Research


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Areas of Specialization

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Critical biocultural approaches to health and human development; ethnicity, race, and racism; cultural dimensions of psychosocial stress; cardiovascular disease; human biological variation; culture theory; social network analysis; research methods; medical anthropology

Social and cultural context of racial inequalities in health

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With two grants from the National Science Foundation, colleagues and I are working to understand the social and cultural factors that shape poor health among African Americans in Tallahassee, FL. The first grant, with Christopher McCarty (Co-PI), focuses on how social and cultural factors shape the experience of racism and other social stressors that contribute to poor health. The second grant, with Connie Mulligan (PI), adds a genetic component to the project to examine (a) associations between genetic ancestry, culturally ascribed race, and health and (b) possible gene-environment interactions. The overall project, which uses a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach, integrates a range of methods from the social and biological sciences at multiple levels of analysis. Read more…

Relevant Publications
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Gravlee, Clarence C. 2008. Life Expectancy. In Encyclopedia of Race and Racism, edited by John H. Moore. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA.

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Dressler, William W., Kathryn S. Oths, and Clarence C. Gravlee. 2005. Race and Ethnicity in Public Health Research: Models to Explain Health Disparities. Annual Review of Anthropology 34 (1): 231-52.

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Schulz, Amy J., Clarence C. Gravlee, David R. Williams, Barbara A. Israel, Graciela Mentz, and Zachary Rowe. 2006. Discrimination, Symptoms of Depression, and Self-Rated Health Among African American Women in Detroit: Results From a Longitudinal Analysis. American Journal of Public Health 96 (7): 1265-70.

Skin color and blood pressure in the context of culture

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Dark skin color has been linked to high blood pressure among people of African ancestry in the U.S., the Carribean, and South America. This pattern has been interpreted as evidence of both genetic and sociocultural mechanisms. My research in Puerto Rico distinguished between the cultural and biological dimensions of skin color to test competing explanations more directly than has been done before. Results show that the cultural meaning of skin color, rather than skin color itself, matters in explaining blood pressure variation. This finding has broad implications for the meaning and measurement of race in health-related research.

Relevant Publications
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Gravlee, Clarence C., William W. Dressler, and H. Russell Bernard. 2005. Skin Color, Social Classification, and Blood Pressure in Southeastern Puerto Rico. American Journal of Public Health 95 (12): 2191-97.

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Gravlee, Clarence C., and William W. Dressler. 2005. Skin Pigmentation, Self-Perceived Color, and Arterial Blood Pressure in Puerto Rico. American Journal of Human Biology 17 (2): 195-206.

Race and ethnicity in cross-cultural perspective

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Researchers across disciplines argue that race is a cultural construct, not a biological category. But there is surprisingly little cross-cultural research on how folk categories like race are culturally constructed. During a year’s fieldwork in Puerto Rico, I used systematic ethnographic methods to describe the cultural model of color. My current work extends this focus to the cultural model of race in the U.S.

Relevant Publications
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Gravlee, Clarence C. 2005. Ethnic Classification in Southeastern Puerto Rico: The Cultural Model of "Color". Social Forces 83 (3): 949-70.

Role of race and ethnicity in health-related research

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Recent studies show that upwards of 80 percent of studies in leading public health and biomedical journals use race or ethnicity as variables in empirical research. Collaborators and I are working on a several project to examine the role of race and ethnicity in medical anthropology and other health-related disciplines. By comparing trends in medical anthropology, biomedicine, and public health, we aim to identify areas where debates across disciplines can inform one another.

Relevant Publications

Gravlee, Clarence C., and Elizabeth Sweet. 2008. Race, Ethnicity, and Racism in Medical Anthropology, 1977-2002. Medical Anthropological Quarterly 22 (1): 27-51.

Dressler, William W., Kathryn S. Oths, and Clarence C. Gravlee. 2005. Race and Ethnicity in Public Health Research: Models to Explain Health Disparities. Annual Review of Anthropology 34 (1): 231-52.

Reanalysis of Franz Boas’s immigrant study data

In 1910, Franz Boas published the first results from his classic study, Changes in Bodily Form of Descendants of Immigrants. This landmark work became controversial almost immediately, as it challenged many prevailing ideas about human biology and race. Current interest in the developmental origins of adult health only heighten the significance of Boas’s work. In previous analyses, colleagues and I reanalyzed Boas’s data to test his major conclusions regarding the plasticity of cranial form. We are working on new analyses to learn more about the biological standard of living among early 20th century immigrants to New York. Read more…

Relevant Publications

Gravlee, Clarence C., H. Russell Bernard, and William R. Leonard. 2003. Heredity, Environment, and Cranial Form: A Re-Analysis of Boas’s Immigrant Data. American Anthropologist 105 (1): 125-38.

Gravlee, Clarence C., H. Russell Bernard, and William R. Leonard. 2003. Boas’s Changes in Bodily Form: The Immigrant Study, Cranial Plasticity, and Boas’s Physical Anthropology. American Anthropologist 105 (2): 326-32.

Qualitative and quantitative research methods

My research on racial inequalities in health requires the integration of methods from the biological and social sciences across multiple levels of analysis. My current methodological interests include social network analysis; use of panel data; integration of ethnography, spatial methods, and GIS; computer-assisted data collection; systematic ethnographic methods in cognitive anthropology; and integration of genetic data and biomarkers of stress in health-related research.

Relevant Publications

Gravlee, Clarence C., David P. Kennedy, Ricardo Godoy, and William R. Leonard. 2009. Methods for Collecting Panel Data: What Can Cultural Anthropology Learn From Other Disciplines? Journal of Anthropological Research 65 in press.

Zenk, Shannon N., Amy J. Schulz, Graciela Mentz, James S. House, Clarence C. Gravlee, Patricia Y. Miranda, Patricia Miller, and Srimathi Kannan. 2007. Inter-Rater and Test-Retest Reliability: Methods and Results for the Neighborhood Observational Checklist. Health & Place 13 (2): 452-65.

Gravlee, Clarence C., Shannon N. Zenk, Sachiko Woods, Zachary Rowe, and Amy J. Schulz. 2006. Handheld Computers for Direct Observation of the Social and Physical Environment. Field Methods 18 (4): 382-97.

Gravlee, Clarence C. 2002. Mobile Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing (MCAPI) With Handheld Computers: The Entryware System V3.0. Field Methods 14 (3): 322-36.