I study how biology and culture interact to organize and motivate children’s learning and people’s cooperation in the education and care of children. As I will describe below, specific questions driving my current research include: “Does culture interact with evolved psychology to pattern social learning during middle childhood?” and “How do cultural values and men’s psychobiology impact men’s paternal care and related outcomes for children of being a “good father” as locally defined? My research into these questions has involved fieldwork in small-scale, multi-ethnic communities of hunter-gatherers and subsistence farmers in the Congo Basin.
As a postdoctoral lecturer in the interdisciplinary Thompson Writing Program here at Duke, I developed three syllabi designed to introduce academic writing through critical, interdisciplinary engagement with ideas around human nature, culture, and our position as members of a global community. In Hunter-Gatherers Today, students learn about the diversity and commonalities among contemporary hunter-gatherers and what hunter-gatherer studies teach us about human evolution. They also conduct research in applied anthropology on problems facing contemporary hunter-gatherers. In The Biocultural Nature of Childhood, students learn about: how research in biological and cultural anthropology has challenged and advanced aspects of attachment theory (e.g. cross-cultural research; cooperative breeding; biology of co-sleeping and feeding; biology of fatherhood); biocultural aspects of gender role development; and the evolution and cultural diversity of childhood. In Neanderthal Tales, students explore what it means to be human from the perspective of human origins studies. With a focus on the evolution and diversity of the genus Homo, students learn through readings and research projects how paleoanthropologists come to understand our past and how genetic, fossil, and paleoarcheological evidence is used to construct evolutionary arguments. Finally, I am developing a course on Medical Anthropology that integrates political-economic, cultural, and biological perspectives in a focused, cumulative investigation of “health” and “illness” in American families