Current News

Honors and Awards

Research Presentations, and Publications

In the Media

Department Activities

Community Outreach


Current News

Ellen GruenbaumEllen Gruenbaum chaired a session at the International Breast Cancer and Nutrition symposium in Guadeloupe, French West Indies, in October.

The Exponent, Purdue University's student-run newspaper conducted an interview with Anthropology faculty Amanda Veile and Erik Otárola-Castillo. The Exponent was interested in our faculty's opinion on the trendy "Paleo" diet. Click on the following link to read the article "Paleo or tasty treat: Does it matter"

Anthropology graduate student, Matthew Pike recently traveled to Michigan State to take part in a National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Digital Humanities funded Institute on Digital Archaeology Method and Practice. Matthew was fortunate to be one of 20 selected out of almost 200 applicants from across the archaeological spectrum (academic, CRM, graduate students, tenured faculty, museum professionals, etc.)
The goal of the institute is to expose interested archaeological scholars to advances in digital methods beyond GIS and database management, including Digital Project Development and Management; 3D & Augmented Reality; Digital Public Outreach and Engagement; Data, Linked Data, and Digital Libraries; Digital Publication and Scholarly Communication; and Geospatial and Digital Cultural Mapping.
The Institute is a year-long experience, with another week-long intensive workshop in August 2016. During his recent visit he was exposed to many new tools, methods, and ways of thinking about digital methods in archaeology from the previously mentioned topics. Over the next year, he (and the rest of the participants) will be developing independent digital archaeology projects with support from the Institute faculty. Matthew’s project (tentatively titled the "Northern Copper Technology Database") will be a public repository of much of the archaeological copper database that Dr. Cooper, Matthew,and Garett Hunt have been constructing. The goal for the project will be to function as an open, central repository for knowledge and data about northern copper metallurgy for researchers.
In addition to the projects scholarly audience, the website will also be designed with input from partnerships in northern indigenous descendant communities so that the information they present will be useful and interesting to these communities as well. Ideally this will function as a form of digital repatriation by providing digital access to material heritage for many extremely rural communities.

We are pleased to welcome Erik Otárola-Castillo to our department.  Erick has recently co-authored and published an article "When mothers need others: Why does it take a village to raise a child." It has almost become cliché to say ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ Why do human mothers, unlike most among mammals, rely on help to raise children? To answer this question, a new study co-authored by Karen Kramer and Erik Otárola-Castillo published in the Journal of Human Evolution, and highlighted by the Harvard Gazette and other popular-media news sources, uses mathematical and numerical modeling to explore mother-offspring characteristics throughout the human evolutionary trajectory. The work shows that during many of the early changes in our evolutionary past, a mother and her children can cooperate as a group to provide sufficient support each other—later in time, however, as more modern human characteristics developed (e.g., earlier weaning, shorter birth intervals, longer juvenile dependence) mothers began to need cooperation from other adults and the community at large." 

The Anthropology Department is hosting a visiting undergraduate research student this summer and in the fall term. Karen Lorena Romero Leal, who is joining us as part of Purdue’s UREP-C program, comes to us from Colombia with an interest in Amazonian indigenous peoples, testimonial literature, and oral histories. Karen will be working with Dr. Laura Zanotti and Dr. Sherri Briller.

An illustrated profile of Prof. Laura Zanotti’s environmental anthropology research and field school in the Amazon rainforest is featured in the latest issue of CLA's THiNK Magazine.

Congratulations to Professors Laura Zanotti and Kory Cooper who have been promoted to Associate Professor!

Ellen Gruenbaum presented a lecture on her research to about 40 UN staff at the United Nations Development Program in Khartoum, Sudan, on Feb. 25th. Her topic was "Generation of Change: FGM/C and Abandonment Efforts in Sudan.”

Ellen Gruenbaum gave a series of lectures to Public Health Master’s students at the Ahfad University for Women in Omdurman, Sudan, in February, during her sabbatical affiliation there.

Honors and Awards

O. Michael Watson Award for Outstanding Graduating Senior

Congratulations to the following students who received the Department of Anthropology's top honors for academic achievement and service, the O. Michael Watson Award for Outstanding Graduating Senior. The Award is named in honor of our legendary professor, Dr. O. Michael Watson (1936-2012), whose dynamic undergraduate courses excited decades of anthropology students. Each year, the student selected goes on to be nominated for consideration for the college of Liberal Arts Outstanding Student Award.

