Myths of American Democracy: Contradictions, Troubling Numbers, and Searching for Sense in the System

statue-of-libertyDo you find yourself increasingly frustrated at the lack of real conversations between candidates and politicians? Are you confused about why someone who doesn’t walk to the beat of your life claims to represent the whole of your interests and everyone you know? This episode is not about the candidates, we’ll leave the bashing to them and other pundits. Rather, with this episode we aim to expose some of the mechanisms driving American politics and show different social truths about political systems in general. Join Adam, Aneil, and Ryan as they discuss the debate and informed positions on big questions like “Does my vote, a single vote, matter?”, “What is the role of government?”, and “Have we outgrown our current political system?”


FreeThink #2 – Moving Beyond the Mic: On Collaborations and Working Across Disciplines

FreeThink LogoJoin Aneil, Adam and Ryan for the second FreeThink episode, where they talk unscripted about upcoming projects and potential interdisciplinary collaborations beyond the mic.

FreeThink is a new series of episodes that works like a backstage pass, where we talk unscripted about what’s on our minds and hearts, the nuts and bolts of making a podcast today, and the larger projects we are working on surrounding the show. If you’ve never heard This Anthropological Life, we don’t recommend starting with these episodes. check out our more in-depth Conversations series with some of our favorite episodes curated just for you. TaL Best Of (so far…).

When you’re ready, we’d love to have you join us here for a deeper dialogue.

New to TAL? Check out some of our favorite episodes!

Glad you’re here! Check out some of our favorite episodes in any order and get to know the anthropological life. And, if you’re long-time listeners we hope you’ll enjoy revisiting these gems with us. If you like us, be sure to subscribe and visit our previous episodes on the downloads page.

I, Luca Galuzzi [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Episode: 10 Beer Though we made this episode two years ago and the quality is not what we do now but in terms of content its one of our all time favorites. We cover some of the historical uses of beer, its changing meaning over time, the development of taste, and perhaps even share a few ancient recipes! From contemporary hipster cans to drinks of ancient Egyptian Pharaohs you don’t want to miss this episode! Cheers, Prost, Salud, Allinta Qali!

45 The Happiness Fetish What kinds of things make us happy? How does happiness inhere in objects or how to we use objects to display our happiness?

39 The Politics of Difference Ryan, Aneil, and Adam cover the politics of difference through an unlikely lens and cutting edge research. Were Neanderthals good parents? What does new archaeological and biological research tell us about European’s genetic relatedness to Neanderthals? Putting these questions together, we turn our anthropological lens to hidden assumptions about parenting styles, ancestry, subsistence, and lifestyles, and help draw out how notions of difference are constructed.

37 Long Haul Trucking Through China Trucking is one of the most important, but under studied, forms of transit and economy in contemporary China. Guest Rachel Katz climbed aboard for six months, traveled with truckers, got to know their routes, their families, hardships and opportunities.

FreeThink #1: TaL Back in the Studio! What’s Next??

IMG_8528Adam, Aneil, and Ryan are all back in the TaL studio for the first time in 18 months! And it feels good. Today we talk shop about where we’ve been and where we’re going with TaL. Check out the conversation on evolving the show content with new episode lengths and direction (same great content, shorter, more-digestible bites) and new minisodes based on Adam’s growing obsession with design and applied anthropology offering you practical ways to apply anthropological thinking and action to your daily life, and professionalizing our craft with new partnerships with the American Anthropological Association among others!

We’re super excited to be back for you and can’t wait to build this new season along with you!

Talking Anthropology: Podcasting and Its Potential for the Discipline (Part Two)

IMG_0369We’re back with another post from our friends at Teaching Culture blog! This time we explore podcasting and its potential for Anthropology. Here’s an excerpt, and be sure to head over to Teaching Culture blog for the full post!

“This second entry has been much more difficult for us to write than the first. We came in with an idea that this would give us an opportunity to concisely tell a story about the promises podcasting brings anthropology. Too soon we came to realize our narrative was as broad as it was vague. Rather than working entirely from an unpolished framework (this was only somewhat true, really), we came to realize that anthropology is difficult to define because it doesn’t have clear boundaries. By definition, anthropology is the study of all things, people, and social relations everywhere and everywhen. On the one hand, anthropology is the field that begins and ends with people at its very core. Yet, on the other hand, the boundaries between anthropology and, for example, astrophysics become blurred because it’s nothing more than one version of our own cosmology. As much as it is challenging, this openness is useful for anthropologists and the stories they can tell through podcasting.

IMG_0368For its part, podcasting is a flexible medium encompassing audio and video recording, and production can range from barely edited open-format conversations to fully produced episodes with edited interviews, sound effects, and sponsors. What links the diverse formats of this medium are the characteristics of a serial format, subscription-based service, and democratized production.

Employing audio recording in anthropology isn’t new. Many anthropologists use audio and video to record interviews with informants, their own thoughts or reflections, and occasionally the soundscapes of field sites. On many occasions audio and video are used in formalized settings to record lectures and talks. However, podcasting takes this one step further, moving into relatively uncharted territory to not only collect data, but deliver that data in a flexible narrative format to a discipline uncomfortable with fixed, rigid structures.

Drawing from these broad strokes we’ve found it most fruitful to put podcasting in conversation with anthropology and fieldwork to tease out how they might work together….”

Check out the full post here

Thanks again to Teaching Culture blog for hosting us! They are a great resource for educators interested in the social sciences, and especially anthropology.

Quick updates! TAL back in Boston! Burning Man mini-series, new articles, fresh episodes!

