Friday, March 30th 2012

Building Babies: Interview with Julienne Rutherford

As I mentioned Wednesday, Building Babies, the volume edited by me, Katie Hinde and Julienne Rutherford will be out in only a few months in one of the fastest turnarounds I know of for a book of this nature. It also happens to be awesome.

I shared an interview with Lady Editor Katie on Wednesday, and today I share one with Lady Editor Julienne to describe how we developed this book, and why books like this are still important in academia (even if we could and should discuss issues in cost structures and accessibility). I also have printed the second half of the Building Babies table of contents, so that you can see the breadth of topics covered and our excellent chapter authors.

Building Babies Table of Contents (Part 2)


12. Maternal influences on social and neural development in rhesus monkeys: Christopher J. Machado

13. Maternal Condition: Infant Compensation, Resilience, and Adaptive Response: Lynn A. Fairbanks and Katie Hinde

14. Tentative title: The role of mothers in the development of complex skills in chimpanzees: Elizabeth V. Lonsdorf


15. Reproductive Strategies and Infant Care in the Malagasy Primates: Stacey R. Tecot, Andrea L. Baden, Natalie Romine, Jason M. Kamilar

16. When dads help: infant development of owl monkeys and other primates with allo-maternal care: Maren Huck & Eduardo Fernandez Duque

17. Ontogeny of Social Behavior in the Genus Cebus and the Application of an Integrative Framework for Examining Plasticity and Complexity in Evolution: Katherine C. MacKinnon


18. Identifying proximate and ultimate causation in the development of primate sex-typed social behavior: Stephanie Meredith

19. Future adults or old children? Integrating life-history frameworks for understanding primate locomotor patterns: Michelle Bezanson and Mary Ellen Morbeck

20. Quantitative genetic perspectives female macaque life histories: heritability, plasticity, and trade-offs: Gregory Blomquist

21. Cultural evolution and human reproductive behavior: Lesley Newson

CONCLUSION (Robert Martin)


Interview with Julienne Rutherford, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Oral Biology, College of Dentistry, University of Illinois, Chicago

Julienne Rutherford hard at work, doing awesome science.

Julienne Rutherford hard at work, doing awesome science.

What was the experience like editing this book?
I had never done anything like this. I’ve done some co-writing and I’ve reviewed papers before, but the teamwork and choreography that go into an edited volume took those skills to a new level. I think it’s hilarious that Katie thought maybe I’d be smart enough to say no to editing a book as an as-yet untenured assistant professor. HAHAHAhahahaha. Um, no. But I have to say that even though I was warned and even strongly advised against doing this, it has turned out to be a real joy and so far one of my proudest professional achievements. I learned so much about editing (cutting extraneous prose, cleaning up narratives, tightening arguments, retaining an author’s voice through it all) and this in turn has already had a really positive impact on my own writing. And ultimately, it was just so fun to work with you and Katie and our incredibly talented cast of contributors.

What were some of the reasons you chose these chapter authors?
Their science is good, you know? We were just super jazzed about what is happening right now in the complex world of primate development. That said, I don’t want to shy away from the fact that it was very important to me personally to highlight new avenues of research into primate development being defined and pursued by junior scholars in our field, and especially women. We certainly did not include or exclude anyone just because of their gender – it really just turned out that the work we were most drawn to as exciting, interdisciplinary, innovative, and visionary was being done predominantly female scholars early in their careers. And I think that’s great.  If we can inspire each other, support each other’s scholarship, and really stand up for an inclusive intellectual culture, I hope our book makes a contribution to keeping women in the pipeline.

What is the value of an edited volume in this era of academic publishing?
The value to me is that it allowed us to craft a specific kind of narrative in a specific time in the history of the field of primate development. The chapters bring to the forefront complementary themes like epigenetics and evo-devo, inflammation and stress, developmental transitions.  Certainly some of the avenues outlined in the book are in their infancy – hee, I made a Building Babies pun! – and we will see how they bear out over time. But an edited volume is sort of like staking a flag, a grand gesture because we are saying that this is for posterity, in a way that a special journal issue or meeting proceedings doesn’t achieve, in my view. I also want to point out that our review process was unusually rigorous for an edited volume (I’m sure many of our contributors would agree with that!) but that meant that everyone really had to make a concerted effort to be intelligible to each other. So the book in many ways forms a conversation, a really nerdtastic conversation.

What contribution do you think this book makes to anthropology? To evolutionary biology?
We take an explicitly comparative approach to primate development. By that I mean that we don’t divide this book along taxonomic lines. Since our organizing frame is the developmental trajectory, we are talking about humans, baboons, lemurs, chimpanzees, et cetera, all in the same breath. I think it’s enormously important that the study of human biology and human biomedicine is integrated into a comparative primatology. I can’t help find it odd that we train human biologists in some anthropology programs with nothing but the barest bones of a primatology background. Many human biologists are really well-versed in the rodent literature that pertains to their particular phenomena of interest, and are really well-versed in human physiology, but are not aware of the amazing work their primatological colleagues are doing. I anticipate this book helping to foster a cross-pollination that I think will be tremendously beneficial to the future of biological anthropology. See, I have a dream of a world in which a biological anthropologist who works on both human and nonhuman primate projects makes sense to hiring committees and funding agencies, and if that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.


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