Cultural anthropologists seek to understand the diverse ways people live today, including how they think, act, create, struggle, make meaning, and organize their societies.

Between tall wooden walls, a child peers over a short wooden door. A pitch-black background is behind her.

A Mausoleum of Our Everydays/Nai nsang negu herouki

A humanities and social science doctoral student from Manipur, India, takes readers on a journey through ordinary moments interwoven with violence.
A crowd of adults and children wearing T-shirts, flip-flops, and denim shorts or sarongs looks at a water tap with the word “Italy” stamped on its side and a giant silver lock on it.

Strange Future

A Nigerian eco-activist and poet wonders what future lies ahead in the face of climate change impacts and resistance to large-scale emission reductions.
A large, brown sculpture depicts a cluster of people looking outward, one cradling a child in their arms. A village and blue sky are visible in a distant horizon.

Poems of Witness and Possibility: Inside Zones of Conflict

Anthropological poems from around the globe speak to people’s creative will, resistance, and resilience—and the significance of our shared humanity.
A person with short gray hair wearing a pink, long-sleeved shirt and black pants hits a small swinging punching bag.

Taking on Parkinson’s Disease—With Boxing Gloves and Punching Bags

In a California gym, people living with Parkinson’s practice noncontact boxing to redefine their experience of the disease and maintain a sense of self.
In sepia tones, a slightly blurry image features two people wearing head coverings and tunics seated against a blank wall. The one on the left holds up a piece of paper with a person’s face printed on it.

Earlier I Had Nightmares, Now I Have Insomnia

A Kashmiri poet-anthropologist records the restless despair many feel under Indian occupation.
Three people stand on a grassy field holding signs with pictures of young people’s faces pasted on them. Also on the signs, in colorful text, are two phrases: “Invest in Us” and “End the War on Drugs” with the word “Drugs” crossed out and the word “Blacks” added before it.

How Racism Shapes the U.S. Opioid Epidemic

Public health officials say opioid use and related deaths have reached a crisis point in the U.S. An interview with anthropologist and psychiatrist Helena Hansen unpacks the racial disparities in how drug addiction is interpreted, portrayed, and treated.
Photographed from behind, two children wearing flip-flops hold hands and walk on a dirt trail between rows of tall trees. The taller child wears a skirt, and the other wears capris and a polo shirt.

A Long Road Ahead

SAPIENS’ 2023 poet-in-residence questions where peace of mind can come from for Indian-occupied Kashmir.
With human figures painted as dark silhouettes, a large mural depicts a soldier wearing a helmet and large backpack reaching toward two children holding flags with orange, white, and green horizontal stripes. They stand against a bright yellow, orange, and red background with three black helicopters—one displaying the same flag—flying overhead.

This Militarization

A poet-anthropologist conveys her life when she was coming of age under the increasing mobilization of military forces in Indian-occupied Kashmir.
Taken through a wire fence, a photo shows a few people passing by a yellow building with several works of graffiti written on its wall and piles of square stone blocks in front of it.

Documenting the Kashmir Conflict Through Poetry

SAPIENS’ 2023 poet-in-residence sketches the history she speaks to in three poems from Indian-occupied Kashmir.
A person wearing a sleeveless shirt with a white paper attached that reads “Assefa” holds up a white sneaker with three black stripes in front of a blue structure with a digital time clock on it.

Why Shoes Do Not Make the Runner

East African runners wearing “super shoes” have outpaced global marathon records. But the shoe fervor—alongside older stereotypes about African runners’ “natural” abilities—means athletes’ hard work often gets sidelined.
A crowd watches a parade float shaped like a building with rainbow-colored windows and a heart made of rainbow handprints. Text reads, “justice community equality” and words on a blue roof read, “United Church of Christ,” A small sign propped up against the float reads, “Amen. Advocate for Marriage Equality.”

Being LGBTQ+ in U.S. Protestant Churches

As homophobic and transphobic rhetoric sweeps the U.S., some churches are increasingly welcoming LGBTQ+ parishioners who participate in religious life and help reconcile Christianity with a spectrum of sexual and gender identities.
In a building’s large, carpeted atrium, several people in button-down shirts, khakis, and slacks lie on the floor. People on the perimeter hold up two signs, one that reads, “No Business as Usual While Canada Funds Genocide” and another that says, “Ceasefire Now!”

Anthropologists on Palestine

Amid the war on Gaza and long before, anthropologists have been speaking out against Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Here’s a curated list of their perspectives as scholars and activists.
A Samoan man from behind in a kind of theater stares at a screen with Samoan children peeking past palm fronds.

Can We Understand One Another?

The Mead-Freeman controversy draws to a close, with some answers to who was right and who was wrong. But, in the end, can anyone ever really understand cultures different from their own?
A photograph looks down a gray gravel road with two yellow lines down its center. The road cuts through a dark forest of tall, green, leafy trees with a single ray of sunshine getting through the forest’s canopy.

Best of SAPIENS 2023

In another year of exceptional challenges and hardships, anthropologists tackled a range of issues and questions about what it means to be human. Here are some of SAPIENS’ best from this year.
Two Samoan women stand in a lush cave with their backs to the viewer.

