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ANTH 222

Anthropologies of the Body

Man and woman cosmetically modified to look like Ken and Barbie dolls.Bodies are physical and sensual, personal and public, the result of evolution, and yet seemingly infinitely malleable and attuned to local histories and desires.  As such, this course will take a holistic biocultural approach to exploring what bodies are, what they are used for, by whom, for what purposes, and how we come to know such things.  To do this, students will become familiar with the temporal and cross-cultural diversity central to anthropological studies of the body – inspired by bioarchaeology, cultural and medical anthropology.  We will draw upon evolutionary, medical, ethnographic, phenomenological, political-economic, historical and bioarchaeological perspectives on the body.

Questions posed in this class will include:

  • What is a body?
  • What does it mean to be “normal”?
  • What is deviancy and how is it manifested by the body in life and after death?
  • Should babies’ bodies be modified before birth?
  • Why are sex and gender not the same thing and how many sexes are there? 
  • What are 'tweens' and why did they not exist 20 years ago?
  • Who owns your genetic code? 
  • Are there evolved human universals in terms of beauty ideals? 
  • How are choices regarding cosmetic surgery influenced by concerns regarding aging, race, and affluence?
  • What is biological death and who gets to determine when it has occurred? 
  • How do the deceased continue live a social life after death?



Dr. Alexis Dolphin