Broadly, Dr. Hicks is interested in integrating evolutionary and political economic
approaches in biological anthropology by exploring how culturally constructed inequality
affects human biology.
Dr. Hicks received her PhD in anthropology from Northwestern University in 2008. Her dissertation, entitled “Social Support and Women’s Health in El Alto, Bolivia,”
was based on ten months of fieldwork in a primarily indigenous city in Andean Bolivia. Her research explored the relationship between access to culturally meaningful social
support and women’s health; in particular, body composition and immune function.
Dr. Hicks is currently developing a biocultural research agenda focused on the role
of environmental injustices in promoting health inequalities. She is working to help elaborate two interdisciplinary research projects, one in
Memphis and one in Bolivia:
The first is a collaboration between members of the departments of Anthropology, Biology
and Public Health at the University of Memphis, and residents of SW Memphis entitled
“Environmental Justice and Urban Ecology in Southwest Memphis” (EJUE). Preliminary data collection for this project is underway, with support from the Benjamin
L. Hooks Institute for Social Change. Members of the EJUE team, through Participatory Action Research, seek to address cultural
and natural resource management, urban ecology, and human health and well-being in
the neighborhoods surrounding the C. H. Nash Museum/Chucalissa Archaeological Site,
and T. O. Fuller State Park. Residents of these neighborhoods enjoy access to natural resources such as extensive
hiking trails, wetlands and biodiversity in the form of T. O. Fuller State Park, but
are also exposed to a disproportionate burden of environmental hazards from local
industrial facilities. The EJUE team seeks to understand the benefits and drawbacks of local ecological
conditions for human well-being. Dr. Hicks’ contribution to this project will be to examine the effects of environmental
racism on the health of neighborhood residents.
The second is a longitudinal study of the effects of neoliberal economic policy and
global warming on access to water in the Bolivian cities of El Alto and La Paz. Members of this team will examine Bolivian strategies to develop a new public water
utility, and to address the consequences of glacial melt and decreasing precipitation
due to global warming, on the municipal water supply. In particular, this team seeks to explore how different state and non-state actors
negotiate water management policy in the wake of neoliberal decentralization, and
the local effects of these policy decisions for residents of El Alto. Dr. Hicks’ research will address the health effects of water scarcity in one older
and more central, and one younger and more peripheral neighborhood as water management
strategies evolve through time.
In addition to teaching existing courses in biological anthropology, Dr. Hicks has
developed two courses building on her research focus, with substantial student research
participation on the EJUE project. ANTH 4/6510 Culture, Health and Environmental Justice addresses inequality in the
distribution of environmental hazards, and participatory research strategies designed
to address resulting health issues. ANTH 4/6992 Race, Inequality and Health, deals with the development of scientific
and cultural ideas of race, modern human variation, and the implications of culturally
constructed ideas of race for health inequalities.
Hicks, K and WR Leonard. 2009. Political economy as a framework for linking biocultural and evolutionary approaches
in human biology research. 78th Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, Chicago, Illinios.
Wiley-Liss symposium: Human Natures and Human Cultures: Integrating Evolutionary Perspectives
and Biocultural Approaches.
Hicks, Kathryn and Nicole Fabricant. Cuban Doctors and the Shifting Politics of Healthcare in Bolivia, presented at the
107th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, November 19-23, San Francisco,
Hicks, K. 2008. Social support and immune function among urban women in highland Bolivia, presented
at the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Human Biology Association, April 9-10, Columbus, OH.
Hicks, K. 2008. A Biocultural Perspective on Fictive Kinship: Social Support and Women’s Health in
El Alto, Bolivia, presented at the Northwestern University Latin American and Caribbean
Studies Conference “Indigenous People Mapping New Terrain in Bolivia,” April 28-29,
Hicks, K and WR Leonard. 2007. The influence of household composition on the relationship between social support
and health status among women of El Alto, Bolivia, presented at the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Human Biology Association, March 28-29, Philadelphia, PA.
Hicks, K, TW McDade, WR Leonard, J Burhop, V Reyes-Garcia, V Vadez, T Huanca, and
R Godoy. 2005. Seasonal variation in C-reactive protein among the Tsimane’ of lowland Bolivia, presented
at the 30th Annual Meeting of the Human Biology Association, April 6-7, Milwaukee, WI.
Hicks, K, VJ Vitzthum, WR Leonard, J Burhop, M Araoz, L Barragan, V Reyes-Garcia,
V Vadez, T Huanca, R Godoy, and TW McDade. 2004. A comparison of C-reactive protein levels in adolescents from lowland and highland
Bolivia, presented at the 29th Annual Meeting of the Human Biology Association, April 14-15, Tampa FL.
Tanner, S, V Reyes-Garcia, V Vadez, T Huanca, WR Leonard, TW McDade, R Godoy, MO Aiello,
and K Hicks. 2004. Anthropometrics and gastrointestinal parasitic infections among the Tsimane’ of Bolivia,
presented at the 29th Annual Meeting of the Human Biology Association, April 14-15, Tampa FL.