Popular anthropology for everyone. Exploring the familiar and the strange, demystifying and myth busting human culture, biology and behaviour in all times and places. Myths, music, art, archaeology, language, food, festivals, fun.


Welcome to the anthropocene!

Age of Ambition by Evan Osnos

The book “Age of Ambition” by Evan Osnos sheds a fascinating light on China as it surges towards a leading role as a major global player. But there is much more going on than just economic development.

Monsters, superheroes, and babes on the cover of Space War no.29: Enchanted Planet, May 1978.

How can we tell complex stories while writing clearly and persuasively? A deep reading of science fiction provides some clues.

Urinators in India. Photos via basicshit.org: stop public urination, Flickr.

Public urination is a frequent and visible occurrence in many cities across India. Measures to prevent it have had mixed success. But what exactly is the harm?

Jack Kerouac Adler signpost, San Francisco, California. Photo by Dominic Simpson, via Wikimedia Commons.

While the Beat Generation’s influence has waned with time, in Brazil there has been a resurgence of interest in this group of misfits and their values.
Why Brazil, and why now?

Awesome day at #brightonbeach chilling with my #vintage skirt. #melbourne #beach #ootd #oo7d #igsg. Photo by the author.

How often do you post on social media, and just how calculated are your posts? For celebrity lifestyle bloggers, who can earn large sums in endorsements, getting the aesthetics right counts.

Wizard shrine. Photo by Laura Miller.

The wizard boom in Japan and the lingering popularity of a centuries-old shrine.

The London Underground

Do you feel threatened by strangers, or are you happy to urinate next to them? Your attitude might depend on your country of origin.

Farts can be sacred when you put your heart into it. By Bart Everson [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Around the world, farts incite hostility, laughter, and embarrassment. Why? Is it the foul odor, the explosive sounds, the suggestion of shit? A cross-cultural exploration of breaking wind.

A curious Norwegian cow. Photo by Lars_Pistasj via Flickr.

Before the Internet existed, humankind spent millennia pondering a question that cuts to the heart of what it means to be human. Do we people prefer dogs or cats?

Too much rope? Photo by Flickr user Traveller_40

When isn’t cooperating a cultural option? Tugs-of-war in Japan.

Coffee with an emotional connection. Photo by Ashleee (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Well Coffeehouse is turning coffee into “living water” by donating profits to build wells. The customers are the congregation, and the register is the donation-basket. But is it making consumption meaningful?

It's all the fault of Thomas Cook, who invented the guided tour in 1841. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

As recently as the 1980s, the cicerone was alive and well in England. Versions of this tour guide survive around the world. What are their shared traits, and why are they so insistent that us tourists will shower them with wealth?