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!

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.

Creativity is a messy process, and not just in getting your hands dirty. Photo by Jennifer Rensel (Flickr: Let's paint!) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

People often think that creativity is done by creative individuals in moments of inspiration. In fact, creativity is a messy, political, social process. How are new ideas and inventions brought to light?

A view of Stanford University Church called "I smell the first rain" by Peter Thoeny, Quality HDR Photography. Photo from Flickr.

Do people attend church because they believe, or do people believe because they attend church? T.M. Luhrmann uncovers the complexities of faith.

What's in your bag? 030/365 Woman's Handbag, by Christine und David Schmitt. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, Flickr.

Ask someone to tip the contents of their bags onto the table. What do you see? The results can be surprising. The things people carry say a lot about their society and culture, as well as their finances and personal preferences.

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?

Your ride to language diversity. Photo by Ad Meskens (own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Home to around 800 different languages, New York is a delight for linguists. It also provides a rich hunting ground for those trying to document languages threatened with extinction.

Thieves Beware! Photo by Luke Bennett

Metal theft costs the public sector a fortune, yet the thieves gain virtually nothing. Why do they steal?

Medals are used to mark all kinds of milestones, including war and sport. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

“But we agreed that ceremony and ritual are so foolish,” said Yankel to his daughter Brod in Jonathan Safran’s Everything is Illuminated as she took her place as the Float Queen in their town’s annual parade.

Trobriand cricket in action. Still from the film "Trobriand Cricket" by Garry Kildea and Jerry Leach

Cricket in the Trobriand Islands is different. There’s no limit to how many people can be in a team, players dress up in traditional costume, and the home team always wins. So, is it really a sport?

Tourists and penguins in Antarctica. Photo © 2013 Wilko Onken

Traveling to Antarctica necessitates a long journey, is expensive, offers relatively little comfort, exposes tourists to extreme weather, and often causes actual body pain. So why do tourists flock there?

Save Haiti t-shirt: a nice idea, except that the road to development hell is often paved with good intentions.

According to one Catholic priest, foreigners in Haiti can be classified into three types: missionaries, mercenaries, and misfits. Whether you come to Haiti with good or bad intentions, the end result is often the same: trouble.

The author as a hippie. Copyright held by Ted Polhemus.

Thanks to the Baby Boomers, fashion markets today are youth-obsessed. But are the youth really still where it’s at? Do they resent being labelled “youth”? Maybe it’s time to re-think our marketing–and our understanding of society.