Knowledge from the Margins: W. Montague Cobb's Pioneering Research in Biocultural Anthropology



W. Montague Cobb became the first African American to receive a doctorate in physical anthropology in the United States (1932). He was also among the first U.S. physical anthropologists to demonstrate a commitment to biocultural integration and racial equality in his research. Nonetheless, very few European American physical anthropologists responded to or utilized Cobb's work. This continued after bioanthropology took on a more biocultural focus in the 1980s, some 50 years after Cobb's first studies of this kind. In this essay, I highlight Cobb's research and writing from the first decades of his career to illustrate his contribution to developing biocultural perspectives in physical anthropology. As a result, I hope to move Cobb from the margins to the center of discussions about methodological and theoretical developments in bioanthropology over the past 30 years.