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Dr. Dettwyler is best known for her work studying the duration of breastfeeding in humans as it relates to other mammals, primarily the nonhuman primates. According to her research, the natural age of weaning is 2½ to 7 years old as determined by weight gain, length of gestation, dental eruption, and other factors. She also studies the cultural context of breasts and breastfeeding in the United States, and is currently doing research on women in the US who nurse their children longer than 3 years.
Life and career
Kathy Dettwyler was born in 1955 at McClellan AFB in California.
She earned her BS in Anthropology from the University of California, Davis, in 1977, her MA from Indiana University, Bloomington in 1981, and her Ph.D. in Anthropology also from IU Bloomington in 1985.
She taught at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi from 1985 to 1987.
She taught at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas in the Anthropology department from 1987 until 2001, when she took early retirement from her position as a tenured Associate Professor and moved to Delaware with her husband and children.
Through the 1990s she served as a nutritional anthropologist/consultant to a number of organizations providing nutrition education in Mali, while performing field research there.
She currently teaches part-time as an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Delaware, and continues to write and speak at conferences and universities.
In 1999 Dr. Dettwyler was diagnosed with breast cancer. After surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, she has been cancer-free for over 8 years (2008).
She is the mother of three children and the grandmother of one.
- Reflections on Anthropology: A Four-Field Reader (2003) ISBN 0-07-248598-1 - co-editor with Vaughn M. Bryant
- Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives (1995) ISBN 0-202-01192-5 - co-editor with Patricia Stuart-Macadam
- Breastfeeding: A Mother's Gift (1999) - co-editor with Patricia Stuart-Macadam
- Dancing Skeletons: Life and Death in West Africa (1994) ISBN 0-88133-748-X - 1995 Margaret Mead Award from the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology.
Selected academic journal articles
- Kathy's personal web site
- Review of Dr. Dettwyler's session at the 1999 LLLI Conference, by Robin Slaw (originally published in New Beginnings, Vol. 16 No. 5, p. 171)
- Archives of LACTNET, a high volume mailing list for lactation information and discussion, to which Kathy has contributed since 1995
- Busting Out, a 2004 film about breasts by Stir It Up Productions, featuring an interview with Kathy Dettwyler
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