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Rachel Watkins

Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology

  • My research focuses on the biological and social history of African Americans living in the 19th and 20th century urban US. Specifically, I examine the health consequences of poverty and inequality through skeletal and documentary data analysis.

    I conduct on-going research on the W. Montague Cobb skeletal collection, which is made up of DC residents who died in the city between 1930 and 1969. There is extensive cultural information associated with the collection that makes it ideal for examining various biocultural interrelationships.

    Research of this kind is useful for understanding health and disease patterns in marginal populations over time, as well as their relationship to changing historical trends and policies. Therefore, bioanthropological research has an important role to play in the future development of health policy and health advocacy practices.

    I teach Roots of Racism, Human Origins, courses on race, biology and culture, social theory and human biology.
  • Degrees

    PhD, Anthropology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
    MAA, Applied Anthropology, University of Maryland, College Park
    BA, Anthropology, Howard University
  • OFFICE

  • CAS - Anthropology
  • Hamilton - 304
  • Tuesdays and Fridays, 11:30-12:30 and by appointment/phone/skype as needed.
  • CONTACT INFO

  • (202) 885-1663 (Office)
  • Send email Profile UserID
  • FOR THE MEDIA

  • To request an interview for a
    news story, call AU Communications
    at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.

Partnerships & Affiliations

  • Association of Black Anthropologists, American Anthropological Association

    Associate Editor, Transforming Anthropology

  • American Anthropological Association

    Member

  • Society for Applied Anthropology

    Member

  • Society for the Anthropology of North America

    Member

  • AU: Educational Policy Committee

    Member

  • AU Department of Anthropology: Undergraduate Studies Committee

    Member

Teaching

  • Spring 2014

    • HNRS-040 University Honors Study/Travel: Kenya
    • Description
    • HNRS-302 Honors Collqm in Social Sc: Kenya & Myths re:Human Nature
    • Description

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Research Interests

Keywords: African American biohistory and social history, skeletal biology, osteoarthritis, social and biological constructions of race, natural and social histories of disease, Washington, DC, health policy and health advocacyProjects:

       
  • The Role of African American Skeletal Remains in Constructing the Evolutionary Lineage of Race
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  • Skeletal Indicators of Activity Stress and Social Inequality in the W. Montague Cobb Skeletal Collection
  •    
  • Connecting Skeletal Collections to their Descendant Communities: Political, Historical and Policy Implications

Professional Presentations

       
  • Co-Chair of the session, Transforming Biological Anthropology: Interdisciplinary intersections and Theoretical Innovation. American Anthropological Association annual meeting, November 2006.
  •    
  • “’Poor’, ‘Marginal,’ ‘Urban’ and ‘Other’: The Racial Implications of Categorizing Human Skeletal Collections.” Presented at the American Anthropological Association annual meetings, November 2006.
  •    
  • Co Chair and Co-Organizer of the session, Revisiting the New York African Burial Ground Project: Noting Articulations with Research and Political Struggles in Washington, DC. American Anthropological Association annual meeting, November 2007 (Presidential session).
  •    
  • “What about the 'Bones in the Basement?': How the New York African Burial Ground Project Informs the Treatment and Analysis of Cadaver Populations.”  Presented at the American Anthropological Association annual meetings, November 2007.
  •    
  • “American Queer (and other) Legacies of Tuskegee.”  Presented at the American Anthropological Association annual meetings, Washington, DC, November 2005 (invited session).
  •    
  • Invited lecture at the University of Pennsylvania Department of Archaeology and Anthropology Colloquium Series.  April 2005.  Lecture Title: “The Health Consequences of Containment: Life in the City, 1890-1950.”
  •    
  • Guest lecture, Biology, Sex and Gender (WGST 350), Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, American University.  February 2005.  Lecture title: “The Five Sexes.”
  •    
  • Guest lecture, Archaeology and Politics (ANTH 531), Department of Anthropology, American University.  January 2005.  Lecture Title: “The Politics of the New York African Burial Ground.”
  •    
  • Invited lecture at the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists meeting and colloquium December 2004.  Lecture Title:  “W. Montague Cobb: Washington Native and Scholar-activist.”
  •    
  • Invited keynote address at the Strengthening the Teaching of American History Conference, School of Education, American University.  December 2004.  Lecture Title: “The Role of Public Anthropology in American History Education.”

Media Appearances

       
  • Innaugural feature article in MiSciNet/Science Careers.org online magazine, “Piecing Together the Past, ”December 2005.
  •    
  • January 2008 – Pacifica Radio, Commentary on Barack Obama’s visit to American University

Selected Publications

       
  • Laboratory Organization, Methods and Processes (co-authored with M. Blakey, M. Mack and K. Shujaa).  In New York African Burial Ground: Skeletal Biology Report.  M. Blakey and L. Rankin-Hill, eds. Department of Anthropology, Howard University, Washington, D.C. and the Institute for Historical Biology, Department of Anthropology, The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA.  2004, pp. 113-144.
  •    
  • Skeletal Indicators of Work: Musculoskeletal, Arthritic and Traumatic Effects (co-authored with C.Wilczak, C. Null and M. Blakey).  In New York African Burial Ground: Skeletal Biology Report.  M. Blakey and L. Rankin-Hill, eds. Department of Anthropology, Howard University, Washington, D.C. and the Institute for Historical Biology, Department of Anthropology, The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA. 2004, pp. 379-425.
  •    
  • “Knowledge from the Margins: W. Montague Cobb´s Pioneering Research in Biocultural Anthropology,” American Anthropologist 109: 186-196.
  •    
  • Diseases, Racial in  John Hartwell Moore. (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Race and Racism, Vol. 1. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2008. p407-412.
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  • Forthcoming: “Tuskegee on the ‘Down Low’: A Bioculturalist Brings the Past into the Present” In E. Lewin and W. Leap (eds.) Out in Public, Rockwell Press.

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

       
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, American Association of University Women Educational Foundation, Washington, D.C., AY 2005-2006.
  •    
  • Research Grant, The College of Arts and Sciences, American University, Washington, D.C., January 2004.