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With the support of a three-year grant from the John Templeton Foundation, the SAPIENS Public Scholars Training Fellowship program guides anthropologists on accessible writing and podcasting for broad nonacademic audiences. The purpose of this fellowship program is to provide in-depth training for anthropologists in the craft of science communication and public scholarship—to transform their research into stories that engage the public and spur readers and listeners to rethink themselves and their world.

Applications for the fellowship program were accepted each summer to select a yearly cohort of 10 fellows. Each year presented a particular theme, drawing primarily from the research areas around cultural evolution: the Wisdom of World Cultures (2022–2023), the Impacts of Technology (2023–2024), and Global Challenges, Cultural Opportunities (2024–2025).

As part of this program, fellows attended an exclusive quarterly keynote lecture by four renowned science writers and editors: Carl Zimmer, The New York Times; Kate Wong, Scientific American; Samir Patel, Atlas Obscura; and Amanda Mascarelli, The Conversation.

Annual Theme Descriptions

The Wisdom of World Cultures (2022–2023)

Every human society around the world has developed cultural mechanisms to navigate their world and create meaning. Many cultural beliefs and practices have the potential not only to explain the past, but to guide the present and future. For this theme, we are most interested in anthropological projects that seek to understand how culture can guide knowledge of human truths and help people make just judgments. Such projects might consider the origins of language, the emergence of religion, the birth and death of traditions, redressing the harms of historic violence, or multispecies relationships. These projects will search for lessons from human cultures that can inspire reflection about our collective condition of being human—past, present, and future.

The Impacts of Technology (2023–2024)

For millions of years, the construction of technologies has impacted nonhuman animals and the human lineage. Today being human is entwined with making, using, and valuing material objects. Being human also means applying knowledge to change and manipulate the environments we live in. Objects enable and shape evolutionary forces, are the spark and expression of imagination, guide and structure social relations, transform and destroy the environment, and much more. For this theme, we are looking for anthropological projects that, for example, address the impacts of technology on human evolution, social organization, language and communication, historical trajectories, or the natural world. These projects will tackle big questions about technology’s ultimate purpose, limits, and possibilities.

Global Challenges, Cultural Opportunities (2024–2025)

Culture is a force that drives social interactions, beliefs, imagination, relationships, politics, communication, emotions, ethics, identities, memories, wars, the creation of art, and so much more in human and animal life. Culture makes us who we are and is the source of so much human value: beauty, faith, morality. Yet springing from the same source are adaptations that cause much harm: pride, greed, violence. In the layered crises facing our world—increasing inequalities, enduring bigotries, ecological collapse—we must work harder than ever before to recognize the reasons for our faults and apply the possibilities of human creativity. For this theme, we are most interested in projects that highlight how anthropology is uniquely positioned to share stories of cultural adaptation and transformation. As practitioners in a field that is inherently interdisciplinary—one that bridges culture and biology, and takes both a long-term and contemporary view of humanity—anthropologists can tackle topics from migration to climate change, from political sovereignties to religious traditions. These projects will provide key disciplinary frameworks for where humans have come from and use that knowledge to anticipate our collective destinations.

2022–2023 Fellows

Damián Blasi investigates global linguistic diversity by combining linguistics, cognitive science, and anthropology. Follow him on Twitter @blasi_lang.

Katherine L. Chiou is an anthropological archaeologist and paleoethnobotanist whose research interests include foodways in the past and present, Andean archaeology, household archaeology, plant domestication, food sovereignty, agrobiodiversity, sustainability, GIS and data visualization, and responsible conduct of research.

Anya Gruber writes about a range of topics including ancient diets, medicinal plants, mourning practices, and infectious diseases. Follow her on Instagram @anyagruber.

Smiti Nathan is an archaeologist who studies resource decision-making (for example, in relation to plants, minerals, metals) in ancient Oman and ancient Ethiopia. Follow her on Twitter @travellingarch and on Instagram @travellingarchaeologist.

Koffi Nomedji works on questions related to climate change, policymaking, and development in Africa.

Esteban Salmón is an anthropologist who studies the ethical lives of criminal prosecutors in Mexico. Follow him on Twitter @EsteSalmon.

Brendane A. Tynes (she/her) is a queer Black feminist scholar, cultural anthropologist, and storyteller whose research interests include Black feminist anthropology, Black feminist critical theory, gendered violence, Black political movements, and memory and affect studies. Follow her on Twitter @brendanetynes.

Sebastián Vacas-Oleas is a social anthropologist who works with the Shuar people of Western Amazonia.

Karminn C.D. Daytec Yañgot, a Kankana-ey, is an anthropologist and a development worker whose work focuses on human rights and structural violence, Indigenous peoples and Indigeneity, collective flourishing, political representation, and policy development. Follow her on Instagram @indigena.ph.

Adam Netzer Zimmer’s (they/he/hán) research focuses on the rise of race-based anatomical science in 19th- and early 20th-century Iceland and the U.S.

2023–2024 Fellows

Onur Arslan investigates how digital technologies reshape the production of legal knowledges in terrorism trials.  Follow him on Twitter at@OnurArslannnnnn.

Cindy Hsin-yee Huang (she/her) is a Paleolithic archaeologist with a focus on stone tools and cultural evolution. Follow her on Twitter at @CHYHuang.

Leyla Jafarova researches the emergence and development of a humanitarian logic of care for the unidentified dead in post-war Azerbaijan and the production of knowledge in this regard. Follow her on Twitter at @auntyologist.

Timothy Y. Loh is an anthropologist of science and technology. His ethnographic research focuses on sociality, language, and religion in deaf and signing worlds spanning Jordan, Singapore, and the U.S.  Follow him on Twitter @tim_loh.

Sana Malik is a cultural anthropologist who studies women’s political agency in urban Pakistan. Follow her on Twitter at @sanafmalikk.

Alberto Navarro uses an interdisciplinary approach to examine the relationship between tool use and different aspects of human consciousness, behavior, and well-being.  Follow him on Twitter @Sciborg_Tech.

Mariana Petry Cabral is an archaeologist whose research interests focus on Indigenous archaeologies, collaborative practices, and knowledge production. Follow her on Instagram @marianapetrycabral.

Parag Jyoti Saikia is studying the construction of a hydropower dam in India to understand how infrastructures in-the-making shape everyday life, the environment, and geopolitics.  Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @LaheLaheCulture.

María Pía Tavella  studies  pre-Hispanic population dynamics in central Argentina through the study of ancient DNA. She works for the National Scientific and Technological Research Council of Argentina in science communication and outreach. Follow her on Twitter @PiuTavella.