Weaving Stories: Two Women Speak

Author and poet Sia Figiel and activist and anthropologist Doris Tulifau share their stories of being Samoan women. They also discuss the violence and challenges they’ve faced and how they survived.
In a collage rendering, a Samoan woman sits in a dark and forbidding landscape with a mask of another women pulled to the side of her face.

Sex, Lies, and Science Wars

The Mead-Freeman controversy reaches its climax. Scientists, scholars, and Samoans debate the nature of sexuality, culture, and truth.
Under an arched ceiling, a person wearing a white headwrap and T-shirt nestles a pencil in the palm of their hand while drawing with charcoal on a large white canvas. The scene they are sketching depicts a building and public square flanked by flowering trees.

The Vibrant Worlds of Batuan Paintings in Bali

A new multimedia project connects the development of a Balinese regional painting style with anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, who began commissioning art in the region in the 1930s.
Several women with distorted faces, in a collage-type rendering sit in church pews and stare at colorful stained glass windows.

Into the Light

Christianity and colonization deeply reshaped Samoan culture starting in the 1830s, complicating how anthropologists Margaret Mead and Derek Freeman saw the Pacific Islands.
In a brick-covered public square surrounded by buildings, a metal statue features two people with flattened fronts and their hands extended sideways facing each other. They stand on opposite sides of a gap in the rounded brick hill they are built on.

Dismantling the Walls in Our Heads

The Berlin Wall fell more than three decades ago—but political, social, and economic divides between East and West Germany continue to reverberate, even among those born after Reunification.
In a collage, white people and Samoans stand together yet apart.

Trashing an American Icon

Anthropologist Derek Freeman became Margaret Mead’s biggest critic, trying to undo her research in American Samoa and her reputation as a famed anthropologist. Who was Derek Freeman, and what did he say?
A women wearing large earphones holds a microphone up to a Samoan women speaking, with a collage of figures in tapa cloth designs in the background.

We Need to Tell Our Own Stories

In the controversies swirling around Margaret Mead’s work in American Samoa, one set of voices has too often been left out: that of Samoans.
In a room featuring silver plates, wooden furniture with ceramics on top, and a black pot hanging in a fireplace, a wax figure of a person wearing a beret and red and green kilt holds a book with one hand and touches an object on the mantle with the other.

In Defense of Museums

In response to news of ethical violations by museums, a curator reflects on the past and future missions of such institutions.
A collage image made to look old-timey, a person takes a photograph of young Samoan girls in pastel colors.

Flapper of the South Seas

A young anthropologist named Margaret Mead journeyed to American Samoa in 1925 and claimed she found a culture where teenagers were sexually free. Fame and controversy followed.
A Samoan young woman sits in front of a blue tapa cloth design.

Coming of Age … Today

Does the transition from childhood to adulthood have to be so difficult? This question sent famed anthropologist Margaret Mead to American Samoa in 1925—and ignited decades of controversy.
In the foreground, four people wear sombreros and ride on horseback. Three of them carry U.S. and Mexican flags while looking up and gesturing toward a helicopter overhead. A crowd of people walk in front of them.

I Was Penalized for Learning a Language at Home

A researcher explains why the Fulbright-Hays fellowship should change its rules that have kept native and heritage speakers from working where their languages are spoken.
Girls in Samoan dresses stare up at a screen in the sky which includes images of Margaret Mead and a Samoan friend.

The Problems With Coming of Age

A famed anthropologist’s controversial research in American Samoa reveals the biggest questions about growing up and being human.
Several pink stemless flowers surrounded by white dust and yellow particles float in mid-air against a black background.

To Wear the Wind

A tribal scholar from the state of Nagaland in India engages with the loss of traditional cultural practices and locates the creation of a new world order where the “natural” is increasingly isolated from the “human.”
A smiling girl with shoulder-length brown hair in a black T-shirt and gray leggings sits on a wooden table in a grassy park and hugs a stuffed animal wrapped in a pink and white blanket.

Raising My Children in an Ableist World

In a new book, an anthropologist and father of three, including a daughter with Down syndrome, reflects on the pressures of parenting.
A dog stands on a cement sidewalk along a busy street in front of two people eating at a food stall.

Do Strict Criminal Penalties Protect Animals From Abuse?

In Mexico, a growing animal protection movement often promotes harsh criminal punishment for those who abuse animals. But are these strategies working, or do they lead to further injustices?
In the center of a huge, multistory room, multiple computers hanging on a wall display images of city streets. In the foreground, dozens of people sit at cubicles looking at similar computer images on their desks.

Inside Mexico City’s Surveillance State

An anthropologist investigates how one city’s rapidly expanding video surveillance system is transforming criminal investigation—sometimes in deeply flawed ways.
An adult with short hair, a mustache, and glasses, and two young people with long hair held by barrettes—one holding a pen—sit on the floor around a large piece of construction paper, markers, and a camera.

Through Film, Discovering Hope in the Face of Environmental Destruction

In the midst of acute eco-anxiety, can community-based filmmaking help young people imagine a different future?
A person in near silhouette stands in front on an ocean landscape with wind chime objects hanging down, all tinted orange.

SAPIENS Is Going Viral

In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic struck humanity. The SAPIENS podcast explores anthropological insights into what this crisis taught humanity about our evolution, how we deal with abstract threats, love and resilience in hard times, and much more.