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Anthropology in Practice

It’s True: We’re Probably All a Little Irish—Especially in the Caribbean

A bed of clover | Photo by Adam Selwood. CC. Click on image for license and information.

In the United States, it’s St. Patrick’s Day. This Irish national holiday celebrates Saint Patrick who is—potentially—the most recognizable of Irish saints, known for championing Irish Christianity (and using a shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity). The observance of St. Patrick’s Day has also been viewed as a one day break from the abstinence of [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

How many TV sets do you have—and why does it matter?

Photo by SteveStein1982. CC. Click on image for license and information

In the early nineties, researchers predicted that at the current rate of growth, there would be two televisions per US household by 1995. It’s probably safe to say that we have likely exceeded that prediction. While our smart phones, tablets, and laptops may have a prominent place in our lives, they haven’t quite replaced our [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Green Thumbery: Cultivating Culture

Photo by KDCosta, 2014.

One of my goals this year—with a solid year of gardening experience under my belt—has been to try to make my garden pretty as well as practical. I’ve partially succeeded. The Bachelors Buttons and Rose Campion I tried to intersperse among the vegetables became too weedy and too needy for my liking, so I pulled [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

What’s stopping us from eating insects?

Can insects feed a growing global population? | CC, click on image for license and information.

How many of you watch Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel? And how many of you have said, “I would never eat that!” Have you ever stopped to think about why you feel that way? What if you had no choice? What if you had been taught differently? As a part of the [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Confession: I’m Not Such a Reluctant e-Reader Adopter (Anymore)

Okay, love is too strong a strong word. I’ve never quite gotten over the smell of paper and the comforting heft of a much-loved tome, but I’m not quite the reluctant adopter I was a year ago. Still, it seems I’m not alone in making this shift: According to a report from the Pew research [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Have you ever been to a live poultry market?

Au. Note: This post is about live poultry markets, and includes descriptions and images that may be upsetting for some readers. Readers are advised to proceed at their own discretion. The smell greets you well before you step in the door to the tiny storefront selling chickens, turkeys, ducks, and supposedly, rabbits. It’s bearable, you [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Ashes, Yarmulkes and the Hijab: Communitas and Religious Symbols

Ed Note: As today is Ash Wednesday, it seemed an appropriate time to re-post this piece from the AiP archives. Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season for Western Christians—the 40 days (or 46 if you count weekends) leading up to Easter. Last year, I discussed the actions of a local homeless [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Parades—Public Festivals, Public Spectacles

"Ticker tape" fills the sky. Photo by KDCosta, 2009.

Ed. Note: So the New York Giants won the super bowl, and there will be a parade not too far from my office today. I’m have no intention of leaving the office—parade or no parade, I’m not a Giants fan and my football wounds are still a bit raw, and the crowds are a little [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

If You Want Me to RSVP, Then You Need to Actually Invite Me

Responde s'il vous plait. | Photo by Ewan, 2009. | Click image for CC license and information.

I returned the RSVP card for a wedding earlier this week, and it made my think of this piece from the archives where I struggled with RSVPs for my sister-in-law’s bridal shower. Titled “RSVP—A Cultural Construct?,” it examined the obligations that invitations carry. The following has been edited from its original posting for clarity and [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

On My Shelf: Autophobia (A Review)

Autophobia: Love and Hate in the Automotive Age | Brian Ladd | University of Chicago Press | 236 pages | $15.00 (Softcover) It’s an experience not at all unfamiliar to many of us: the flush of a first meeting, a growing attraction, a desire to spend every waking moment together, to visit new places and [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Gorillas Agree: Human Frontal Cortex is Nothing Special

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So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish — Douglas Adams In a humbling moment for our species, the following big news has just been published: When it comes to the frontal lobes, we’re not so special after all. For years, scientists have attempted to pinpoint the bits of our brain that might help explain our [...]