2015 Michael Lockman
2014 Katelyn Revis
2013 Alisha Yadav
2012 Donald Pattee
2010 Monya Anderson
2009 Marcus Glassman
2008 Sarah Kinder
2007 David Fitzsimmons

Walter Hirsch Award

Walter Hirsch was a Purdue faculty member in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology from 1947 until his retirement in 1989, who specialized in social movements and the sociology of science. His family and friends established this award in his memory in recognition of his long time interest in and support of graduate students. Each year, the award provides approximately $1,000 to help with the costs of dissertation research for one doctoral candidate in Anthropology and one in Sociology.

2015 Ingrid Ramon Parra
2014 Jonas Ecke
2013 Elizabeth Wirtz
2012 Sarah Schrader
2011 Franco Lai
2010 Katie Smith
2009 Lesley Daspit


Congratulations to our graduate student Savannah Schulze. She has been awarded a Global Synergy Research Grant for Students by the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts for her dissertation research project entitled, Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla beringi beringi) in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda: interrelationships with Batwa and other local communities.

Congratulations to our recent PhD graduate, Dr. Ryan Plis, for receiving the College of Liberal Arts' Distinguished Dissertation Award for his dissertation, "Families in Transition: Gender Non-Conformists and their Kin Networks in the Mid-Southern U.S.” This is the highest award given to dissertations in the College!

Congratulations to the winners of the 2015-16 PRF Research Grants:

Ingrid Ramon Parra and Laura Zanotti have received a 2015-16 Purdue Research Foundation Research Grant for "Menire
making Movies: A Participatory Video Project with Kayapo Women in the Brazilian Amazon".

Matthew Pike and Kory Cooper have received a 2015-16 Purdue Research Foundation Grant for "Prehistoric Copper Technology in the Arctic and Subarctic: A Geospatial Analysis of Hunter-Gatherer Innovation".

Congratulations to Elizabeth Hall who has just been notified that she has received a 2015 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) Fellowship to support her doctoral studies.  Liz is currently completing her MS in our program which is serving as a pilot for her developing PhD research on Zoonotic Pathogens: Disease Transmission among Apes and Humans in Mosaic Habitats in West and Central Africa.

Prof. Richard Blanton, Lane Farger (Purdue Research Affiliate), and Verenice Heredia Espinoza have been awarded a National Science Foundation grant to support their project "The Relationship Between Household Organization And Governance.” The aim of their research is to uncover changes in household formation and economies in a newly-forming republican system of governance in the Postclassic Period of Tlaxcala, a site in the Central Highlands of Mexico.

Dr. Abdul Khabeer is co-PI on the “Muslims in the Midwest: An Oral History Project” that was recently awarded a grant as part of the Global Midwest initiative by the Humanities Without Walls consortium. The project will establish and build a digital archive that documents the varied experiences of American Muslims in the Midwest through testimonies across generational, gender, geographical, socio-economic, and ethnic differences. Dr. Abdul Khabeer’s contribution will focus on African American Muslims in the Midwest. The Senior Project Advisor is Mohammed Khalil (Michigan State and other co-PI’s are Junaid Rana (Illinois), Nadine Naber (Illinois-Chicago)and Asma Afsaruddin (Indiana).


Congratulations to Dr. Michele Buzon who was appointed by the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts in June 2014 to a five-year term (2014-2019) as a University Faculty Scholar.  This honor provides additional annual research support.

Congratulations to Associate Professor Michele Buzon on her 2014 award from the National Science Foundation for her project entitled, “Collaborative Research: Impact and Accommodation Through Cultural Contact.” She will use the funds ($135,272) to support her bioarchaeological research investigating the impact of Egypt’s New Kingdom Empire (c. 1500-1050 BC) on the Kerma culture in Nubia through an examination of identity and health before and after the conquest and colonization of the area (with UCSB collaborator Stuart Tyson Smith).  This research is also being supported by the Purdue Office of the Vice President for Research Bridge Funding Program ($48,045).

Dr. Ian Lindsay won the Departmental Excellence in Teaching Award for 2014.  He was honored for his work in utilizing student-centered hands-on teaching and technology.  He teaches archaeology, technology and culture, and the large lecture Intro to General Anthropology course.

Research, Presentations, and Publications

Reavis and Buzon Calgary, AlbertaKatelyn Reavis presented her research with Dr. Michele Buzon at the American Association of Physical Anthropology in Calgary, Alberta Canada, April 2014.

