Professor Goodman is a biocultural anthropologist at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts where he has taught since 1985, and currently serves as a dean of faculty.
From 2005-2007, he served as president of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), and was central in developing the AAA’s public education project, RACE: Are We So Different?. He has authored several influential publications on genetics, race and culture, and along with Thomas Leatherman, was co-editor of the significant publication Building a new Biocultural Synthesis (1999). Through out his career Goodman’s work has centered on health disparities and the nutritional consequences of political economic processes such as poverty, racism, and social inequality. His latest work centers on race and the interaction of biology and culture that contributes to health disparities.

Research and Work

Goodman was instrumental organizing the 115th Wenner-Gren conference in November of 1992 that convened to address the rift between cultural and biological explanations of human social phenomena in the field of Anthropology. During the 1980’s and into the early 1990’s, Anthropology was torn between biological and cultural reductionist accounts of social phenomena. This division hindered the field from making significant contributions to understanding how biology and culture interrelated to shape lived experiences. The debate became so heated in some Universities, that it the cultural and biological departments were moved to separate parts of campuses, which further prevented collaboration between the two subfields. The purpose of this conference was to bring together instrumental cultural and biological anthropologists to “traverse the chasm” (Goodman and Leatherman 1999:3) between biology and culture, and advance the field as a whole by producing a synthetic theory that addresses the real world interaction of these two domains.

Eight years later, an edited volume of papers emerged from the conference attendees entitled Building a New Biocultural Synthesis. The goal of this book was to “broaden the theoretical scope of explanations in biological anthropology toward consideration of political economy, political ecology, and critical theory…” (p.xiv). This publication has been instrumental in shaping a dialectical view of the interrelations of cultural and biology, and bringing the political economy of health model into medical anthropology. It was this political economy of health model that ultimately illuminated how exploitive working conditions, chronic psychosocial stress and unequal access to health care and nutritious foods become reified as health disparities among minorities.

Goodman’s work has since centered on genetics, race, and DNA as an encultured medium. His work focuses on understanding the global economic processes that shape local ecologies, and how these ecologies shape health and biology .


Alan Goodman was born in 1952. His training includes a bachelors (magna cum laude) in zoology, and a masters and doctorate in anthropology, all earned from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, as well as multi-year fellowships in stress physiology at Karolinska institute, Stockholm and International Nutrition at Univeristy of Connecticut He began teaching at Hampshire College in 1985, where he has served as dean of the School of Natural Sciences, and in 2009 was appointed as vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty. Goodman has also served as president of the AAA from 2005-20073. Alan Goodman lives in Leverett, MA with is wife, Chaia Heller, and Daughter Ruby .

Major Publications

AH Goodman. How is Race Real? In Mike Tauber and Pamela Singh (producers) Blended Nation: Portraits and Interviews of Mixed Race America. Channel Photographics, New York
Reprint of: Why Genes Don’t Count (for Racial Differences in Health). American Journal of Public Health 90(11): 1699-1702. In: P. Brown (ed) Medical Anthropology (McGraw-Hill).
J. Jones, M.M. Overvbey, AH Goodman, C. Mukhopadhyay, Y. Moses and A Beckrich. RACE: A Teacher’s Guide for High School. American Anthropological Association, Arlington, VA. (72 pages)
AH Goodman, D Heath and S Lindee (eds.), Genetic Nature/Culture: Anthropology and Science Beyond the Two-Culture Divide. University of California Press.
TL Leatherman and AH Goodman. Coca-Colonization of Diets in the Yucatan. Social Science and Medicine. 61:833-846.
G. Ellison and A. Goodman (eds.) The Nature of Difference: Science, Society and Human Biology. Taylor and Francis, London.

Online Resources

Goodman, Alan H and Thomas Letherman (eds) 1999. Building a New Biocultural Synthesis:Political Economic Perspectives on Human Biology. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor