I am a biological anthropologist, whose primary focus is on the interpretation of osteological remains. In particular, I am interested in the interplay between biology and culture, using skeletal analyses as the empirical evidence of this relationship in past human populations. Rather than focusing on a specific geographic area, my research has concentrated on the skeletal biologies of the poor and disenfranchised, namely 19th century almshouse inmates and poor African Americans in Washington DC, mid-19th to mid-20th centuries.
Cultural factors, including political and economic influences, lead to inequalities among certain groups. This inequality may impact human biology to the same extent that the physical environment does. In fact, these forces may marginalize a particular group to a specific physical environment. These unequal power structures influence the types of stressors working on a population, as well as the ability of that population to adapt to the constraints placed upon them. My research seeks to determine how these stressors developed and how they ultimately lead to disparities in biological health. In order to assess the stressors, including the cultural and environmental factors that may create them, archival documents must be researched along with the osteological remains. By critically examining archival data, we may understand how the specific conditions of poverty developed for a population in a specific location.
I am currently researching the W. Montague Cobb Human Skeletal Collection, Howard University. The Cobb collection consists mainly of remains from the poorest members of the African American community of Washington DC. The politics of racism restricted these individuals' occupations to the most menial and physically demanding positions. This collection is important since the remains are from individuals living from the 1860's to 1969 - extending the time period for osteological assessment of African American remains by more than 30 years. In addition, it provides information on the biological health of individuals living in a major urban center. These individuals undoubtedly encountered political and social discrimination based on racism and their poverty level. My initial study is on the fracture frequency and patterning in Cobb individuals. Results indicate that the comparatively high frequency of trauma and the pattern of fractures are indicative of both accidental trauma and interpersonal violence. The accidental trauma may be attributed, in part, to the demands of hard physical labor.
| Conference Papers/Posters:
JL Muller. 2006. "Trauma as a biological consequence of poverty."
46th Annual Meeting of the Northeastern Anthropological Association, Albany, New York
JL Muller. 2005. "The biological consequences of poverty and labor as evidenced in the W. Montague Cobb skeletal collection."
90th Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Buffalo, New York
JL Muller, PM Williams, and JE Sirianni. 2002. "The frequency and chronological distribution of linear enamel hypoplasias in a 19th century almshouse population."
71st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, Buffalo, New York
PM Williams, JL Muller, and JE Sirianni. 2002. "Evidence of malnutrition in children: linear enamel hypoplasias in a 19th century almshouse population."
Sigma Xi Student Research Competition, Buffalo, New York
JL Muller. 2001. "Methodological issues in the study of female-directed interpersonal violence."
Graduate Student Research Seminar, University at Buffalo
JL Muller. 2000. "Analysis of sex differences in antemortem fracture rates among the Highland Park Skeletal Collection, Rochester, NY, with special consideration of interpersonal violence."
69th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, San Antonio, Texas