We want to transform how the public understands anthropology. You can help.
SAPIENS features writing by anthropologists and journalist contributors across all fields of anthropology—biological/physical, linguistic, and socio-cultural anthropology, as well as archaeology.
We publish content that provides smart and surprising insights into human culture, language, evolution, and history, with the aim of reaching a popular, non-academic audience. We skip the dry and stuffy for witty and fun, fresh and incisive, authentic and down-to-earth. First-person storytelling is preferred, when possible. Our aim is to deepen our readers’ understanding of the human experience through ideas that are grounded in or related to anthropological research, theories, and thinking.
If you have any questions, please contact Amanda Mascarelli, managing editor.
Our Publication Process
We have a strong editorial team that works with contributors to ensure that the finished product is compelling, accurate, and engaging to our general-interest audience. All of our pieces undergo a rigorous editing process. We welcome ongoing dialogue and collaboration with our contributors to craft the best possible content.
There is no one way to pitch your idea, but we’d like to understand your piece’s key message, organization, and style. Your pitch—and this is crucial—should tell us clearly what makes your story a good fit for SAPIENS. And while we recognize that our anthropologist writers have different training than our journalists, please keep in mind that, regardless of your background, our goal is to create high-quality pieces that are appealing and accessible to the general public. You can read some excellent pitch samples here.
To determine whether your idea is a good fit for SAPIENS and what the appropriate target word count is, we need to get a sense of how you might turn your ideas, arguments, and/or research into a story. If you’re unsure where to start, consider answering these questions for us:
- If you were to distill your piece’s central message, argument, or point of view into a single sentence, what would it be? What is the heart of the story?
- How will you approach the structure of the piece? Where does the story begin and end?
- If you’re interested in writing a feature or snapshot, can you provide a sketch of one scene that resonates most with you and that will transport readers into the story?
Also, please let us know if any of the material you intend to use has been previously published, or if there are any potential conflicts of interest. Email us with “Pitch” in the subject line and the content in plain text in the body of your email (no attachments). Please also tell us a little about yourself—your background and qualifications for writing a particular story. Email pitches to: [email protected].
ESSAY (1,000–2,000 words): Mostly written by practicing anthropologists, our essays are analytical, interpretive, or reflective compositions, ideally laced with literary flair. The essay deals with its subject in a nontechnical, focused way, and, usually, is expressive of the author’s outlook, personality, and voice. These pieces typically frame the subject within the author’s direct experiences conducting research (for example, Patrick Nunn’s article on climate change and archaeology), but they can also be more expansive (such as Katherine Hirschfeld’s piece on underworld criminal organizations) or more personal (like Cherry Jackson’s essay on her struggle with anorexia).
FEATURE (1,250–3,000 words): The unique knowledge, hands-on experiences, perspectives, and voices of anthropologists are the heart of our content. Our features range from first-person narratives to deeply reported chronicles by journalists about important trends, ideas, theories, discussions, and discoveries in the field (for example, Lucas Laursen’s story on the Spanish Civil War dead).
The hallmark of a feature is a strong narrative arc—a storytelling approach that brings readers fresh insights into a question, problem, or trend. As illustrated in this piece in The Atlantic, even an apparently inanimate topic like museum dioramas can be turned into a dramatic story that tackles an essential question: What do dioramas reveal about humans’ relationship with nature?
A SAPIENS feature draws the reader along on a journey through richly described scenes, includes fascinating people and places, and zooms out to explore expansive themes. Features must have a sense of movement and discovery. We are looking for stories, not topics. All of our features—even on timeless subjects—should make it clear what’s new and why we are covering it now.
Ideally, a feature should also have a broad enough scope to convey what is happening in the field that you’re writing about—where is progress happening and what changes are needed?
COMMENT (600–800 words): Do you have an important and interesting opinion to share? Through their research and expertise, anthropologists develop opinions on vital social and historical themes. We are interested in essays and op-eds that review research, explain trends in the field, critique policy decisions, or place our world in a cultural context. We are not interested in inside-baseball perspective pieces—all of our writing aims to reach an educated general-interest audience (think Slate, The New York Times, and The Atlantic).
SNAPSHOT (400–1,200 words): These brief, first-person accounts offer readers a quick glimpse into researchers’ everyday lives. Snapshots might include a gripping discovery in a lab, a humorous insight into human behavior, or a revealing find among long-buried museum archives.
DEBATE (400–600 words): A debate presents a lively exchange of views between two to eight anthropologists and other scholars on a critical issue, such as why social disparities exist, how to deal with population displacement, or the origins of violence. Please share with us the issue or question you want to debate, a condensed version of your perspective, and the names of suggested writers to square off against you.
PHOTO ESSAY (6–12 images, an introduction, and accompanying captions): In the tradition of visual anthropology, we seek original, high-quality sets of images that convey a story or draw our readers into an important and memorable place in time. An introduction (100–300 words) should provide context for the essay, and each image should be accompanied by a caption (up to 75 words) that provides context and adds more information and insight.
VIDEO AND PODCAST: We will also include high-quality videos and podcasts. These must be hosted on a site that SAPIENS can link to. Please email us with a link and a brief description for consideration.
REVIEW (400–1,500 words): We publish incisive, analytical reviews about new and recent books and films that are of interest to general audiences. We will consider brief “mini-reviews” of a single piece of work, a deeper analysis of an individual work, or a thesis-driven exploration of two or more related works.
Examples of review-worthy material include the movie Selma, which provides a means to explore contemporary race relations, and Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, an ethnography-like portrait of economic and social inequality in India.
NEWS BRIEF (200–300 words): As a nexus for anthropology, we regularly publish short summaries of breaking news. These are typically produced by the SAPIENS editorial staff.
NEWS (400–800 words): Our news pieces bring readers fresh, accessible, and carefully reported accounts of notable research and current events in anthropology that are of interest to the public.