Modern Western societies haven’t solved the problem of sex, but Samoa has the answer. Or at least it does according to the work of influential anthropologist Margaret Mead, subject of the animated introduction from Alain de Botton’s School of Life above. Her mentor Franz Boas, the founder of anthropology in the United States, saw not a world progressing “in a linear fashion from barbarism to savagery to civilization” but “teeming with separate cultures, each with their own unique perspectives, insights, and efficiencies.”
Everyone seems to have a story about the moment when the novel coronavirus pandemic stopped being an abstract problem “somewhere out there” and started being a very real and personal threat. In this episode of the SAPIENS podcast, hosts Jen Shannon and Chip Colwell interrogate the problem with abstract threats with the help of anthropologists Hugh Gusterson and Kristin Hedges. In closing, Steve Nash returns to discuss a different abstract concept: time.
The first day of April, in 2014, dawned “gray, cold, rainy, ugly,” recalls Supervisory Special Agent Tim Carpenter of the FBI’s Art Theft Program in Washington, D.C. Early that morning, his team knocked on the door of Don Miller’s farmhouse in Waldron, Indiana.
In 2017, Naomi Martisius, now a postdoctoral researcher with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, was sitting in a conference session when she had an “aha” moment: A simple plastic bag might be the key to her research conundrum.
Martisius was studying a handful of small bone artifacts thought to be lissoirs, or bone tools used in working animal hides, that had come from two archaeological sites in southwest France. These particular bone tools, usually made from animal ribs, were incredibly important because they had come from spots where Neanderthals had lived. Previously, researchers had primarily found bone tools associated with Homo sapiens archaeological remains, and so it was thought by some that bone tools were the sole province of modern human’s ingenuity.
SAPIENS host Jen Shannon interviews Laurence Ralph, a professor of anthropology at Princeton University. Ralph is also a co-director of Princeton’s Center on Transnational Policing, the editor of Current Anthropology, and the author of the new book The Torture Letters: Reckoning With Police Violence, which exposes the Chicago Police Department’s history of torturing black men and women, and documents the community activism intent on stopping such violence.
On March 23, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sparked controversy and outrage by suggesting that older people in the United States might be willing to exchange their lives to keep the country’s economy going. “No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’” said Patrick, who turned 70 this April. “And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in.”
Ask SAPIENS is a series that offers a glimpse into the magazine’s inner workings.
“Anthropologists study people,” I once told a curious 12-year-old about my chosen career. “Unlike psychologists,” I added, making a playful jab at his dad, who was an expert in that field.