Genomics; Epigenomics; Ancient DNA; Power and Social Inequality; Settler Colonialism; Ancient Urbanism and Imperialism; Feminist, Queer, and Indigenous Science Studies. Primary geographic foci include the American South, Texas, Mesoamerica, and the Andes.
I am a biocultural anthropologist studying how colonialism and imperialism in the Americas impact people’s DNA and the landscapes we live in. I completed my Ph.D. in 2017 at the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to joining the faculty at Mason, I completed a three year postdoctoral fellowship with the Neukom Institute for Computational Science and the Department of Anthropology at Dartmouth College. In addition to working within the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Women and Gender Studies at Mason, I am also affiliated with the Indigenous STS Lab in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta.
My work focuses on both ancient and contemporary societies in order to trace the ways that shifting systems of power over time impact our bodies and remake the world around us. In the context of ancient societies, I look at roles that differing ethnic, gender, and class divides played in the formation of early urban centers and the rise and decline of ancient empires. In the context of contemporary peoples, my work focuses on the impacts of settler colonialism and gender violence on the genetic and ecological landscapes of the Americas.
I use an interdisciplinary approach that merges genetics, epigenetics, ancient DNA, and queer, feminist, and Indigenous science studies to trace the ways that shifting systems of power and inequality become molecular.
Smith RWA. In press. Imperial Terroir: Toward A Queer Molecular Ecology of Colonial Masculinities. Current Anthropology. [invited by Wenner-Gren]
Salas L, Peres L, Smith RWA, Thayer ZM, Liang L. In press. Optimizing methods in epigenetics: How can we more accurately and rigorously study disparities and underrepresented populations? Epigenomics. [Invited by Epigenomics]
Smith RWA, Springs L, Reynolds AW, Bolnick DA. In press. Making Kin in a Postgenomic World: Indigenous Belonging after the Genome. In: Daniels: In and Beyond the Law. Nathalie Kermoal and Chris Andersen, eds. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press.
Tung TA, Smith RWA, Creanza N, Monroe C, Bolnick DA, Kemp BM. 2020. Constrained Agency while Negotiating Spanish Colonialism: A Bioarchaeological, Isotopic, and Ancient DNA Study of the Vinchos Cave Mummies, Ayacucho, Peru. Bioarchaeology International.
Smith RWA and Bolnick DA. 2019. Situating Science: Doing Biological Anthropology as a View from Somewhere. In: Vital Topics Forum – How Academic Diversity is Transforming Scientific Knowledge in Biological Anthropology. American Anthropologist 121(2):465-467.
Smith RWA and Archer SM. 2019. Bisexual Science. In: Vital Topics Forum – How Academic Diversity is Transforming Scientific Knowledge in Biological Anthropology. American Anthropologist 121(2):491-492.
Bolnick DA, Smith RWA, Fuentes A (eds.). 2019. Vital Topics Forum – How Academic Diversity is Transforming Scientific Knowledge in Biological Anthropology. American Anthropologist 121(2):464.
Smith RWA. 2019. Fifty Years in the Fight for Indigenous Sovereignty: From Alcatraz Island to Elizabeth Warren (1969-2019). Anthropology News 60(2):3-5. [invited] [top 5 article of 2019]
Smith RWA, Monroe C, Bolnick DA. 2015. Detection of Cytosine Methylation in Ancient DNA from Five Native American Populations Using Bisulfite Sequencing. PLoS ONE 10(5): e0125344.
ANTH 135: Introduction to Biological Anthropology
ANTH 619: Disrupting Nature: Queer, Feminist, and Indigenous Science Studies
“Ancient-DNA Researchers Set Ethics Guidelines for Their Work", New York Times, 10/25/2021
“A racist scientist built a collection of human skulls. Should we still study them?", Science Magazine, 07/08/2021
“The 4 best at-home DNA test kits for genetics, health, and ancestry, according to geneticists and genealogists”, Business Insider, 11/03/2021
“The Biden administration will be hit with multiple crises from the get-go”, Business Insider, 11/17/2020
“What Did Denisovans Look Like? A New Epigenetics Approach May Give Us Some Clues”, Forbes Science, 09/22/2019
“Senator Warren takes the test” National Public Radio, NPR/KUOW Seattle, 10/15/2018
“Is Elizabeth Warren’s genetic test conclusive? It’s complicated”, Boston Globe, 10/15/2018