Jaymelee Kim

Jaymelee Kim

Assistant Professor, Biological Anthropology


3037 Faculty / Administration Building


Department of Anthropology

Jaymelee Kim

Jaymelee Kim is an applied anthropologist who frequently works directly with marginalized communities to address real world problems. Her research focuses on  improving and co-developing justice models and forensic-based intervention in the aftermath of human rights violations and disasters. She also examines the intersections of social inequity, psychosocial trauma, and biology, particularly as it applies to survivor recovery or lived experiences of the deceased. In addition to analysis of human remains, she collaborates with living communities to conduct survivor-centered research and outreach in the US, Canada, and African Great Lakes region. Her areas of expertise are forensic anthropology, bioarchaeology, human anatomy, thanatology, alternative justice, and human rights interventions. In her career, she has:

  • provided forensic training, survivor services consultation, and disaster response consultation domestically and abroad for local organizations and national governments;
  • advised nonprofit and non-governmental organizations in diversity, grant-writing, survivor services, and organizational behavior;
  • worked in cultural resource management;
  • conducted North American and Greek archaeological investigations;
  • overseen anatomical cadaver labs and forensic spaces.

After conducting human remains excavation and analyses for over sixteen years, Dr. Kim has amassed experience from multiple forensic organizations, including the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center, or Body Farm; the Knox County Medical Examiner’s Office; and the Knox County Regional Forensic Center. Currently, Dr. Kim consults as a forensic anthropologist primarily for the Monroe, Washtenaw, and Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Offices in southern Michigan and assists the Detroit Police Department and FBI with Operation UNITED, a grassroots initiative to identify cold cases.

Research interest(s)/area of expertise

forensic anthropology, thanatology, biology of poverty, neurobiology and epigenetics of trauma, structural violence and health disparity, forensic human rights and humanitarian capacity-building, political and legal anthropology, human trafficking in the US, Indian Residential Schools and the missing children, Indigenous rights


  • PhD, Anthropology, University of Tennessee-Knoxville
  • MA, Anthropology, University of Tennessee-Knoxville
  • BS, Packaging (materials) Science, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Graduate Certificate in Linguistics
  • Graduate Certificate in Disasters, Displacement, and Human Rights

Awards and grants

  • 2022, "Forensic Science Cultures: Beliefs, Perceptions, and Victim Identification in Post-War Uganda." The Wenner-Gren Foundation, Post-PhD Research Grant. Co-PI: Hepner.
  • 2021-22, "Effects of Intersecting Stakeholder Risk Perception, Preparedness, and Response to Tornadoes in TN." National Hazards Center, Weather-Ready Research Grant. Co-PIs: Reinke, Eldridge
  • 2019-21, "Restless Spirits and Human Remains: Life, Death, and Justice in Post-War Northern Uganda." School for Advanced Research Seminar Grant. Chairs: Hepner, Steadman
  • 2016-17, "Agency of the Dead, Alternative Justice, and Forensic Intervention in Uganda." Minority Health Int'l Research and Training Program, National Institute of Health.
  • 2013-16, "Transitional Justice, Forensic Intervention, and Human Rights in Canada," National Science Foundation.
  • 2013-14, "Transitional Justice, Forensic Intervention, and Human Rights in Canada," The Wenner-Gren Foundation.

News mentions

Podcast: Click here to listen to an interview with Dr. Kim and the directors of Operation UNITED, a joint DPD-FBI effort to identify Michigan's cold cases.

Webinar: Click here to listen to Dr. Kim and other human rights experts discuss the relationship between anthropology and human rights for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Webinar: Click here to hear a National Institute of Justice webinar about Dr. Kim's research and forensic capacity-building in Uganda, where spirits of the dead and forensic anthropology intersect.

Podcast: Click here to hear an American Anthropology Association podcast episode co-created by Dr. Kim and other anthropologists discussing The Myth of Closure in victim identification. This episode features the renowned Dr. Sarah Wagner and the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team's Mercedes Salado.

