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?

A ballerina pig invites conversation. Photo by Ralph Mills.

To someone exploring material culture, these museums of the just-past can be fertile hunting grounds, not for bargains but for insights into people’s dreams. Your knick-knacks can tell an archaeologist a lot about you and your community.

Camera sketch by ShakeHatThing, via DeviantArt.

In his previous two posts, copywriter McCreery asked “What is creativity?” and “How does it happen?” He now addresses creativity’s politics and perks through the lens of a Canon advertisement.

A symbol of a bigger society: the Papua New Guinea flag

In 1925, Marcel Mauss observed that market-based morality would undermine itself if it led to a widespread loss of faith in the idea that markets are compatible with fairness and solidarity. Was he right?

The Irish giant Charles Byrne

The Irish are famous for their tall tales. Is this because they are a tall people? The lives of Ireland’s giants.

Ghost bike

Roadside memorials for traffic accident deaths are more important than graves to the bereaved. How public grieving is taking over NYC.

Protest against Monsanto in Nepal. Photo by Sascha Fuller

Food production is a way of life in Nepal. The right to decide upon, own and control the seed supply is therefore of utmost importance, reflected in widescale protests against Monsanto’s arrival.

A Naira in her natural environment. Photo by Celia Emmelhainz, Kazakhstan, February 2012.

Cultural groups are diverse. Yet one group that has not been studied in all its diversity is the Nairarbi, an information-working caste scattered through many societies in the modern world.

Edward Burnett Taylor brought culture to English science. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

We live in a world of bio-politics, in which the genomes of disempowered people are subject to malicious slanders. Why are studies that blame human biology for global inequality still being taken seriously?