Pioneers of Color A Counternarrative of Foundational Figures in Forensic Anthropology's History

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Matthew C. Go
Isis Dwyer
Tisa N. Loewen
Nandar Yukyi
Chaunesey Clemmons
Sydney S. Garcia
Kamar Afra
Fatimah A. Bouderdaben
Alba Craig
Isabel S. Melhado
Tanya Ramos
Ivanna Robledo
Evonne Turner-Byfield
Aaron J. Young
Jessica K. Juarez
Elaine Y. Chu
An-Di Yim
Allison Nesbitt
Jesse R. Goliath


Popular renditions on the history of forensic anthropology have traced the discipline’s roots back to early European anatomy and nineteenth to twentieth-century American research and applications to the legal system, often highlighting the works of several recurring figures. These forebearers are overwhelmingly composed of white men to the exclusion of, as we argue here, pioneers of color. As a counter to prevailing Eurocentric narratives, we present the biographies of diverse contemporaries who were equally foundational to the field, including Black Americans, immigrants, and luminaries outside of the Western world. Common themes among their experiences involved discrimination, a lack of opportunities and recognition, and a biocultural and humanistic praxis that demonstrate modern discourses within the forensic anthropology community are not novel. Ultimately, this work shows that the historical foundations of forensic anthropology, in both the United States and globally, include a far more diverse cast of pioneers than what the prevailing literature suggests and should serve as a springboard from which our discipline can grow, both in its past and in its future.

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