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Anthropology in Practice

The Stories Our Refrigerators Tell


Do any of you remember The Brave Little Toaster? Anyone? It was an animated feature from the ’80s in which a group of older appliances leave the cabin where they “lived” to find their master owner in the big city. It’s a story about talking appliances—plus one electric blanket—but it also very much highlights the [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Clearing the Table and Holding the Door: Constructing Social Norms

As an anthropologist, I realize I’m sometimes hyper-aware of social norms—particular those that I find offensive—so I work to ensure that my responses are as balanced as they can be. This is my version of looking before I leap so I don’t stick my foot in my mouth. (How’s that for a metaphor mashup?) Every [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Observations: This Seat’s For You

New York City’s subway system provides a rich ethnographic field site. New Yorkers are so used to being alone together that they often let their guard down in unusual ways, conducting private affairs without much concern for the present company, who are all busy with the business of seeming occupied themselves. I’ve documented these sorts [...]

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Bering in Mind

The Lustful Human Animal: Cultural Differences in Sexual Harm and Consent

Most of us are convinced that we excel at being clearheaded, humane thinkers when it comes to sex. We appeal, and admirably so, to notions such as harm and consent. But since most of us aren’t anthropologists, we W.E.I.R.D. people (the anthropologist Joe Henrich’s apt acronym for “Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic”) often assume [...]

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