Dr. Adam Boyette, Thompson Writing Program Fellow

Monday, July 3, 2017

Dr. Adam Boyette is an anthropologist and Lecturing Fellow in the TWP. In addition to teaching Writing 101 course options from the disciplinary perspectives of biological and cultural anthropology, Boyette also maintains an active research program on issues of child development in small-scale societies. Adam is an expert in children’s social learning and parenting and has worked primarily with hunter-gatherer and subsistence farming communities in the Congo Basin. Over the past two years, his research has taken him to the remote northern Republic of the Congo (also known as Congo-Brazzaville) where he has been leading a comparative study of the culture and biology of fatherhood in two communities.

Adam designed the study with co-principal investigator and biological anthropologist Lee Gettler of the University of Notre Dame. The study, funded by the Jacobs Foundation, asks two main questions: First, does meeting his culture’s expectations of fatherhood impact the health and development of a man’s children? And, second, does men’s biology track cultural expectations such that the biological markers of a “good” father are specific to cultural context?

So far, Adam and his team have collected informal and formal interviews, anthropometrics, and biomarker data from one of the two communities they work with, the Bondongo fisher-farmers. His colleagues and he are currently writing up reports of this portion of the study, but Adam presented preliminary results at the annual meeting of the Society for Cross Cultural Research and the bi-annual meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development. This summer, he will return to complete the study among the Mbendjele forest forager community that makes a living in the forests neighboring the Bondongo villages.

Adam is excited about this truly biocultural study because it draws together several lines of inquiry and, through collaboration, greatly expands on his prior research. Specifically, the project has implications for: broadening our views of fatherhood and the roles men can play in family systems generally; our understanding of parenthood and family systems in relatively traditional contexts in rural Congo during a time of cultural change; the impact of men’s parenting on children’s health in different family systems and cultural contexts; the interaction between culture and biology in motivating men’s parenting; and the role of context specificity in the evolution of men’s psychobiology.

Adam’s teaching for the TWP reflects his interest in integrative anthropological inquiry represented by his research. His Writing 101 courses have included, Hunter-Gatherer’s Today: Representations of Contemporary Hunter-gatherers in Research and Popular Culture; The Biocultural Natural of Childhood; Neanderthal Tales: Paleoanthropology and What It Means to be Human; and Medical Anthropology: Biocultural Dimensions of Health (will be taught Fall 2017).