Hello dear listeners!

Adam hanging with his cow friends

Adam hanging with his cow friends outside Puno, Peru

Just a quick update on where TAL has been and now is. Adam is back from Peru! After an incredible 18-month fieldwork excursion into the world of quinoa, agriculture, and gastronomy he’s back among the Bostonians he holds so dear. Stay tuned for some upcoming episodes on fieldwork, quinoa, and what’s coming next from Adam. hint: Burning Man is about to become an awesome series of episodes co-produced with longtime collaborator Ben Gebo.

Ryan recently finished his fourth(!) field season in Yucatán, Mexico and is moving hardcore into analysis and writing. He’s got an incredible story about Maya history, culture, and architecture to tell you through bricks, fire pits, ritual objects and more. Get ready.

Aneil is just back from preliminary fieldwork in London working with green bond financiers. Super interesting stuff. Time to talk about the future of finance.

This fall we’ll three be back bringing you new and fresh TAL episodes plus some new goodies. We have a second article coming out courtesy of our friends over at Teaching Culture Blog on the promise of the podcast medium for anthropology and social sciences. Will post the link as soon as it is out!


much love and very excited to kick up the fall 2016 season!

Adam, Ryan, and Aneil

Is Corporate Anthropology Selling Out? A Conversation on Consulting with Vyjayanthi Vadrevu

We’re stoked to bring you TAL’s first ever three-city episode! Join Adam (in Peru!) and Ryan (in Boston!) and special guest Vyjayanthi Vadrevu (somewhere between NYC and Austin!) for an in-depth look into the world of Anthropological Consulting and Strategy.

Vyjayanthi VadrevuWhat is anthropology like in the business world? Vyjayanthi runs an anthropological consulting company ( that draws on social science and design to help companies better communicate and connect with their customers.

We dive into questions such as who can call themselves an anthropologist (academic, corporate, podcasters?!), what does a consulting anthropological project look like, what makes up anthropological research, and is client-based ethnography anthropology selling out?

Talking Anthropology: Podcasting for the Public (Part 1) authored by TAL

This Anthropological Life has joined the blogosphere! This article is a glimpse into where we see anthro podcasting today and in the future. Stay tuned for part 2 soon!

Talking Anthropology: Podcasting for the Public (Part 1)” on Teaching Culture blog from the University of Toronto Press just out!

Here’s an excerpt from the blog, check out the rest in the link above!

This Anthropological Life (TAL) is a professional experiment. Our aim is to promote anthropological thinking to the public through enjoyable and entertaining conversations. We’ve been making podcast episodes at TAL for over two and a half years, and have produced over 60 episodes, each around 45 minutes. The format is an unscripted, roundtable conversation supported by weekly research.

One main goal of TAL is to demonstrate and practice anthropological thinking in a publicly accessible way (with no homework, no jargon, no extra reading). Podcasting provides a natural medium through which to do this because open conversations don’t easily allow for footnotes, extensive quoting, or even hard-to-say sentences. It sounds simple, but as any academic anthropologist knows, trying to explain Bourdieu’s habitus or Marx’s labor theory of value in conversation without confusing your students is a learned skill. However, TAL isn’t intended to explain anthropological theory, nor is it to highlight anthropologists and their work. Rather, we use podcasting to break down anthropological research into an easily digestible format promoting holistic thinking.

We see TAL as somewhere between academia, design anthropology, public anthropology, and entertainment. Since podcasting is not (yet) an accepted academic format like a thesis or peer-reviewed journal it hovers on the fringes of academia. Its roots as a form of alternative, democratic radio production put it for many in the entertainment/news/informally-learn-something-new camp. Couched between these two forms we saw an opportunity to raise public consciousness about anthropology. In 2013 podcasts were a relatively new medium and applied anthropological communities like the National Association of Practicing Anthropology (NAPA) and Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC) hadn’t gained huge traction in anthropological worlds (I’m glad to see this changing). Podcasting is a great medium for sharing knowledge that follows on the heels of classic radio, the move towards more audiobook consumption by the general public, and the need to stop privileging the visual for information consumption. As someone who struggles with reading, this last point is particularly important to me.

Check out the rest: Talking Anthropology: Podcasting for the Public (Part 1)


Making Sense of Finance: Boundaries, Institutions, and Power with Caitlin Zaloom

Join TaL’s Aneil Tripathy and Caitlin Zaloom, NYU Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, as they discuss Zaloom’s research on futures markets and most recently student debt. Hear about what initially drew Zaloom to study financial markets in Chicago and London.

Professor Zaloom and Aneil end the conversation with a discussion on how anthropologists should speak to our moment in history and the importance of studying powerful institutions. Anthropology’s job is to denaturalize social systems, and it is especially important to do so in elite settings with powerful institutions such as those active in finance.

Guest Podcast: Food Futures: Playing our Way to Conservation? Experimental Economics in the Andean Countryside

Food Futures LogoSpecial guest podcast from our friends at the Food Futures Podcast on

Corinna Howland interviews Adam Gamwell about experimental games, or field experiments, which NGOs and economists use to measure when, why, and how people make different kinds of choices. This data, in turn, is used to inform public policy and generate development projects. As part of Adam’s work in Peru, he ran a series of experimental games with Andean farmers for the NGO Bioversity International, to understand what kinds of incentives farmers would need to conserve threatened varieties of quinoa.

Check out the selected transcript of the interview as well as other stories from Adam and Corinna on Beacon Reader. Their work is entirely crowdfunded so please consider subscribing and supporting independent anthropologically inspired journalism.