have served as consultant to a project on the biological impacts of tourism in a number of Mayan communities in Quintana Roo. This is a collaborative project that includes the University of Massachusettts, Hampshire College, University of South Carolina and Universidad Nacional Autunoma de Mexico. The research is in the early phases but is asking questions about how development--and particularly tourism--impacts these communities each of which has varying levels of involvement in the tourist economy. Directors of this project are Drs. Brooke Thomas (UMass), Oriol Pi-Sunyer (UMass), Alan Goodman (Hampshire), Thomas Leatherman (USC), and Magali Daltabuit (UNAM).

THEORETICAL INTERESTS: I combine the methodologies of demography, epidemiology, and physical anthropology in my research. The general approach is one that is very much grounded in the kind of biocultural perspective that was pioneered at the University of Massachusetts. This perspective, as opposed to biosocial perspectives, is much less interested in evolutionary ecology and much more interested in the interactions between cultural processes and human biological conditions. It tends to focus on cultural and environmental causalities and biological outcomes as opposed to genetic and biological determinants of cultural/behavioral outcomes. In addition, I am interested in the history of biological anthropology and particularly in the various ways the human body has been studied to ascertain aspects of health and identity, whether they be related to race, gender, ethnicity, or other categories. For this I have worked closely with cultural anthropologists and students of the history of science.

COURSES TAUGHT: Introduction to Human Origins and Variation; Research Techniques in Skeletal Biology; History of Health and Disease; Demographic Anthropology; Method and Theory in Physical Anthropology; Population and Health. I also occasionally teach a course on the American Southwest.

NON-PROFESSIONAL INTERESTS AND HOBBIES: Like many anthropologists I have interests in travel, food and cooking. In addition, I enjoy a number of outdoor activities including hiking and skiing, landscaping, fly-fishing. I also have a strong interest in the architecture, material culture, and technologies of America in the period roughly from 1910-1941--and especially as these relate to the history of the automobile. I have restored a 1935 Ford pickup truck and enjoy driving it.


flag Cholera, Canker Rash and Consumption: Historical epidemiology and nosology in Massachusetts, 1850-1920
as author at  Graduate Seminar in Public Health,