How can we as anthropologists entertain and educate a broader public? What stuff do most people like, how do we write for them, and where do we reach them?

PopAnth aims to a) produce stuff for public consumption; b) work out better ways to write and disseminate for the general public; c) agglomerate popular anthropology that's already been published.

This group also accidentally launched the website PopAnth: Hot Buttered Humanity. We hope to create more collaborations in the future and welcome new ideas!

Members: 66
Latest Activity: Jul 4, 2016

Discussion Forum

Supporting each other's public engagement 1 Reply

Hi all,It's long been my belief that anthropologists can increase their public visibility and engagement by working together, especially cross-promoting each other's work. The …Continue

Started by Erin B. Taylor. Last reply by ryan anderson Oct 20, 2013.

Getting to know each other! 8 Replies

Dear all,We have a small but burgeoning group here at PopAnth. To stimulate community development, I thought that it might be useful for us to introduce who we are, why we're interested in popular…Continue

Started by Erin B. Taylor. Last reply by John McCreery Oct 18, 2013.

Social anthropology hasn't got the stuff! 14 Replies

I have probably looked at the the front page of the BBC news site almost every day for the past seven years (perhaps not every). It's rare that anything to do with anthropology makes it to the top so…Continue

Started by Nathan Dobson. Last reply by Francine Barone Apr 24, 2013.

Lifelong learning in anthropology 4 Replies

So, I have an idea for a series of anthropologically-inspired kid's books. A friend of mine writes books about historical figures for 7-9 year olds. They begin with a semi-fictional story based on…Continue

Started by Erin B. Taylor. Last reply by Larry Stout Dec 28, 2012.

Comment Wall


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Comment by Erin B. Taylor on October 20, 2013 at 10:49am

Can anyone suggest columns written by anthropologists that are published in non-US venues? So far all I have is Dylan Kerrigan's column in the Trinidad Guardian. Thanks!

Comment by Erin B. Taylor on October 17, 2013 at 2:10pm

Last month, the PopAnth website celebrated its first birthday. In our first year, we published 48 articles by 24 authors, read by 160,000 people, on themes as diverse as eating culture in India, ghost bikes, zombies, linguistic diversity, classifying knowledge, toilets, Western martial arts music in Japan, and behavioural evolution. Readers from all over the world. 

We hope that the next year sees many more cultural observers joining in on the conversations!

Thanks so much to all our contributors–authors, editors, advisers, and of course, our readers.

Comment by John McCreery on September 20, 2012 at 3:51am

Let me add a few more words about the writing coach idea. In the spirit of community building that Erin is promoting, the coach has no interest whatsoever in the usual cut-and-thrust, chew-it-up-and-spit-it-out style of academic critique. He is a professional writer of persuasive prose who is infinitely grateful to the mentors who made his career possible. In the acknowledgments to a book on Japanese consumer behavior, I describe three of the most important as follows.

This book is dedicated to the memories of three men: Victor Turner, Tio Se-lian, and Kimoto Kazuhiko. The first was an anthropologist whose teaching is inscribed in the shape of this book. He taught me that an anthropologist works with three kinds of data, things observed (here the Lifestyle Times, the internal newsletter produced by the Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living that provides much of this book’s content), the native exegesis (represented here by the conversations with HILL researchers interleaved between the chapters), and the economic and demographic background that cultural analysis neglects at its peril. The second was a Grand Master of Daoist Magic who allowed a fledgling fieldworker to become his disciple and, by trotting him the length and breadth of Taiwan, made it perfectly clear how much goes on in modern, urban Asian societies that escapes the boundaries of the villages and neighbourhoods in which anthropologists usually work. The third was a Senior Creative Director who hired a hapless scholar and turned him, with much labour, into a copywriter unable to tolerate stereotypes of the kind this book attacks.

Looking back what I see in all three is a willingness to listen, a passion for detail, a flair for the dramatic, and a breadth of humanity that transcends the places and moments in which we met. I am proud to call them my mentors and to try, however poorly, to follow their example.

To me, that is what the writing coach is all about—following their example by passing on what I learned from them to people who are now at points in their lives and careers like the ones I was at when I was lucky enough to encounter them.

Comment by Erin B. Taylor on September 18, 2012 at 4:41pm

A note on community building. As we've stated before, the PopAnth site is not meant to compete with any other site - rather, we want to promote popular anthropology, and popular anthropology writes, through the PopAnth website. We have incorporated a number of features to do this broader promotion:

  • At the end of each article there is a list of other works by the same author (offsite) and suggestions for further information. There is also a link to the author's bio, their other articles, their Twitter accounts, and so on;
  • Our 'Authors' page lists all this biographical information;
  • On the Home page, 'Featured PopStars' randomly shows one of our authors / editors;
  • On the front page, the two most recent articles are listed under 'Freshly Popped', while the following section, 'A Handful of PopAnth' shows articles randomly in order to always refresh content
  • We reviews books and films that we think are suitable for a popular audience, to encourage people to read anthropology for fun;
  • Our 'In the News section' links to anthropology published elsewhere;
  • We link to popular anthropology blogs
  • We have forums for each article, general discussion forums, contributors' forums and editors' forums
  • We link to the OAC under 'community'
  • Finally, we have John to coach some authors so that they can go on and do great things for popular anthropology, in whatever forum is suitable.