Melissa Remis and Carolyn Jost Robinson published an article in 2014 on ethnoprimatology and multispecies approaches, with coauthors Nick Malone, Alison Wade, Agustin Fuentes, and Erin Riley.  The article is titled, “Ethnoprimatology: Critical interdisciplinary and multi species approaches in anthropology.”  Critique of Anthropology 341(1):8-29.

In the Media

Professor Melissa Remis’s research was featured in Purdue News on May 20, 2014.  The research studied the effects of integrated conservation and development in the Dzanga-Sangha Dense Forest Reserve, including the first look at the impact on people's health. Click here to read the article.

Dr. Evelyn Blackwood was interviewed by The Daily Beast about her research among the Minangkabau in West Sumatra, Indonesia.  You can find the full article here.

Department Activities

Brown Bag Lecture SeriesUndergraduates presented their recent summer anthropological research experiences at one of our recent Brown Bag Lectures. 

Community Outreach

Recently a group of our graduate students met with an Anthropology class at a local high school. The class of mostly seniors have been studying anthropology. Katie Whitmore, Sarah Huang, and Garett Hunt talked with them about anthropology and shared some of their own experiences and research within the field. After speaking to the class they had a question and answer session where they talked more generally about anthropology and its disciplines.  

Students and faculty of the department frequently reach out to local schools and community groups to present anthropological ideas and research findings.  Here are just a few samples:

Pictured below, Erik Otárola-Castillo (left) and Ian Lindsay (right) participating in Cumberland Elementary School’s annual Math Night, where they created a geo-caching game to get kids excited about developing map reading skills.Cumberland Elementary outreach

On July 31, 2014, Dr. Elizabeth Rowe presents her talk on “The Evolution of Menstruation” to the “Science on Tap” series at the Lafayette Brewing Company, on Main St. in Lafayette.  A previous speaker in the series was Dr. Sharon Williams (in 2011) whose topic was on aging in cross-national perspective, which focused on her research on the significant differences in how humans age across the globe, work she pursued with the World Health Organization.  

Remembering Those That Went Before

O.M Watson  O. Michael Watson (1936-2012)
Dr. Watson was born in 1936 in Knoxville, Tennessee, and grew up in Colorado.  After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, he studied anthropology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and earned a BA and Ph.D.   In 1967 joined the Purdue University faculty as one of the founders of the Anthropology Department.  Professor Watson’s early research focused on proxemic analysis, which he published in Proxemic Behavior: A Cross-Cultural Study (Mouton, 1970). He subsequently turned to visual anthropology, which led to a number of publications and graduate seminars, as well as his production of the classic film Spirit of Ethnography. Professor Watson was one of the founders of anthropology at Purdue, and he devoted his career to the growth of the discipline and to the department.  A renowned teacher and beloved professor, he won numerous teaching awards during his 40 years at Purdue.  Generations of students took his love of anthropology and enthusiasm for human cultural diversity along with them as they pursued their many directions.  Known for his energy and amazing ability to find humor everywhere, he is remembered for the joy and laughter he brought to so many lives.  When Professor Watson retired in 2007, the Department of Anthropology honored him by naming our annual student award after him. 

Jay O'Brien  Jay O’Brien (1947-2013)
Jay O’Brien was born in New Jersey, in 1947 and grew up in California.  He came of age influenced by the music, activism, natural beauty, and the social concerns of 1960s California.  After being an exchange student in Sweden when he was 17 and doing a study abroad in Germany, he was inspired to become an anthropologist.  He studied anthropology at Stanford University and the University of Connecticut (Ph.D. 1980).
Professor O’Brien studied the long-term effects of colonial regimes in Africa, and wrote his master’s thesis on Portuguese empire in Africa, 1415-1961. Subsequently he spent 5 years in Sudan, researching agricultural labor and development, using political economy and ethnography to understand family dynamics, ethnic identification shifts, and development dilemmas in Sudan.  Among his publications were three books—on political economy and development in Sudan, and on the intersection of history and anthropology. 
His career was about social justice and the process of change, analyzing the conditions of poverty, the dilemmas of development, and their impacts on human cultural life.  He became deeply engaged in teaching, achieving tenure at Lawrence University and teaching at a dozen other universities in Sudan, Sweden, Botswana, and the U.S.  He came to Purdue in 2008 with his life partner, Ellen Gruenbaum, to be part of the newly launched independent Department of Anthropology.






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