Anthropology Magazine

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

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.
A person in near silhouette stands in front on an ocean landscape with wind chime objects hanging down, all tinted orange.

The SAPIENS Podcast Is Back

Why can eating insects be so gross? Who were the ancient Denisovans? How are dreams shaped by culture? Are people naturally generous? The SAPIENS podcast is back, exploring an array of curious questions about the human experience.
A person in near silhouette stands in front on an ocean landscape with wind chime objects hanging down, all tinted orange.

A Trailer for Everything Human

What makes you … you? Is it your DNA, culture, environment? SAPIENS hosts Esteban Gómez, Jen Shannon, and Chip Colwell speak with anthropologists from around the globe to help us uncover what makes us human.
Two people hug in a bathroom, with one seated on a closed toilet and the other kneeling on a tan-and-brown tiled floor. Two standing onlookers flank the image’s foreground.

How Eugenics Shaped the U.S. Prenatal Care System

Black women in the U.S. are far more likely to die from complications related to pregnancy and birth than White women. Two scholars explore how the discrediting of Black midwives helped create these racial disparities—and call for alternative models of prenatal care.
A black silhouette of a person contrasts with an illuminated cobalt-blue background with two bright spotlights shining from behind their head.

Bringing Nhakpoti, the Kayapó Story of Star Girl, to the Screen

Over years and across long distances, an international filmmaking team collaborated to bring to life the origin story of how agriculture came to Kayapó communities, Indigenous peoples in the Brazilian Amazon.
Two people in uniforms—one in black, the other in tan—wearing black boots and hats topped with matching fans face each other and kick one leg up, their feet traveling above their heads. Other people in uniform stand at attention along the roadside behind them.

Imagining Other Worlds at the India-Pakistan Border

For decades, soldiers at the border between Attari, India, and Wagah, Pakistan, have staged an elaborate ceremony for onlookers. An anthropologist reflects on the ceremony as a legacy of Partition—and imagines other futures for the two nations.
Four people, one wearing a red baseball cap and another a blue shirt, ride a boat on a khaki-colored river surrounded by dense forest.

Writing Indigenous Oral Tradition to Fight a Dam

In the northern Philippines, the Isnag are documenting their Traditional Stories to sustain their culture and fight a legal battle against dams that would inundate their homelands.
Two people wearing waterproof pants, purple windbreakers, and black caps stand on a teal boat at sea, looking toward a white windmill.

The Persistence of Fukushima’s Fisherfolk

In a new book, an anthropologist with long-term ties to northeastern Japan shares stories of how fishing communities have continued making a living in uncertain waters after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In a sepia-and-white color palette, two hands cup a pile of sand, much of which is falling between the fingers.

Cold Hubris and Fundo

A poet-historian reflects on the legacy of colonial-era collecting practices in Tanzania that tore Black Indigenous ancestors from their communities and history.
A close-up image features two spiders on a stick held horizontally in the hands of a child whose face appears slightly blurred in the background.

What Spider Games Say About Arachnophobia

Many people around the world fear spiders. But in the Philippines, the tradition of spider wrestling often brings people and arachnids in close proximity.
A person wearing a white dress whose skirt is made of ribbons, each with a name written on it, leans back with their eyes closed. They are on grass with a Black Lives Matter banner on the ground beside them and a circle of drummers and bystanders around them.

The Urgency of Envisioning a World Without Police

An anthropologist working in Baltimore argues that safety for Black communities requires an end to policing. That also means taking a hard look at how policing intersects with patriarchy and intimate partner violence.
A person in a burgundy jumpsuit stands on a road with their back to the viewer and their hands behind their head. They look into the distance, where yellowed billows of smoke rise from a burning field of grass and trees.

A Call for Anthropological Poems From Within “Zones of Conflict”

SAPIENS is seeking poetry submissions for a curated collection that will publish in early 2024. Deadline September 15, 2023.
In front of many people seated around the perimeter of a town square, a person in a brown hat stands in its center over a pile of green leaves on a colorful patterned cloth. They are holding up a bag by a string.

Fair and Balanced—Weighing Coca With a Wipi in Peru

An Andean community’s use of weighing scales shows how meanings of fairness and justice differ across cultures.
A close-up image features the hands of a person wearing a black top with a colorful beaded necklace cradling a wooden pipe with a face carved into its top end.

Collaborating So a 200-Year-Old Pipe Can Continue Its Work

A museum curator and a First Nations leader explain how a treaty pipe, sold at auction, exemplifies a new path for repatriations in Canada.
Surrounded by gray cobblestones, two black kettles sprinkled with ash sit over blackened logs and open orange flames. Two pairs of sneakers on people’s feet are visible just behind the fire close to another kettle.

The Heaviness

A multidisciplinary poet-scholar and suicide attempt and multi-suicide loss survivor unveils complex anthropological threads that shape suicidal ideation.
An adult stands behind a child loading laundry into a white washing machine. A refrigerator, microwave oven, stove, and wooden cabinets line the room.

Do Washing Machines Belong in Kitchens? Many Brits Say “Yes.”

An anthropologist moves from Canada to the U.K. and finds herself reflecting on what home design patterns reveal about a society.
A close-up image features a mostly red, woven piece of cloth with diagonal patterns that incorporate white, black, green, and hot pink accents.

Feeling What We Are/A’yel jtaleltik

An anthropologist and writer from the Tseltal community speaks back to a colonialist history of suppression—instead claiming his identity, language, and people.