Clarence C. Gravlee


Clarence.jpg Clarence C. Gravlee is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Florida, Gainesville. Gravlee’s contribution to medical anthropology is mainly through his research on racial inequalities and their impact on health outcomes. Other areas of research and teaching experience include human biological variation, cultural dimensions of psychosocial stress, and the appropriate utilization and application of qualitative and quantitative research methods for data collection[1] .

Research & Work

Gravlee specializes in identifying sociocultural factors that cause racial inequities in health. His current and past research focuses on the examination of the social and biological facets behind race, ethnicity, and racism, and how their interplay affects a population’s overall health. Gravlee also focuses on the definition/meaning behind these variables and how they have been used in the explanation of health inequities in a given population. He has worked in Puerto Rico studying the genetic and sociocultural influences linking dark skin color with high blood pressure, which have often been found in populations of African ancestry located in the U.S., the Caribbean, and South America. Gravlee found that the cultural meaning of skin color, rather than the actual skin color itself, weighed more heavily in the variation of blood pressure. Such findings provide extensive groundwork for further exploration into the definition and measurement of race in the health arena.

Gravlee’s Puerto Rico research also delved into the cultural construction of race and the cultural model of ‘color’. Today, he extends these findings towards an analysis of the cultural model of race in the United States and the impact of the use of race and ethnicity in empirical research across disciplines including, anthropology, biomedicine, and other related fields. Gravlee has found that the interpretation of race and ethnicity vary greatly across disciplines and that such interpretation can be utilized to identify areas for collaboration and information exchange.

Additionally, Gravlee worked with colleagues to take a second look at Franz Boas’s original immigrant study entitled, Changes in Bodily Form of Descendants of Immigrants . This was a landmark study published by Boas in 1910 which caused a controversy because it was against the bio-deterministic views of the time. Boas’ study stated that head shape was sensitive to environmental fluctuations. Through this research, Gravelee and colleagues reanalyzed Boas’s original data set to test his conclusions on the “plasticity of the cranial form”[2] .

Most recently, Gravlee has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to coordinate a two-part study examining social and genetic components of racism on the health of African Americans living in Tallahassee, Florida. Utilizing a community-based participatory research approach (CBPR), Gravlee and colleagues are analyzing social components which include: (1) the identification of social stressors, (2) cultural characteristics, and (3) the embodiment/experience of racism. Genetic components include: (1) the identification of the relationship between ancestry, race, and health and (2) the environmental impact on gene function.

Due to taking biological and social approaches within his research, Gravlee has also contributed knowledge on the appropriate use and integration of data-collection methods in the field. His methodological interests include: spatial methods, geographical information systems (GIS ), social network analysis , use of panel data, and integration of genetic data and biomarkers of stress to determine health outcomes. He currently teaches varying courses on how to conduct qualitative analysis using programs such as MAXQDA.


Gravlee received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Florida (UF). He is a former Fulbright Scholar (Cologne, Germany) and completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University Of Michigan School Of Public Health . He is a former Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Florida State University (FSU) and was a Faculty Affiliate for the university’s program in Latin American and Caribbean Studies and a Research Associate for the Center for Demography and Population Health. In 2010, was appointed as Associate Professor at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Florida. Currently, he serves affiliates for the university’s African American Studies Program and Center for Latin American Studies and as a Faculty Assistant Professor in the Department of Behavioral Science and Community Health in the College of Public Health and Health Professions[3] .

Gravelee is an incoming editor for the Medical Anthropology Quaterly (MAQ) and serves on the Executive Board for the Society for Medical Anthropology, from which he was named an Emerging Scholar in 2007. Additionally, he has served as a consultant for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF) and has received numerous fellowships and grants under the American Heart Association (AHA ), the German-American Fulbright Commission, and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Additionally, Gravelee oversees the weekly Medical Anthropology Journal Club at UF and a blog covering a variety of Anthropological research and news through his personal website.

Gravlee with fellow students of the Medical Anthropology Journal Club

Major Publications

Gravlee, Clarence C. 2008. Life Expectancy. In Encyclopedia of Race and Racism, edited by John H. Moore. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA.

Dressler, William W., Kathryn S. Oths, and Clarence C. Gravlee. 2005. Race and Ethnicity in Public Health Research: Models to Explain Health Disparities. Annual Review of Anthropology 34 (1): 231-52.

Schulz, Amy J., Clarence C. Gravlee, David R. Williams, Barbara A. Israel, Graciela Mentz, and Zachary Rowe. 2006. Discrimination, Symptoms of Depression, and Self-Rated Health Among African American Women in Detroit: Results From a Longitudinal Analysis. American Journal of Public Health 96 (7): 1265-70.

Gravlee, Clarence C., William W. Dressler, and H. Russell Bernard. 2005. Skin Color, Social Classification, and Blood Pressure in Southeastern Puerto Rico. American Journal of Public Health 95 (12): 2191-97.

Gravlee, Clarence C., and William W. Dressler. 2005. Skin Pigmentation, Self-Perceived Color, and Arterial Blood Pressure in Puerto Rico. American Journal of Human Biology 17 (2): 195-206.

