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George Washington and eighteenth century masculinity

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 10:30:34 +0000

We want George Washington—the President of all Presidents, the Man of all Men—to be a certain way. We want him to be an unalloyed male outdoing, singlehandedly, all the other competitors. We want him strong and rude, rough and rugged, athletic and hypersexualized, a chiseled torso, a Teddy Roosevelt, a Tarzan, and a John Wayne: “a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.”

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Not finding Bigfoot

Thu, 19 Oct 2017 09:30:05 +0000

The Renaissance is remembered as a time of renewed interest in scientific investigation, yet it also brought a huge increase in sightings of fantastic creatures such as mermaids and sea serpents. One explanation for this apparent paradox is that the revival of classical art and literature inspired explorers to look for the creatures of Greco-Roman mythology. Another reason was the expansion of trade. Cryptids, fantastic creatures that elude established terms of description, tend to arise on the boundary of two or more cultures.

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Divali in the White House?

Wed, 18 Oct 2017 10:30:10 +0000

When Barack Obama became the first U.S. President to celebrate Divali in the White House in 2009, he sent a message to South Asian Americans that they are a part of the American national narrative. His actions were not only about lighting lamps and the remembrance of Indic myths, but they were also about the […]

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Energy and contagion in Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life

Sun, 08 Oct 2017 10:30:31 +0000

Emile Durkheim was a foundational figure in the disciplines of sociology and anthropology, yet recapitulations of his work sometimes overlook his most intriguing ideas, ideas which continue to have contemporary resonance. Here, I am going to discuss two such ideas from Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (originally published in 1912 and then in English in 1915), his concept of energy and contagion.

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On serendipity, metals, and networks

Tue, 26 Sep 2017 10:30:03 +0000

“What connects archaeology and statistical physics?”, we asked ourselves one evening in The Marquis Cornwallis, a local Bloomsbury pub in London back in 2014, while catching up after more than a decade since our paths crossed last time. While bringing back the memories of that time we first met when we were both 16, it hit us that our enthusiasm for research we did as teenagers had not faded away

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Louis Leakey’s quest to discover human origins

Mon, 07 Aug 2017 08:30:34 +0000

Louis Leakey remains one of the most recognized names in paleoanthropology and of twentieth century science. Leakey was a prolific writer, a popular lecturer, and a skillful organizer who did a great deal to bring the latest discoveries about human evolution to a broader public and whose legacy continues to shape research into the origins of mankind. Louis and Mary’s work garnered wide public attention for several reasons.

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Music and human evolution

Tue, 25 Jul 2017 08:30:04 +0000

After being closed to the public for the past six months, the Natural History Museum’s Hintze Hall reopened on the 13 July 2017, featuring a grand blue whale skeleton as its central display. This event carried particular importance for OUP’s Gabriel Jackson, who was commissioned to write a piece for the Gala opening ceremony.

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Enlightened nation: a look at the Choctaw education system

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 08:30:19 +0000

Peter Pitchlynn, or "The Snapping Turtle," was a Choctaw chief and, in 1845, the appointed delegate to Washington DC from the Choctaw Nation. Pitchlynn worked diligently to improve the lives of the Choctaw people—a Native American people originally from the southeastern United States. He strongly believed in the importance of education, and served as the superintendent of the Choctaw Academy in 1840.

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Population will hit eight billion. Here’s why it scares people

Sun, 05 Feb 2017 10:30:17 +0000

Any day now, global population will hit 7.5 billion. Experts predict that we humans will reach eight billion in number sometime around the year 2024. Does that fact fill you with trepidation? Chances are that it does, even though it's only a number, after all. "Eight billion" says nothing about innovations in agriculture or renewable energy technologies, and certainly nothing about global social justice.

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Why is home so important to us?

Fri, 30 Dec 2016 08:30:16 +0000

“Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” “Home is where the heart is.” These well-known expressions indicate that home is somewhere that is both desirable and that exists in the mind’s eye as much as in a particular physical location. Across cultures and over the centuries people of varied means have made homes for themselves and those they care about.

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Understanding the populist backlash

Thu, 29 Dec 2016 10:30:53 +0000

Although populism is making headlines across the globe, there is a lot of confusion about what this concept really means and how we can study this phenomenon. Part of the problem lies in the usage of the term as a battle cry. Both academics and pundits often employ the term populism to denote all the political actors and behaviors they dislike.

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Getting to know your cerebellar self

Thu, 03 Nov 2016 12:30:54 +0000

The cerebellum is an intriguing part of our brain. Its name is the diminutive form of cerebrum, so literally means ‘little brain’. It is true that, in humans, it occupies just 10% of the brain volume, yet recent research shows it accounts for approximately 80% of the nerve cells; a complex network of approximately 69 billion neurons! Why does the ‘little brain’ contain such a disproportionate number of neurons?

