Faculty & Staff

Meredith Reiches

Assistant Professor of Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts

Contact

photo of Meredith Reiches

Areas of Expertise

Biocultural anthropology, reproductive ecology, human life history, intersections between evolutionary and literary narrative

Degrees

PhD Harvard University

Additional Information

As a biocultural anthropologist interested in adolescence, I approach questions of growth, maturation, and reproductive function from three perspectives: first, how does the body allocate resources to competing demands under conditions of energetic stress, and what can this tell us about the selective environments that shaped human physiology? Second, what ethical questions and imperatives govern research that requires inequalities between research participants and researchers? That is, how can ethical research take place when populations are targeted because they lack access to consistently adequate nourishment or contraception, if this is in fact possible? Third, the construction of compelling science, particularly evolutionary science, requires telling stories. These stories are inflected by our individual, social, and disciplinary histories. I aim to tease out the narrative elements in the acts of conducting and communicating science and to analyze these side by side with literary narratives of coming-of-age, asking the question: What does it take to make the transition from childhood to adulthood in a human society?

My dissertation work with a community of Mandinka subsistence agriculturalist women in a rural province of The Gambia focused on the trade-offs among growth, activity, and reproductive function that occur in adolescent women who encounter seasonal energetic stress due to local farming ecology.

Additional projects address the relationship between evolutionary biological theories of aging and Shakespeare’s King Lear, the trade-offs of coming of age in The Winter’s Tale, and the puzzle of non-reproductive identity—or of the compelling presence of a non-reproductive protagonist—in Hamlet and Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes canon.