Department of Anthropology

Melody Yeager-Struthers

Curriculum Vitae: Melody Yeager-Struthers (PDF)

Education

B.A. Anthropology CSU, Chico 2002

M.A. Anthropology, Option in Museum Studies CSU, Chico 2007

Sub-Discipline and Interests

My special interests in anthropology are primarily in cultural anthropology with a strong and important role in physical anthropology. By combining cultural and physical anthropology we can learn about biocultural evolution; a set of processes that have resulted in many of the changes that we have seen in human populations over time. Presently I am focusing my research on human food systems and interaction with the environment. The anthropology of food is a study of human interactions with the environment spanning through time and space. Humans and our early ancestors have always faced the challenge of obtaining the necessary nutrients to grow and power our bodies. These challenges have shaped cultures and the relationships that reside within them. Consequently, our bodies have also seen changes because of the habitual use of fire (dating back to Homo erectus) including our brain size, gut size and function, human skin color, and allergies and intolerances like lactose intolerance can all be traced to biocultural evolution. In our modern world it is an overabundance of cheap calories that is driving change in our bodies. Our growing populations and skewed governmental policies are creating pressures that we have never before seen on the environment. Current research is also connecting poverty, so called “food deserts”, and the suite of metabolic disorders that are plaguing low income and minority communities today.

In addition to food and the environment, my interest is in the changing family unit cross-culturally. Globalization, global migrations of people and seasonal transitory work in the agricultural field among many other influences are causing changes in family dynamics. Some of the most impacted of these groups are those who traditionally view the extended family, or the clan as the primary family focus, among those the Latino and Hmong families are seeing a stretching and fracturing of their once cohesive families. Studying and documenting these phenomena as they occur can inform us about cultural changes that we will be seeing, as well as preserving some of the history that is no longer being passed from elder generations to younger more Westernized generations.

Current Research

In 2007 I began documenting gender roles, economic, and social changes occurring in a small town on the Pacific Coast of Mexico called La Cruz de Huanacaxtle in the state of Nayarit.  Research interests include the changing economic climate and its effects on the local fishermen, and subsequently the shifting of traditional gender roles among families. Trends that are of interest to me are changes in women’s roles based on the fluctuating income of their fishermen husbands and fathers (subsistence fishing to tourist-based fishing), entrepreneurship by women, attaining higher education, and learning new languages and skills that are typically men’s roles, having fewer children and waiting longer to have children. The study is based on two prominent families in town; four generations of these families illustrate a transformation in traditional gender roles, economic responsibilities, and bilingual language use.

Courses Taught

  • ANTH 111 Survey of Physical Anthropology
  • ANTH 113 Human Cultural Diversity
  • ANTH 140 Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion
  • ANTH 303 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
  • ANTH 333 Nature, Culture, Environment
  • ANTH 333 Nature, Culture, Environment (Online course)
  • ANTH 340 Anthropology of Food
  • ANTH 340 Anthropology of Food (Online course)
  • ANTH 340Z Anthropology of Food (Writing Intensive, Capstone Course)
  • ANTH 466 Museum Exhibit Research and Design