If I've forgotten anything, I'm sure Gawain will remind me since he is the creative mind - and the brute coding force - behind all of these innovations :-)

Comment by Erin B. Taylor on September 18, 2012 at 4:29pm

Thanks, John. So, just to clarify, the idea is that people will submit articles to PopAnth; of those that are accepted for publication, John will select some at his discretion and invite the authors to work with him to coach them on their writing. We are very grateful to have John offer his mentorship - in fact, he's already improved my articles!

Comment by John McCreery on September 18, 2012 at 12:21pm
About this writing coach thing. In the interests of transparency, here is the proposal that I sent to Erin and Gawain.


It was early in the spring of 1984. Kazuhiko Kimoto, Senior Creative Director in the International Division of Hakuhodo, Japan’s second largest advertising agency, was fuming. “I will never, ever, ever hire an academic as a copywriter again!” He was talking about me.

Once again I had taken a client’s orientation and turned it into a piece of accurate smooth, bland, descriptive prose too long for the space allowed in the layout. I had failed to discover a compelling proposition and failed to turn it into a story. A story, what’s that? A narrative arc that pulls the reader emotionally toward the logical conclusion that they have to buy the product or service the copywriter is writing about. And, oh yes, it has to be logical (misrepresentation is illegal). But it also has to be compelling. That is where the emotion comes in.

Fortunately, I learn fast, and being an anthropologist knew a bit about participant-observation. When in Rome, don’t just do what the Romans do. Figure out how and why they do it. A year later, Kimoto saw his struggle to teach me what I needed to know pay off. We won our first award together in a local English-language advertising contest.

We’re talking ancient history here. A company called Canon was still making typewriters. They were introducing typewriters with a new feature called a daisy wheel, going up against IBM whose typewriters used a bouncing ball to strike the carbon ribbon to print letters on the paper. Over time the bouncing ball would wear out and slip out of alignment, which meant that the letters on the paper slipped out of alignment as well. Canon claimed that its new daisy wheels were designed to stay perfectly aligned and thus produce sharper, more professional looking documents.

Canon had gotten its start as a camera company. It was obsessed with image quality. And that obsession became the heart of the headline:”We put our reputation on every line.”

It’s now been over three decades since I, then an unemployed anthropologist, followed my wife Ruth to Japan, where she, a graduate student in Japanese literature, had a grant for year’s study in Japan. It has been almost that long since Kazuhiko Kimoto began the arduous task of transforming an academic trained to write carefully distanced objective description into the story-finder and storyteller that a successful copywriter has to be.

Along the way I’ve had other teachers. The books that instantly pop into my mind include New Yorker editor William Zinsser’s Writing to Learn, Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, and Roger von Oech's A Whack on the Side of the Head. The one writer I would most like to be is John McPhee. And that, of course, is just a taste of the stuff in English. My current research explores the world of top-ranked Japanese advertising creatives, whose thoughts on effective communication are legion and well worth close attention.

So, the deal is this. If you write something and submit it to PopAnth and I find it interesting, I will invite you to an online conversation in which we discuss what is good about it and I will offer some hints for possible improvements.

The only condition is that everyone who visits the site gets to listen in. My goal is to spread what I think I have learned as widely as possible. Remember, the goal is improvement. You won’t even get a shot at this unless what you write is already pretty good.

Comment by Erin B. Taylor on September 18, 2012 at 10:47am

PopAnth is live! We now have content, and you'll also see that John McCreery has come on board as our writing coach. Please feel free to take a look around, suggest changes, and put up your hands to get involved. In these early days we are especially lacking content for the four sections, so submissions would be most welcome. Thanks to all for your input into the project.

Comment by Erin B. Taylor on August 14, 2012 at 7:07pm

Here's anentry in Anthropology News about blogging anthropology. It classifies blogs into different types.

Comment by Erin B. Taylor on August 7, 2012 at 8:14pm

Think that best-selling anthropology books are written by anthropologists? Think again! Of the top 20 best-selling anthropology books on Amazon, only 3 are written by anthropologists, and they're all decades old. See our new discussion thread, 'best-selling anthropology', in PopAnth@OAC.

Comment by John McCreery on July 30, 2012 at 11:11am

Do check out Umesao. Imagine Indiana Jones with serious scientific credentials and friends in high places. Fascinating character.

Re museums: How about positioning PopAnth as

"The online museum of everything fascinating about anthropology."  

We can sharpen the language as need be. The key idea is to present it as something a bit edgy and fun.

Come to think of it, what about making it Anthropology's Boing Boing?


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