Faculty Mentor

Dr. Anne E. Pfister, Associate Professor of Anthropology

Faculty Mentor Department

Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work

Associated Prize (or Other Information)

2020-2021 Undergraduate Researcher of the Year


The co-occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic with the long-lasting effects of systemic racism has been devastating, and results in vast inequities in infection and mortality rates within communities of color. In this article, I analyze the potential for epigenetic research to operationalize the social science theory of embodiment, which describes how the social and material worlds manifest in our physical bodies. Epigenetic modifications can be triggered by environmental stressors, to which minority populations are more likely to be exposed. In turn, these stressors are linked to disorders that increase COVID-19 susceptibility. Thus, epigenetic modifications provide an avenue by which racialized social experiences may become embodied as comorbidities that enhance vulnerability to COVID-19. I contextualize the epigenome’s permeability in larger discussions about the social construction of race, inheritance, and calls for racial equity.