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Contextualizing Violence Past and Present is Topic of Mulloy Lecture at UW

April 6, 2017
woman at table with bones on it
Debra Martin

A professor whose research into the areas of nonlethal violence and inequality, gender differences and disease, and the bioarchaeology of human experience with a focus on groups living in marginalized and challenging environments is the University of Wyoming Department of Anthropology’s 21st annual Mulloy Lecture speaker Thursday, April 27.

Debra Martin, the Lincy Professor of Anthropology at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, will discuss “Inscribed on the Body, Written in the Bones: Contextualizing Violence in the Past, Preventing Violence in the Future” at 4:10 p.m. in the College of Business auditorium. A reception will follow in the Anthropology Building from 5:10-6:10 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.

The annual Mulloy Lecture is sponsored by the UW Department of Anthropology in memory of the university's first professional anthropologist, William Mulloy. Starting in 1948, he fostered, at UW, what is usually called the "four field approach," integrating archaeology, biological anthropology, cultural anthropology and linguistic anthropology into a unified program.

In her research, Martin says bioarchaeological records have an abundance of scientific evidence using skeletal indicators of trauma to argue for a long history of internal and external group conflict. But, the findings suggest variability, nuance and unevenness in the type, use and meaning of violence, defying quantification, she says. Documenting violence-related behaviors provides an overview of the sometimes unique, but often patterned social use of violence.

“Violence -- lethal and nonlethal -- is often associated with social spheres of influence and power connected to daily life such as subsistence intensification, specialization, climate, population density, territorial protection and presence of immigrants, to name just a few,” Martin says. “By using fine-grained biocultural analyses that interrogate trauma data in particular places at particular times in reconstructed archaeological contexts, a more comprehensive and nuanced view into the histories and experiences of violence emerges.”

She directs a doctoral program in bioarchaeology, overseeing several specialized bioarchaeology laboratories and a large repository of human remains from the Arabian Peninsula, Indonesia, Thailand and Mexico.

Martin is the executive editor for KIVA, Journal of Southwestern Anthropology and History; editor of the Bioarchaeology and Social Theory Series, Springer Verlag; co-editor of the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology; and an associate editor for the Yearbook of Physical Anthropology.

Her recent publications focus on such topics as forensic perspectives on violence; an integrated approach to working with human remains; bioarchaeology of climate change and violence; and health in ancient America. She received the 2016 Harry Reid Silver State Researcher Award. Active in the American Anthropological Association, Martin has been the secretary and on the executive board.

For more information about the Mulloy Lecture, call the UW Department of Anthropology office at (307) 766-5136.

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