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Poverty: a reading list

Wed, 31 Aug 2016 09:30:34 +0000

Poverty can be defined by 'the condition of having little or no wealth or few material possessions; indigence, destitution' and is a growing area within development studies. In time for The Development Studies Association annual conference taking place in Oxford this year in September, we have put together this reading list of key books on poverty, including a variety of online and journal resources on topics ranging from poverty reduction and inequality, to economic development and policy.

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Matters of the past mattering today

Fri, 22 Jul 2016 11:30:42 +0000

The past can be very important for those living in the present. My research experiences as an archaeologist have made this very apparent to me. Echoes from the distant past can reverberate and affect the lives of contemporary communities, and interpretations of the past can have important ramifications.

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The challenge of adult language learning

Mon, 04 Jul 2016 10:30:05 +0000

Adult migrants often struggle to learn the language of their new country. In receiving societies, this is widely seen as evidence that migrants are lazy, lack the required will power or, worse, actively resist learning the new language as an act of defiance towards their new community. Unfortunately, most of those who point the finger at migrant language shirkers vastly underestimate the effort involved in language learning.

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What about polygamy?

Fri, 11 Mar 2016 11:30:28 +0000

In today's world where the majority of developed countries tend to favor monogamous relationships, what should we think about polygamy? David P. Barash, author of Out of Eden: The Surprising Consequences of Polygamy, reveals a few facts about polygamy that'll give you some food for thought.

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Bodies of breath, bodies of knowledge, and bodies of culture

Fri, 29 Jan 2016 08:30:12 +0000

Towards the end of his lecture on ‘techniques of the body’, delivered to a meeting of the Société Française de Psychologie in 1934, the sociologist and anthropologist Marcel Mauss discussed the methods of breathing practiced by Daoist priests and Yogic mystics. Far from being instinctive, these techniques require a lengthy apprenticeship.

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No time to think

Tue, 19 Jan 2016 12:30:46 +0000

On leaving school, my advisor reminded me to always take time to think. That seemed like a reasonable suggestion, as I trudged off to teach, write, and, of course, think. But the modern academy doesn’t share this value; faculty are increasingly prodded to “produce” more articles, more presentations, more grant applications, and more PhD students.

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In memoriam: Sidney Mintz

Tue, 05 Jan 2016 15:30:34 +0000

Professor Sidney Mintz passed away on 26 December 2015, at the age of 93. “Sid” as he was affectionately called by his acquaintances, taught for two decades at Yale University and went on to found the Anthropology Department at Johns Hopkins. His best-known work, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History, was published in 1985.

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“Challenging change” – extract from A Foot in the River

Mon, 02 Nov 2015 12:30:14 +0000

We are not the only species to have a culture. However, the speed at which human culture changes is extremely rapid and can lead to baffling and dislocating effects. How, then, can people make sense of these changes?

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Did human grammar(s) evolve?

Fri, 16 Oct 2015 10:30:45 +0000

In order to hypothesize about the evolutionary origins of grammar, it is essential to rely on some theory or model of human grammars. Interestingly, scholars engaged in the theoretical study of grammar (syntacticians), particularly those working within the influential framework associated with linguist Noam Chomsky, have been reluctant to consider a gradualist, selection-based approach to grammar.

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Mentalizing in groups

Fri, 02 Oct 2015 08:30:28 +0000

‘Mentalizing’ is the new word for making sense of oneself, others, and intersubjective transactions in terms of inner motivations. It can be fast and intuitive (implicit mentalizing), as in most informal and routine interactions, or slow and elaborate (explicit mentalizing), when one steps back to indulge in reflective thinking. “Why did she say that?” The thought is such an integral part of being human that it is most often taken for granted. Yet it is an evolutionary achievement.

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We are all African, but we also have our own histories

Wed, 29 Jul 2015 08:30:12 +0000

In May 2015, at a press conference in Nairobi, Kenya, a French-led international team announced the discovery of the oldest stone tools known yet. Dating back to more than 3.3 million years ago, these crude flakes, cores, and anvils represent the earliest steps in our evolution into a species reliant on, if not defined by, the use of tools and other manufactured objects. Coined the ‘pre-Oldowan’ or ‘Lomekwian’ after the site in West Turkana at which they were found, these tools are larger and cruder than the more recent Oldowan industry.

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Selfies in black abayas

Sat, 25 Jul 2015 11:30:26 +0000

Today, when worlds collide with equal force and consequence as speeding cars on a California highway, can we imagine escaping the impact of even a single collision? Is the option of being miraculously air-lifted out of the interminable traffic log-jams available for us, even if we are spared physical injury? Just as avoiding California highways is an impossibility (given the systemic destruction of public transportation system), meeting head-on forces of neoliberal globalization with its unique technological, financial, and ideological structures is an inevitability.

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Ritual in our lives [quiz]

Tue, 21 Apr 2015 12:30:55 +0000

Whether we know it or not, ritual pervades our lives, silently guiding our daily behavior. Like language, tool use, and music, ritual is a constituent element of what it means to be human, joining together culture, archaeology, and biology. The study of ritual, therefore, is a reflection on human nature and the society we inhabit.

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