Anthropology in Practice

Anthropology in Practice

Exploring the human condition.

Editor's Selections: Venereal Diseases Galore, Facebook Brains, and Subtitles


Ed Note: Part of my online life includes editorial duties at, where I serve as the Social Sciences Editor. Each Thursday, I pick notable posts on research in anthropology, philosophy, social science, and research to share on the News site. To help highlight this writing, I also share my selections here on AiP.


It's a bit of a sickly week at

  • At Contagions, Michelle Ziegler investigates the plague genome, describing recently employed techniques for extracting DNA. She reminds us that the more we know, the better prepared we may eventually be.

  • At Body Horrors, readers will learn that HPV is apparently an occupational hazard for a certain group—and it's not the one you're thinking of. Butchers and fishmongers are apparently susceptible to the virus due to their handling of raw meats—and we don't quite know why that is.

  • Speaking of STDs, Kristina Killgrove at Powered by Osteons explores documentation of syphilis dating to the Roman occupation of Spain in the 3rd-century AD. This study adds to the growing body of research that may help us understand where (in the world) syphilis originated and increase our understanding of epidemiology overall.

  • Shifting gears, let's look at the brain. Many of us may be mindful of Facebook—checking in every hour (or couple of minutes) to see what's new, but can trace our participation to brain structure? The Neuroskeptic tackles a recently released study that finds people with more Facebook friends have denser grey matter in three regions of the brain. The study is fairly sound, but raises questions about the potential significance of this grey matter IRL. As the Neuroskeptic rightly suggests, "It could be that having lots of friends makes your brain bigger. Or it could be the reverse, that having a certain kind of brain wins you friends, or at least Facebook ones."

  • And finally, in a most interesting post, Ingrid Pillar of Language on the Move discusses the politics of subtitling, and how these choices reflect identity formation and othering.

I'll be back next week with more from anthropology, philosophy, and research.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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