Gravlee, Clarence C. 2005. Ethnic Classification in Southeastern Puerto Rico: The Cultural Model of "Color". Social Forces 83 (3): 949-70.

Gravlee, Clarence C., and Elizabeth Sweet. 2008. Race, Ethnicity, and Racism in Medical Anthropology, 1977-2002. Medical Anthropological Quarterly 22 (1): 27-51.

Gravlee, Clarence C. 2009. How race becomes biology: embodiment of social inequality. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 139(1):47-57.

Gravlee, Clarence C., H. Russell Bernard, and William R. Leonard. 2003. Heredity, Environment, and Cranial Form: A Re-Analysis of Boas’s Immigrant Data. American Anthropologist 105 (1): 125-38.

Gravlee, Clarence C., H. Russell Bernard, and William R. Leonard. 2003. Boas’s Changes in Bodily Form: The Immigrant Study, Cranial Plasticity, and Boas’s Physical Anthropology. American Anthropologist 105 (2): 326-32.

Gravlee, Clarence C., David P. Kennedy, Ricardo Godoy, and William R. Leonard. 2009. Methods for Collecting Panel Data: What Can Cultural Anthropology Learn From Other Disciplines? Journal of Anthropological Research 65 in press.

Zenk, Shannon N., Amy J. Schulz, Graciela Mentz, James S. House, Clarence C. Gravlee, Patricia Y. Miranda, Patricia Miller, and Srimathi Kannan. 2007. Inter-Rater and Test-Retest Reliability: Methods and Results for the Neighborhood Observational Checklist. Health & Place 13 (2): 452-65.

Gravlee, Clarence C., Shannon N. Zenk, Sachiko Woods, Zachary Rowe, and Amy J. Schulz. 2006. Handheld Computers for Direct Observation of the Social and Physical Environment. Field Methods 18 (4): 382-97.

Gravlee, Clarence C. 2002. Mobile Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing (MCAPI) With Handheld Computers: The Entryware System V3.0. Field Methods 14 (3): 322-36.

Online Resources

HEAT: Health Equity Alliance of Tallahassee:
Further information on Clarence Gravlee's current projects
Gravlee Interview on NPR: September 2010
Society for Applied Anthropology

Further Reading

2010 Reyes-García, Victoria, Gravlee, Clarence C., McDade, Thomas W., Huanca, Tomás, Leonard, William R., and Tanner, Susan. Cultural consonance and body morphology: Estimates with longitudinal data from an Amazonian society. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 143(2):167-174.

2010 Godoy, Ricardo, C. Nyberg, D. T. Eisenberg, O. Magvanjav, E. Shinnar, W. R.Leonard, C. C. Gravlee, V. Reyes-García, T. W. McDade, T. Huanca, S. Tanner, and Bolivian TAPS Study Team. Short but catching up: Statural growth among native Amazonian Bolivian children. American Journal of Human Biology 22(3):336-347.

2010 Godoy, R., O. Magvanjav, C. Nyberg, D.T.A. Eisenberg, T.W. McDade, W.R. Leonard, V. Reyes-Garcia, T. Huanca, S. Tanner, and C.C. Gravlee (2010). Why no adult stunting penalty or height premium? Estimates from native Amazonians in Bolivia. Economics & Human Biology, 8(1): 88-99.

2010 Reyes-García, Victoria, Clarence C. Gravlee, Thomas W. McDade, Tomás Huanca, William R. Leonard, and Susan Tanner. Cultural consonance and psychological wellbeing:estimates with longitudinal data from an Amazonian society. Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry, 34(1): 186–203.

2009 Godoy, Ricardo, Victoria Reyes-Garcia, Clarence C. Gravlee, Tomás Huanca, William R. Leonard, Thomas W. McDade, Susan Tanner, and TAPS Bolivia Study Team. Moving beyond a snapshot to understand changes in the well-being of Native Amazonians: Panel evidence (2002–2006) from Bolivia. Current Anthropology 50(4):563-573.

2007 Godoy, R., Goodman, E., Gravlee, C. C., Levins, R., Seyfried, C., Caram, M., et al. Blood pressure and hypertension in an American colony (Puerto Rico) and on the USA mainland compared, 1886–1930. Economics & Human Biology, 5(2):255-279.

2007 Zenk, S. N., A. J. Schulz, G. Mentz, J. S. House, C. C. Gravlee, P. Y. Miranda, P.Miller, and S. Kannan. 2007. Inter-rater and test-retest reliability: Methods and results for the neighborhood observational checklist. Health & Place 13:452-465.

2006 Schulz, Amy J., Clarence C. Gravlee, David R. Williams, Barbara A. Israel, Zachary Rowe. Discrimination, symptoms of depression, and self-rated general health among African American women in Detroit: Results from a longitudinal study from the Eastside Village Health Worker Partnership. American Journal of Public Health 96(6):1265-1270.

2005 Dressler, William W., Kathryn S. Oths, and Clarence C. Gravlee. Race and ethnicity in public health research: Models to explain health disparities. Annual Review of Anthropology 34:231-252.


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