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Cross-Check

Why A.D. 2011 beats 100,000 B.C.: More choices, free will, freedom

Jacket cover for

Has civilization been a big mistake? My friend and former neighbor Kirkpatrick Sale thinks so. Sale is a smart, feisty critic of modernity, and especially technology and big government. His writings have inspired environmentalists such as Bill McKibben, whose book Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet (Times Books, 2010) cites Sale. Sale’s [...]

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Cross-Check

The truth we’ll doubt: Does the “decline effect” mean that all science is “truthy”?

As an old hippy I still get a kick out of anarchy, mayhem and challenges to authority. As a father, teacher, journalist and all-around pillar of the community, however, I’ve come to see the upside of the status quo more than I did in my carefree youth. So part of me thrills at WikiLeaks‘s assaults [...]

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Cross-Check

Scientific regress: When science goes backward

To celebrate the ends of years, decades and other milestones, science publications often churn out "Whither science?" predictions. Just last week, The New York Times Science Times section celebrated its, um, 32nd birthday with a special issue on "What’s next in science". What I found fascinating was the issue’s overall tone of caution rather than [...]

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Food Matters

Where The Wild Things Are Growing (Part 1)

Noma is a portmanteau of the two Danish words “nordisk” (Nordic) and “mad” (food) and its food is just that--all the dishes served are created using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.

With its popularity growing in urban areas, foraging for wild foods has started to look more Portlandia than primitive. The practice hasn’t always been viewed favorably; many prominent thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes viewed it as brutish, a sentiment later echoed in colonialist discourses. In more recent years, perception of foragers has been reconsidered and [...]

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Guest Blog

Why Can’t Gravity Believers and Skeptics Get Along?

Credit: The Mad LOLscientist/Flickr (Original photo by Richard Peters)

Multiple media outlets around the world covered a study published last week in the journal Nature Climate Change.* This study sought to explain why “believers” in climate change cannot get along with “skeptics” and how “believers” can argue the matter better to convince “skeptics.” Seems like a fascinating dive into the sociology of science, until [...]

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Guest Blog

Learning from Tinka: Able-bodied chimps cop a back-scratching technique from a handicapped friend.

With one misstep and the snap of a trap, Tinka was broken. The 50-year-old chimpanzee’s hands were mangled and left severely deformed and almost useless. Most of the muscles of his left wrist were paralyzed, and he was left with a limited range of movement. His left hand just sat there in a hooked position, [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Concussion Culture: How to Protect Young Athletes

A collision in girls soccer. (Credit: Ole Olson via Flickr)

In May of 2012, former NFL linebacker Junior Seau took his own life by shooting himself in the chest. Seau was dealing with depression, mood swings and insomnia. An autopsy of Seau’s brain revealed that he suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which Boston University’s CTE Center defines as “a progressive degenerative disease of the [...]

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Observations

A Plea for a Scientific Worldview from An Honest Liar, on Debunker James Randi

NEW YORK CITY—No matter how smart you are, or how educated you are, you can be deceived. That’s the wisdom from—and what I gather is the driving force behind–James “The Amazing” Randi, the renowned illusionist, escape artist and debunker of psychics, spoon benders, faith healers and other charlatans willing to prey on others. The admonition [...]

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Observations

Genetic Sequencing Traces Gypsies Back to Ancient Indian Origin

romani gypsy roma genetic india

The Romani people—once known as “gypsies” or Roma—have been objects of both curiosity and persecution for centuries. Today, some 11 million Romani, with a variety of cultures, languages and lifestyles, live in Europe—and beyond. But where did they come from? Earlier studies of their language and cursory analysis of genetic patterns pinpointed India as the [...]

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Plugged In

Who Needs Investment: Let’s Have an Infrastructure Film Festival

The television show “Revolution” is getting ready to start, with its plot based on the failure of the electrical grid. That’s nothing new, though — the most recent Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” and Spiderman movie, “The Amazing Spiderman,” came out this summer, each with significant events or  themes involving infrastructure systems. Half of the [...]

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