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!

2014 Air Guitar World Champion Nanami "Seven Seas" Nagura of Japan. Image by Aleksi Ollila

Some people say that air guitar can bring world peace. Others claim it is embarrassing. What’s the social purpose of this fine, yet imaginary, art?

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?

Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft at Ta Prohm. Still from the film Tomb Raider.

What have you seen? And did you actually see it? At Angkor Wat, Cambodia, tourists recreate the imaginary worlds of Tomb Raider and Temple Run. But archaeology reveals that an ancient, intriguing history likes behind these ruinous stones.

Urumqi: Capital city of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. Photo by Sophia Slavich, taken June 2013.

What would you associate naan bread, headscarves, mosques and desert bazaars with? Meet the Uyghurs, ten million Turkic Muslims living on China’s western periphery.

Traffic light in New York City. Photo by Erin B. Taylor.

People: can’t live with them, can’t taser them. How do you create personal space in the city?


A problem with designing nuclear waste repositories is that they are meant to last for up to 100,000 years – far longer than we can imagine. Do our efforts to conceptualize “deep time” find us out of our depths?

Changing attitudes or just a practical measure? Unisex toilets are becoming more common in many countries

Gender has become such a mainstream word that in some contexts it has become a misplaced substitute for sex. It as if people feel that it is no longer safe or politically correct to say the word sex. So what is the difference between sex and gender?

Christmas Gifts

Don’t bother feeling guilty, your mass consumption at Christmas is part of what makes you a moral person. Why greed is good for humanity in all times and places.

A strike in Portugal. Photo by Mauro Rodrigues.

What does Portugal look like to a local who has lived overseas? Pretty weird, it seems. Bureaucracy, temperament, and traffic behaviour are among the oddities observed in this article.

A shelter hidden in the forest in Brzeźnica-Kolonia, Poland. Photo by Dawid Kobialka.

The Cold War left a material legacy of ruins and memories in numerous European countries. This photo essay explores the abandoned bunkers, trenches, and ghost towns that remain in Poland.