The Geoffrey Harrison Prize Lecture 2022 by Stanley Ulijaszek: Nutritional Anthropology

The Geoffrey Harrison Lecture 2022

Stanley Ulijaszek: Nutritional Anthropology

Originally advertised as taking place in Michaelmas 2022

3.15pm, 64 Banbury Road and on Teams: Teams link.

Abstract: In his contribution to the book ‘Human Biology. An Introduction to Human Evolution, Variation, Growth, and Adaptability’, Geoffrey Harrison wrote of the most fundamental aspects of human adaptability. His ‘big two’ were the need to obtain food from the biological environment (nutrition), and defence against other organisms from using us as a living source of nutrition (infectious disease). This lecture will consider both, over 30 years since those words were written, from the perspective of the then-new sub-discipline of nutritional anthropology. This considers human diet, past and present, in relation to nutritional health of societies and populations. Humans are considered as the sum of their evolutionary history and more recent epigenetic and social pasts, as well as their present-day social, cultural and biological life histories. The research agenda of this sub-discipline requires diverse methods, ranging from ethnographic, historical and archaeological, to nutritional, epidemiological and anatomical. It also requires considerable interdisciplinarity. This presentation focuses on aspects of nutritional anthropology which engage with the work of Geoffrey Harrison, namely human dietary evolution, dietary flexibility, and present-day undernutrition and infection. Obesity has emerged as a major phenomenon across the 30 years or so since I took up nutritional anthropology, and the ecology of present-day obesity is also considered, as something that is changing human relationships to disease.