- Director of Undergraduate Studies & Teaching Associate Professor
Jennifer Muller (PhD, University at Buffalo 2006) is a historical bioarchaeologist whose research explores the biological consequences of discrimination‐based inequities in 19th- and 20th-century African diasporic populations and the institutionalized poor. Her research, which integrates archaeological, archival, ethnographic, and skeletal data, aims to disrupt hegemonic narratives of the poor and the marginalized in the past. Through the investigation of the use of bodies in medical and anthropological training, her scholarship also examines how people who are discriminated against in life may also experience the negative consequences of inequity in death. Prior to coming to the University of Pittsburgh, she held appointments with the Department of Anthropology at Ithaca College, the City University of New York, and the W. Montague Cobb Laboratory at Howard University.
Degrees and EducationPhD, University of Buffalo, 2006
Much of Jennifer Muller’s research has included bioarchaeological analysis of those interred in poorhouse cemeteries and US anatomical collections. Her research on the Monroe County Poorhouse and the W. Montague Cobb Skeletal Collection focused on the skeletal evidence of trauma and its connections to discrimination and racism in occupational opportunity. In recent years, she has explored trauma and disease in the past and its association with the social dis-abling of individuals with perceived impairments. Beginning in 2013, she has contributed to the Erie County Poorhouse Bioarchaeology Project (Buffalo, NY) through the analysis of the 67 child and infant remains from an excavated portion of the poorhouse. Many of these skeletal remains present with evidence of severe pathology. In- depth research of New York State historical documents reveals that poorhouse children (between 2 and 16 years of age) with perceived physical and mental impairments were considered deviant and unworthy of familial care or transference to orphanages. This research provides insight into the role of socially ascribed disability as a determinant of historical social welfare worthiness. This not only contributes to historical narratives but has direct relevance to our understanding of social welfare policy and practice today.
Critical to Jennifer Muller’s applied and engaged approach is the incorporation of descendant communities in research design, implementation, and outreach/education. She has also been involved in several projects aimed at local and descendant community partnership and advocacy for the preservation of sacred spaces and heritage management.
0681 Introduction to Human Evolution
1600 Human Evolution and Variation
Byrnes JF and Muller JL. 2022. A Child Left Behind: Malnutrition and Chronic Illness of a Child from the Erie County Poorhouse Cemetery. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. doi: 10.1002/oa.3130.
Muller JL. 2021. A Bioarchaeology of Inequality: Lessons from American Institutionalized and Anatomical Skeletal Assemblages. In: O. Cerasuolo (Ed.) Inequality in Antiquity. Buffalo, NY: State University of New York Press.
Muller JL., Byrnes, JF. and Ingleman, DA. 2020. The Erie County Poorhouse (1828–1926) as a Heterotopia: A Bioarchaeological Perspective. In: LA Tremblay and S Reedy (Eds.) The Bioarchaeology of Structural Violence: A Theoretical Framework for Industrial Era Inequality. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.
Muller JL. 2020. Reflecting on a More Inclusive Historical Bioarchaeology. Journal of Historical Archaeology 54(1):202-211.
Muller JL. and Butler MS. 2018. At the Intersections of Race, Poverty, Gender, and Science: A Museum Mortuary for Twentieth Century Fetuses and Infants. In: PK Stone (Ed), Bioarchaeological Analyses and Bodies: New Ways of Knowing Anatomical and Archaeological Skeletal Collections. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.
Byrnes JF and Muller JL. (Eds) 2017. Bioarchaeology of Impairment and Disability: Theoretical, Ethnohistorical, and Methodological Perspectives. Part of the series “Bioarchaeology and Social Theory” edited by Debra Martin. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.
Byrnes JF and Muller JL. 2017. Mind the Gap: Bridging Disability Studies and Bioarchaeology – An Introduction. In: JF Byrnes and JL Muller (Eds) Bioarchaeology of Impairment and Disability: Theoretical, Ethnohistorical, and Methodological Perspectives. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.
Muller JL. 2017. Rendered Unfit: ‘Defective’ Children in the Erie County Poorhouse. In: JF Byrnes and JL Muller (Eds) Bioarchaeology of Impairment and Disability: Theoretical, Ethnohistorical, and Methodological Perspectives. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.
Muller JL, Pearlstein K, and de la Cova C. 2016. Dissection and documented skeletal collections: legal embodiment of inequality. In: KC Nystrom (ed) The Bioarchaeology of Autopsy and Dissection in the United States. Bioarchaeology and Social Theory series, Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.
Watkins RJ and Muller JL. 2015. Repositioning the Cobb Human Archive: the merger of a skeletal collection and its texts. American Journal of Human Biology 27(1):41-50.