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Biological Anthropology and Ethics

From Repatriation to Genetic Identity

Trudy R. Turner

Publication Year: 2005

Biological anthropologists face an array of ethical issues as they engage in fieldwork around the world. In this volume human biologists, geneticists, paleontologists, and primatologists confront their involvement with, and obligations to, their research subjects, their discipline, society, and the environment. Those working with human populations explore such issues as who speaks for a group, community consultation and group consent, the relationship between expatriate communities and the community of origin, and disclosing the identity of both individuals and communities. Those working with skeletal remains discuss issues that include access to and ownership of fossil material. Primatologists are concerned about the well-being of their subjects in laboratory and captive situations, and must address yet another set of issues regarding endangered animal populations and conservation in field situations. The first comprehensive account of the ethical issues facing biological anthropologists today, Biological Anthropology and Ethics opens the door for discussions of ethical issues in professional life.

Published by: State University of New York Press

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Chapter 1. Introduction: Ethical Concerns in Biological Anthropology

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pp. 1-14

For the past 20 years there has been an increasing emphasis on ethics in professional life. One indication of this increase is the expanding number of professional organizations codifying statements of professional ethics. The Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions at the Illinois Institute of Technology collects professional codes of ethics. In 1981 there were 241...

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Chapter 2. Field Primatologists: Duties, Rights, and Obligations

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pp. 15-26

Early in the history of field primatology conducting research was relatively uncomplicated. Before leaving for the field, the primatologist obtained the necessary funds and permits to enter an area inhabited by the species to be studied. Upon arrival at the study site, the field primatologist expected to be allowed to carry out her research and publish her results unharmed and ...

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Chapter 3. Studies of Primates in the Field and in Captivity: Similarities and Differences in Ethical Concerns

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pp. 27-48

This chapter will review some major changes in the last few decades in the environment within which primate, and all animal, research is undertaken. To determine the types of ethical issues raised by primatology within biological anthropology, I have surveyed papers published in 10 years of American Journal of Physical Anthropology. This survey forms the basis for presenting ...

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Chapter 4. Habituating Primates for Field Study: Ethical Considerations for African Great Apes

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pp. 49-64

Primatology, as a field of study within biological anthropology, is the science of understanding nonhuman primates with the goal of gaining insight into the human condition. To better examine and understand the behavioral intricacies of their study animals, primatologists usually rely on habituating their subjects to their presence. As defined by Tutin and Fernandez (1991),...

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Chapter 5. Biological Samples in the Modern Zoological Park: A Case Study from the Bronx Zoo

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pp. 65-78

The American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums was first formed in 1924. Almost 80 years later, that same organization, now known as the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) is “dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in conservation, education, science, and recreation” (Kisling, 2001). In North America, over 200 zoos to date have...

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Chapter 6. Commentary: Ethical Issues Surrounding the Use of Nonhuman Primates in Biomedical Research

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pp. 79-90

The following paragraphs focus on some of the ethical issues raised by studies of nonhuman primates. These issues will be considered from a biomedical perspective. It should be noted that biomedical research differs fundamentally from other kinds of research in both rationale and conduct. Hence, biomedical investigators generally use monkeys and apes ...

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Chapter 7. Ethical Issues in the Molding and Casting of Fossil Specimens

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pp. 91-110

The use of casts of fossil bones and teeth has a long history in paleoanthropology. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine human evolutionary studies as a comparative science without these replicas. Yet, little attention has been directed to the molding and casting techniques that produce these models or to the consequences to the original fossils that result from the molding...

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Chapter 8. The Ethics of Bioarchaeology

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pp. 111-120

The United States and other developed nations have taken enormous strides towards the advancement of human equality and protection of the basic human rights of all citizens over the last several decades. A direct outgrowth of this highly desirable development is the increasing weight given to belief systems of native and other minority or nondominant cultures. At last, many ...

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Chapter 9. Ethical Concerns in Forensic Anthropology

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pp. 130-141

Practitioners of biological anthropology have been concerned with ethics and social policy since the emergence of the discipline in the mid-1800’s (Wax,1987). Forensic anthropology, as a more recently defined branch of anthropology, is directly involved in the interface of ethics and social policy as it is codified in law and applied to the definition of personhood and the fundamental ...

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Chapter 10. Commentary: A Discussion of Ethical Issues in Skeletal Biology

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pp. 133-138

The chapters in this section provide examples of primary researchers in skeletal biology addressing issues that may result in self-imposed restrictions on their research. Yet despite their efforts, the symposium audience contained few skeletal biologists and a virtual absence of paleoanthropologists. I found this remarkable given recent claims that our subdiscipline is in dismal ethical ...

