2nd Edition

Dynamics of Human Biocultural Diversity A Unified Approach

By Elisa J. Sobo Copyright 2020
    314 Pages 95 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    314 Pages 95 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This lively text by leading medical anthropologist Elisa J. Sobo offers a unique, holistic approach to human diversity and rises to the challenge of truly integrating biology and culture. The inviting writing style and fascinating examples make important ideas from complexity theory and epigenetics accessible to students. In this second edition, the material has been updated to reflect changes in both the scientific and socio-cultural landscape, for example in relation to topics such as the microbiome and transgender. Readers learn to conceptualize human biology and culture concurrently—as an adaptive biocultural capacity that has helped to produce the rich range of human diversity seen today. With clearly structured topics, an extensive glossary and suggestions for further reading, this text makes a complex, interdisciplinary topic a joy to teach. Instructor resources include an extensive test bank and a study guide.


    Part I: A Systems View of Human Adaptation

    1. Anthropology and Complexity

    2. Genetic Adaptation

    3. Developmental Adjustment and Epigenetic Change

    4. Emergence of Culture and People Like Us

    5. Global Expansion, Human Variation, and the Invention of ‘Race’

    Part II: Socio-political and Economic Factors

    6. A Human Baseline

    7. Agricultural Revolution: Another Great Divide

    8. Epidemics and Immunities

    9. Political Economy of Health Disparities

    Part III: Meaningful Practices

    10. Stress, Meaning, and Health

    11. Culture in Practice: Embodying Gender

    12. Body Ideals and Outcomes

    13. Kinship: So Relative

    Conclusion: Respecting Connections


    Elisa J. Sobo is Professor and Chair of Anthropology at San Diego State University, California, USA. A sociocultural anthropologist specializing in health, illness, and medicine, she is Past President of the Society for Medical Anthropology, and currently Section Convener for the American Anthropological Association.

    Praise for the previous edition:

    ‘This book is a brilliant contribution to a comprehensive, holistic approach to human variation. Sobo examines the interaction of biology and culture in the context of a broad systems perspective on human communities. With examples ranging from the evolution of our species to how we shape our bodies in response to cultural ideals, she offers a refreshing view of us as biological entities suspended in sociocultural systems – inseparable dimensions of human existence.’

    Bill Dressler, University of Alabama

    ‘Being and becoming human is biocultural, and very few books drive that point home as well as this one. With a friendly and engaging narrative, Sobo guides the reader through a meaningful, and anthropological, engagement with humanity. This book should be used as a core text for both introductory anthropology and biocultural courses’.

    Agustín Fuentes, University of Notre Dame

    ‘I am delighted to see an introductory text that finally takes seriously the biocultural idea that we are creatures of both biology and culture, moving beyond the tired old nature-nurture dichotomy. Sobo deftly weaves together concepts and examples that students can relate to. She skilfully tackles critical contemporary topics such as globalization, sustainability, inequality, health, and social change’.

    Wenda Trevathan, New Mexico State University

    ‘Sobo’s remarkable textbook is also a benchmark for the field. The material is deftly presented, immensely accessible, innovative in scope, and poised to advance biocultural approaches in deeply compelling and generative new directions’.

    Justin Nolan, University of Arkansas

    ‘Sobo’s approach to the study of human diversity is a gracefully written and creative application of the unifying notion of epigenetic complexity. This introductory text is a readable and gripping account of how observable traits of human behaviour (phenotypes) are the product of interactions of numerous sorts, between genes and their own biochemical products, and between biochemical systems, environmental signals, historical realities and mental experiences. Highly recommended!’

    Richard A. Shweder, University of Chicago