Press Release: Click here to read about a human trafficking awareness event that Dr. Kim spoke at, along with Ohio's Senator Fedor.

Selected publications

2023 Kim, JJ. Human Rights. In In Wald, P, Altschuler, S and J Metzel (Eds.) Keywords for Health Humanities. NYU Press: New York.

2023 Kim, JJ and H Friedlander. If You See Something, Say Something: Using a Structural Vulnerability Profile in Forensic Casework. Forensic Science International - Synergy 6(100328).

2023 Kim, JJ and A Rosenblatt. Whose Humanitarianism? Whose Forensic Anthropology? In Parra, Robert C. and Douglas H. Ubelaker (Eds.), Anthropology of Violent Death: Theoretical Foundations for Forensic Humanitarian Action. Wiley: Hoboken, NJ.

2022 Moore, MK and JJ Kim. Marginalization, Death, and Decline: The role of Forensic Anthropology to document the osteology of poverty in Detroit, Michigan in the 21st Century. In Byrnes, Jennifer and Ivan Sandoval-Cervantes (Eds.), Marginalized in Death: A Forensic Anthropology of Intersectional Identity in the Modern Era. Lexington Books: Washington, D.C.

2022 Kim, JJ and MK Moore. Recommendations for Large-Scale Exhumations of Potter’s Fields: Cases in the US. Forensic and Legal Medicine.

2022 Adams, DM, JG Goldstein, M Isa, JJ Kim, MK Moore, MA Pilloud, SD Tallman, AP Winburn. A Conversation on Redefining Ethical Considerations in Forensic Anthropology. American Anthropologist.

2022 Kim, JJ, LMMK Elgerud, and H Tuller. Gaining Community Entry with Survivors for Forensic Human Rights and Humanitarian Intervention. Forensic Sciences Research. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/20961790.2021.2002524

2021 Kim, JJ. Indigenous Youth and Experiences with Transitional Justice in Canada. Neos 13(1).

2021 Kim, JJ, ER Eldridge, AJ Reinke, and R Williams. Digitally shaped ethnographic relationships during a global pandemic and beyond. Qualitative Research. DOI: doi.org/10.1177/14687941211052275

2020 Kim, JJ, AJ Reinke, ER Eldridge, and M Grant. Between Ohio and Georgia: Constructing the COVID-19 Disaster in the United States. Anthropology Today 36(4):17-19. DOI: doi.org/10.1111/1467-8322.12591

2020 Elgerud, LMMK and JJ Kim. Mapping the Intangible: Forensic Human Rights Documentation in Post-conflict Uganda. The International Journal of Human Rights 24(4):594-615. DOI: doi.org/10.1080/13642987.2020.1783534

2019 Kim, JJ, LMMK Elgerud, and H Tuller. Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology Sensitization in Post-Conflict Uganda. Forensic Science International 306:110062. DOI: doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2019.110062

2019 Kim, JJ and TR Hepner. Of Justice and the Grave: the Role of the Dead in Post-Conflict Uganda. International Criminal Law Review 19(6):1-25. DOI: doi.org/10.1163/15718123-01905004

2018 Kim, JJ. Perspectives from the Ground: Bureaucratic Violence, Identity, and Transitional Justice in Canada. Conflict and Society: Advances in Research 4(1):116-134.

2018 Kim, JJ. An Alternative Approach to Forensic Anthropology: Findings from Northern Uganda. African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review 8(1):29-53.

Other qualifications directly relevant to courses taught

  • Full member, American Academy of Forensic Sciences Anthropology Section (conference co-chair)
  • Member, Society of Forensic Anthropologists
  • Member, American Anthropological Association (public policy task force, Association of Indigenous Anthropologists)
  • Member, Ohio Mortuary Response Team
  • Member, Michigan Mortuary Response Team

Courses taught by Jaymelee Kim

Fall Term 2023 (current)