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Chapter 11. Ethical Issues in Human Biology Behavioral Research and Research with Children

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pp. 139-148

Human biology is a field of physical anthropology that traditionally has a strong biocultural focus. Because of the interest in the relationship between biology and culture, human biology research frequently involves collecting both biomedical measurements (such as anthropometry, lung capacity, cholesterol levels) and behavioral measures (such as questions about socioeconomic ...

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Chapter 12. Institutional Review Boards: The Structural and Cultural Obstacles Encountered in Human Biological Research

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pp. 149-164

In contrast to most of the papers in this volume, this paper provides an overview of how the changing culture of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs, Human Subjects Protection Committees) has come to present obstacles to the ethical, cost-effective, and efficient conduct of human biological research. No one would argue that human subjects protection is unnecessary or should not ...

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Chapter 13. Darkness in El Dorado: Claims, Counter-Claims, and the Obligations of Researchers

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pp. 165-184

In an email message sent in late August 2000, Terence Turner and Leslie Sponsel, two cultural anthropologists, warned the president of the American Anthropological Association and the chair of the ethics committee that a major crisis was about to erupt in the anthropological community. They claimed that they had just received and read a manuscript by Patrick Tierney entitled ...

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Chapter 14. A Case Study of Ethical Issues in Genetic Research: The Sally Hemings-Thomas Jefferson Story

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pp. 185-208

The field of research ethics is a dynamic one, particularly in recent years. The standards and guidelines issued by the federal government and university institutional review boards (IRBs) undergo constant review and revision as new issues arise. Foster and colleagues’ study provides an excellent opportunity to examine some of the ethical issues that frequently arise in nonmedical ...

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Chapter 15. Psychological and Ethical Issues Related to Identity and Inferring Ancestry of African Americans

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pp. 209-230

Ancestry tells a people’s story in narrative form and offers a sense of identity meaning. Disparate narratives, such as those of African American ancestry and genealogy, lead to an incomplete story and fragmented identity. Most African Americans know little about their African ancestry and are unable to identify with their ancestral homeland or specific indigenous African community. ...

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Chapter 16. The Consent Process and a DNA Research: Contrasting Approaches in North America

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pp. 231-240

Ancient (a) DNA analyses present several novel ethical and legal problems and challenges that do not always obtain for genetic studies of contemporary populations, as well as a number that are the same irrespective of age of the samples (e.g., Goldstein & Kintigh, 1990; Thornton, 1998; Simms, 1993, Greely, 2001; Anderlik & Rothstein, 2001). Among the ethical, legal, and ...

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Chapter 17. Working with ancient DNA: NAGPRA, Kennewick Man, and Other Ancient Peoples

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pp. 241-262

In 1990 the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was passed. This act requires that the disposition of Native American remains discovered on federal lands or curated by federal agencies be determined by identifying their lineal descendants or “cultural affiliation” with living Native Americans, if possible. Cultural affiliation is to be determined by “a preponderance ...

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Chapter 18. Commentary: Changing Standards of Informed Consent: Raising the Bar

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pp. 263-274

The chapters in this section provide a variety of special views from anthropological perspectives on ethical issues in human research. Some issues are identical to all biomedical research. We can all easily agree that the Belmont Report’s principles of beneficence, justice, and respect are excellent reference points for researchers to adhere to, no matter the particulars or their situations. ...

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Chapter 19. Commentary: An Overview of Human Subjects Research in Biological Anthropology

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pp. 275-280

Ethical practice of research involving human subjects has become increasingly topical over the past several decades. This trend began with the recognition of egregious violations of human rights in Nazi medical experiments. It was also sparked by serious human rights violations in the United States, as exemplified by the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. However, the concern for research ethics ...

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Chapter 20. Commentary: Data Sharing and Access to Information

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pp. 281-288

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget stipulates in Circular A-110 that data obtained through grants awarded by federal agencies such as National Science Foundation and National Institute of Health are public and may be obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. NSF, NIH, and other federal agencies encourage the rapid and broad dissemination of research data ...

Appendix I. Code of Ethics of the American Anthropological Association: Approved June 1998

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pp. 289-298

Appendix II. Code of Ethics of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists: (Approved by the AAPA Membership at the annual business meeting on April 25, 2003)

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pp. 299-308


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pp. 309-316


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pp. 317-327

E-ISBN-13: 9780791484067
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791462959
Print-ISBN-10: 0791462951

Page Count: 337
Illustrations: 6 b/w photographs, 6 tables, 10 figures
Publication Year: 2005

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Human population genetics.
  • Physical anthropology.
  • Anthropological ethics.
  • Human genetics -- Moral and ethical aspects.
  • Human remains (Archaeology) -- Repatriation.
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