Amanda Maxfield

Cohort: 2012


  • MA, Anthropology, Emory University
  • BA, Anthropology, Kenyon College


My research interests are tied to the practical applications of anthropology within global health. In particular, I hope to explore the impacts of food insecurity on women's utilization of wild foods, their agency in determining household size, and their ability to meet the recommendations for infant feeding established by international health organizations. Moreover, I intend to approach these issues from a biocultural perspective, examining how cultural knowledge and structural conditions "become biology" in women struggling with food insecurity.

Cultural consensus modeling is especially appealing to me. I am interested in this technique as a way to quantify women's differential knowledge of wild foods and the relationship of that variation to biomarkers and anthropometric measurements of malnutrition. Do women with greater ethnobiological and ethnoecological knowledge have better health profiles? I also want to study whether a woman's inability to achieve the recommendations for the optimal duration of breastfeeding is reflected in her psychological and, ultimately, physiological well-being. In other words, does a "failure" to follow the adage that "breast is best" result in psychosocial stress measurable through biomarkers? If so, how is the problem compounded within the context of food insecurity?

Finally, I am interested in how women negotiate issues of resource scarcity and family size through maternal buffering and the use of contraception. How do the biological impacts of these behaviors accumulate and affect health?

Interest areas: nutritional anthropology; ethnobiology; demography; breastfeeding; food taboos; reproductive ecology; life history theory.

Advisor: Dr. Hadley