Dr. Rachel Watkins' research focuses on the biological and social history of African Americans living in the 19th and 20th century urban US. She began this journey studying the health consequences of poverty and inequality through skeletal and documentary data analysis, with a focus on the W. Montague Cobb skeletal collection.
This unique anatomical collection is made up of DC residents who died in the city between 1930 and 1969. There is extensive cultural information associated with the collection that makes it ideal for examining various biocultural interrelationships.
This research led to a broader interest in past and present studies of the human body as a ‘biological and social product’ within biological anthropology. As such, her current research and writing focuses on the use of African American skeletal remains and living bodies in the development of bioanthropological practices and racial formation.