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Alexandra Brewis Slade
Ph.D. Arizona 1992
Professor of Medical Anthropology

SHESC Themes: Biological, Social and Cultural Dimensions of Human Health; Societies and Their Natural Environments

Field specializations: biocultural anthropology; demographics; human adaptation; human reproduction; medical anthropology; nutrition, growth and development

Regional focus: Mesoamerica, Oceania, North America, International


About Research
My research is focused in the area of bio-cultural anthropology, exploring the dynamic interplay of biology, culture, behavior, and local ecology in the production of human health and demographic outcomes. Most of my studies are focused on women’s and children’s health and wellbeing, exploring such issues as reproductive health, infertility, family planning, obesity, body image, behavioral disorders (such as ADHD), and depression. Much of this research is based on multi-method fieldwork: over the years, I have run projects in Mexico, the U.S., Samoa, Republic of Kiribati (Micronesia), and New Zealand. At a very different scale, I also get quite different, but complementary, insights by modeling large, comparative databases, where I attempt to identify and disentangle the ecological and social underpinnings of the really broad (global and universal) patterns of human health and population. Previous studies of this type have examined birth seasonality, sex ratios at birth, the relationship between child nutrition and poverty, and temporal patterns in human sexuality (such as age-related changes or across monthly cycles).

One current vein of my research is trying to better understand why children living in poverty can simultaneously be at risk of both obesity and under-nutrition. Other recent research includes studies of how US- and Mexican children’s eating strategies translate into health risk via overweight and obesity, and better understanding the relationship between normal childhood behavior and the identification of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in cross-cultural contexts. A central question that weaves through these field projects is how children’s own understandings of and manipulations of their physical and social environments impacts their health and well-being—sometimes with positive results, sometimes not. You can read more about my current research activities at my personal web page. Potential graduate students interested in joining us at ASU and working with me in any of these or related areas, or undergraduates looking to get involved in research, are encouraged to contact me.

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About Teaching
My courses typically coalesce in the areas of my own training and research interests: My Ph.D. was in biological anthropology with a medical anthropology minor, my post-doc was in demography, and I am also active in the fields of nutritional anthropology and human biology. Other courses I greatly enjoy include grant writing and research design, and well as issues related to the responsible conduct of research and professional development (basically, the things I wish Ifd been taught more of in grad school). I try to focus on teaching students how to learn rather than what to learn, and challenge myself to make instruction as meaningful, memorable, and relevant as possible so students will really want to be involved in their own education.

Experience has also made me a convert to the idea that the best teaching doesn’t always take place in the classroom, or using a standard lecture-style of delivery. Particularly, I have found that actively managed field, study abroad, and research activities—getting students outside their regular comfort zone and into a new, stimulating, and challenging environment—can be the best ways to promote truly real and lifelong learning. Over the years I have developed and directed interdisciplinary programs in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Belize, and also have taught on study abroad in many other countries. My commitment to such activities as study abroad stems from my understanding that the best way to truly engage and train students is to go out into the world with them and challenge them directly through field and research experience.

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Select Publications
Brewis, A. and M. Meyer (2005)
Demographic evidence that human ovulation is undetectable (at least in pair bonds). Current Anthropology 46(3):465-71

Brewis, A and M. Meyer (2005)
Marital coitus across the life course. Journal of Biosocial Science 37(4):499-518

Brewis, A., and K. Schmidt (2003)
Gender variation in the identification of Mexican children's psychiatric symptoms. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 17:376-93

Brewis, A. (2003)
Biocultural aspects of obesity in young Mexican schoolchildren. American Journal of Human Biology 15: 446-60

Brewis, A., K Schmidt, and C Amira Sanchez (2003)
Cross-cultural study of the childhood developmental trajectory of attention and impulse control. International Journal of Behavioral Development 27:174-181

Brewis, A., K. Schmidt, and M. Meyer (2002)
On the biocultural study of children's hyperactive and inattentive behavior. American Anthropologist 104(1):287-90

Brewis, A., K. Schmidt, and M. Meyer (2000)
ADHD-type behavior and harmful dysfunction in childhood: A cross-cultural model. American Anthropologist 102(4)823-28

Brewis, A., and S.T. McGarvey. (2000)
Body image, body size, and Samoan ecological and individual modernization. Ecology of Food and Nutrition 39(2)105-120

Brewis, A. (1999)
Accuracy of attractive body judgment. Current Anthropology 40:548-53

Brewis, A., J. Laycock, and J. Huntsman (1996)
Birth non-seasonality on the Pacific equator. Current Anthropology 37(5)842-51

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Contact: Alexandra Brewis Slade