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Indiana University Bloomington
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Department of Anthropology College of Arts and Sciences
One Discipline, Four Fields

Andrea Wiley


Professor, Anthropology Department
Director, Human Biology


(812) 856-4993 | Email | Office Hours

  • Ph.D., Medical Anthropology, University of California-Berkeley, 1992
  • M.A., Demography and Anthropology, University of California-Berkeley, 1986
  • B.A., Biological Bases of Behavior, University of Pennsylvania, 1984, cum laude

Geographical Areas of Specialization: South Asia, particularly India

Topical Interests: Human diet and nutrition and the adaptive significance of human dietary behavior; human adaptability, particularly to stressful environments such as high altitude; Human health and disease, especially within an evolutionary framework (Medical Anthropology); Demography; Life History Theory


I originally became interested in anthropology as an undergraduate when I discovered that the discipline would afford me a unique opportunity to merge my interests in the social and biological sciences. Hence my approach to anthropological questions is distinctly biocultural – I am interested in how biology affects culture, how culturally patterned behavior affects biology, and how these forces interact over time. I make extensive use of an evolutionary perspective in both my research and teaching, which means that I consider how biology and behavior can be considered adaptive. I apply this approach to problems related to health, disease, demography, diet and nutrition, and human social behavior.   I am also interested in the concept of “biological normalcy”:  that is, how normative ideas about what constitutes a “normal” human biology are related to statistical norms for biological traits.  My work on milk (see below under Diet and Nutrition) illustrates the ways that these two intersect.  Currently I am working on a biocultural analysis of gluten intolerance.

Medical Anthropology:  I have published a widely-used textbook in Medical Anthropology (with John S. Allen:   Medical Anthropology:  A Biocultural Perspective.  3rd edition.  Oxford University Press;

Diet and Nutrition: My current work is on the relationship between milk consumption and child health in the United States and in India. I am interested in testing widespread claims that milk enhances child growth, particularly in height. I have also worked on the relationship between milk consumption and age at menarche, milk consumption and how it affects children who grow particularly rapidly, and I am more broadly concerned with the relationship between milk consumption and life history parameters. That is, milk is designed to facilitate the growth and survival of juveniles within a particular mammalian species, yet cow's milk is now widely consumed by individuals of all ages. Thus the question is how this food affects human biology when consumed after infancy. I am interested in the U.S. and India because both are major producers of milk and both have cultural and/or religious traditions that privilege milk, yet the context in which milk is promoted is very different. It is also the case that there is variation in the digestive physiology necessary to consume milk after infancy, yet milk is increasingly consumed in populations with little or no history of milk consumption. How milk has become a globalized food and how this relates to population variation in milk digestion capacity is one aspect of this complex topic.  Along with numerous articles and chapters on various aspects of human milk consumption, I have published two books on the topic:

Re-Imagining Milk:  Cultural and Biological Perspectives (2nd edition 2016, Routledge Press)

Cultures of Milk: The Biology and Culture of Dairy Consumption in India and the United States (2014, Harvard University Press)

Reproductive health: I have conducted long term research on maternal-child health issues, within the ecological and cultural context of the Tibetan plateau of the high altitude Himalaya in India. I have been particularly concerned with how both the ecological challenges inherent to this environment (e.g., hypoxia) as well as culturally prescribed patterns of behavior affect maternal and infant health. In addition, I am interested in how very high rates of infant death can be understood and have implications for emotional development (i.e., attachment) and household kinship relations. This work is summarized and detailed in my book, An Ecology of High Altitude Infancy: A Biocultural Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2004)

Selected Publications


Wiley, Andrea S. and John S. Allen (2017)  Medical Anthropology:  A Biocultural Perspective.  3rd edition.  Oxford University Press.; 2nd edition 2013; First edition, 2008.

Wiley, Andrea S. (2016) Re-imagining Milk. 2nd edition. New York: Routledge Press.  (First edition, 2011).

Wiley, Andrea S.  (2014) Cultures of Milk: The Biology and Culture of Dairy Consumption in India and the United States Cambridge:  Harvard University Press.

Wiley, Andrea S. (2004)   An Ecology of High-altitude Infancy:  A Biocultural Perspective.  New York:  Cambridge University Press. (Cambridge Series in Medical Anthropology)

Articles /Book Chapters

Fernandez, Catalina and Andrea S. Wiley  (2017) Rethinking the starch digestion hypothesis for AMY1 copy number variation in humans.  American Journal of Physical Anthropology 163

Wiley, Andrea S. (2017) Growing a Nation:  Milk consumption in India since The Raj In Making Milk: The Past, Present, and Future of Our Primary Food.  Mathilde Cohen and Yoriko Otomo, eds.  Pp 41-59.  London:  Bloomsbury Press.

Wiley, Andrea S. (2017)  Dietary Analyses in Nutritional Anthropology.  In Research Methods in the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition. Vol.1 Janet Chrzan and John Brett, eds.   Pp. 79-91. Oxford, UK:  Berghahn Press.

Wiley, Andrea S. and Jennifer Cullin (2016) What do Anthropologists Mean When They use the Term “Biocultural”?  American Anthropologist 118(3):554-569.

Wiley, A.S., H.G. Lubree, S.M. Joshi, D.S. Bhat, L.V. Ramdas, A.S. Rao, N.V. Thuse, V.U. Deshpande, C.S. Yajnik (2015)  Cord IGF-I concentrations in Indian newborns:  associations with neonatal bod composition and maternal determinants.  Pediatric Obesity  doi:10/1111/ijpo.12038

Wiley, Andrea S.  (2015) Just Milk?: Nutritional Anthropology and the Single Food Approach.  In Teaching Food in Anthropology: Experiences, Challenges, and Techniques. Candice Lowe Swift -and Richard Wilk, eds. Pp. 77-96.   Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

Wiley, Andrea S. (2012)  Cow’s milk consumption and human biology: A life history approach.       American Journal of Human Biology 24(2):130-138.

Wiley, Andrea S. (2011)  Cow’s milk consumption and age at menarche:  evidence from      NHANES 1999-2004 PLoS ONE 6(2): e14685. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014685.

Wiley, Andrea S. (2011)  Milk for “growth”: global and local meanings of milk consumption in      China, India, and the U.S.  Food and Foodways 19(1):11-33.

Wiley, Andrea S. (2004) “Drink milk for fitness:” the cultural politics of human biological variation and milk consumption in the United States.  American Anthropologist106(3):506-517.  Reprinted in Nutritional Anthropology, 2nd edition. Darna Dufour, Alan Goodman, Gretel Pelto, eds. Oxford University Press, 2013.

Wiley, Andrea S. and Leslie Carlin  (1999)  Demographic contexts and the adaptive role of infant attachment behavior: A hypothesis.  Human Nature 10(2):135-161.

Wiley, Andrea S. and Pike, Ivy (1998)  An alternative method for assessing early mortality in contemporary populations.  American Journal of Physical Anthropology 107:315-330.

Wiley, Andrea S. (1998)  The ecology of low natural fertility in Ladakh.  Journal of Biosocial Science  30(4):457-480.

Wiley, Andrea S. and Katz, Solomon H.  (1998)  Geophagy in pregnancy:  A test of an hypothesis.        Current Anthropology 39(4):532-545.

Wiley, Andrea S.  (1994)  Birthweight, infant mortality, and high altitude adaptation in the Himalaya.  American Journal of Physical Anthropology 94:289-305.

Wiley, Andrea S.  (1992)  Adaptation and the Biocultural Paradigm in Medical Anthropology:         A Critical Review.  Medical Anthropology Quarterly  (n.s.) 6:216-236.