Anthropology


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Dan Everett and the Pirahã in 2009. Photo by Martin Schoeller/AUGUST

Essay/
Philosophy of language
Chomsky, Wolfe and me

I took on Noam Chomsky’s ideas about language and unleashed a decade of debate and ridicule. But is my argument wrong?

Daniel Everett

A Mongolian shaman or böö sits with his child before a fire ritual during the summer solstice in June 2018 outside Ulaanbaatar. Banned under communist rule, shamanism has seen a resurgence in Mongolia since 1992, when the ancient practice became protected by the country's Constitution. Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty

Essay/
Social psychology
Masters of reality

The trances and healing powers of shamans are so widespread that they can be counted a human universal. Why did they evolve?

Thomas T Hills

Illustration by Richard Wilkinson

Essay/
Anthropology
No drama, King Obama

In Javanese culture, a ruler must stand chivalrously above strife: cool, intelligent and self-contained. Sound familiar?

Edward L Fox

Gregory and Nora Bateson with pet gibbon, Hawaii, 1970. Photo courtesy the Bateson Idea Group

Essay/
Thinkers and theories
Impossible choices

Learning from his family, his animals and his work with tribal people, Gregory Bateson saw the creative potential of paradox

Tim Parks

Artwork from the Look and Learn series of children’s books c1970. Photo © Look and Learn

Essay/
Human evolution
The hunt for human nature

We still live in the long shadow of Man-the-Hunter: a midcentury theory of human origins soaked in strife and violence

Erika Lorraine Milam

Children at the Appleby Horse Fair in Cumbria, England, in 1972. Photo by Bruce Dale/National Geographic/Getty

Essay/
Family life
Against ‘natural’ parenting

We’re opportunistic, inventive and flexible animals, and there is no ‘natural’ or ‘right’ way to bring up our children

Olga Mecking

A Tamil man falls into a trance-like state as he performs the Vel Kavadi ritual. Photo by Mark Henley/Panos
Essay/
Anthropology
Trial by fire

From fire-walking to the ice-bucket challenge, ritual pain and suffering forge intense social bonds

Dimitris Xygalatas

Model Karlie Kloss walks the runway during the 2012 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at the Lexington Avenue Armory in New York City. Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty

Essay/
Anthropology
Is nothing sacred?

Every culture looks for creative inspiration to other cultures, but is there a point when this is just outright theft?

Nabeelah Jaffer

Millions of Zimbabwean Dollars. By 2009, hyperinflation had rendered the currency worthless. Photo by Robin Hammond/Panos
Essay/
Anthropology
Riches beyond belief

If you want to know what money is, don’t ask a banker. Take a leap of faith and start your own currency

Brett Scott

Near the Water Lilies in the Marsh by Ludwig Dettman, 1897. Dettman was a member of the National Socialist (Nazi) party until his death in 1944. Courtesy Wikimedia
Essay/
History
It never was golden

‘The good old days’ is a virulent falsehood that infects those whose defences have been weakened by fear and insecurity

Alan Jay Levinovitz

A Sister of Charity at the New York Foundling Hospital in 1943. Photo by Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

Essay/
Anthropology
Infanticide

There is nothing so horrific as child murder, yet it’s ubiquitous in human history. What drives a parent to kill a baby?

Sandra Newman

A Jeep full of the Daughters of Charity in St Louis, Missouri in 1964. Photo by Bert Glinn/Magnum

Essay/
Anthropology
Did laughter make the mind?

A psychological relief valve and a guard against despotism, laughter is a uniquely human – and collective – activity

Chris Knight

Margaret Mead photographed at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, 1930. Photo by Irving Browning/The New York Historical Society/Getty

Essay/
Anthropology
The meaning of Margaret Mead

Mead argued that non-Western cultures offered alternative (often better) ways to be human. Why was she so vilified for it?

Sam Dresser