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SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human
22 minutes | Dec 8, 2020
A Startling Link Between Neanderthals and COVID-19
SAPIENS host Chip Colwell speaks with evolutionary geneticist Hugo Zeberg about his surprising discovery of a connection between Neanderthal DNA and a greater risk for severe COVID-19. Zeberg is also a researcher at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.Read the paper in Nature Zeberg co-authored announcing the discovery: “The Major Genetic Risk Factor for Severe COVID-19 Is Inherited From Neanderthals.”
27 minutes | Nov 23, 2020
Moments of Resilience Amid a Pandemic
SAPIENS host Chip Colwell speaks with Melanie Adams, the director of the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum (ACM), about #Moments of Resilience, the ACM’s effort to document and eventually tell African Americans’ stories about the times we're living through now. They also discuss the unique role of a community museum, the value of oral history, and the communities the ACM serves from its home in Washington, D.C. Check out these links to the three stories Melanie reads in this episode: Spreading Joy; One Rock at a Time More Than a Cup of Coffee The Resurrection of Gloria The following pieces are sources Chip mentions in his introduction: “As Pandemic Deaths Add Up, Racial Disparities Persist—and in Some Cases Worsen” by Daniel Wood “No, ‘Racial Genetics’ Aren’t Affecting COVID-19 Deaths” by Sonia Zakrzewski
26 minutes | Nov 11, 2020
Is the Pandemic Slowing Down Love?
SAPIENS host Jen Shannon speaks with biological anthropologist Helen Fisher about her research on love, sex, and everything in between. Fisher is the author of six books, the chief scientific adviser for the online dating site Match.com, and a leading researcher on dating trends in America. In this episode, Fisher shares insights from a recent survey. The New York Times piece Fisher references in this episode is available here: “How Coronavirus Is Changing the Dating Game for the Better.”
27 minutes | Oct 26, 2020
When at Home, Bake as the Romans Baked
SAPIENS host Chip Colwell talks with experimental archaeologist Farrell Monaco about her work re-creating ancient Roman bread and what it means to reconnect with bakers of the past. Farrell also offers some tips for pandemic-era bakers who want to take their new hobby to the next level. For more from Farrell, her award-winning website is Tavola Mediterranea. Read more about experimental archaeology, including Farrell and her work, at SAPIENS.org: “Pandemic Bakers Bring the Past to Life.” And go ahead and try to make the Roman bread recipe described by Cato the Elder.
24 minutes | Oct 14, 2020
A Vaccine Will Not Be Enough
SAPIENS host Jen Shannon speaks with Agustín Fuentes, a professor of anthropology at Princeton University, to unpack his insight that the COVID-19 pandemic is a biosocial phenomenon. They also discuss his recent suggestion that the virus “is not the only hazard to human health and well-being” right now. Recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Fuentes is a decorated anthropologist and an author of many books. His latest is Why We Believe: Evolution and the Human Way of Being. For more from Fuentes, an excerpt of Why We Believe is available at SAPIENS.org: “How Did Beliefs Evolve?” Also on SAPIENS.org, he hosted the debate, “Why Are Humans Violent?”
2 minutes | Aug 27, 2020
We're (Still) Going Viral
The SAPIENS podcast will return in several months, and we want you to help us understand what it means to be human amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Do you have a question, thought, or idea about what it means to be human right now? Tweet at us @SAPIENS_org, message us on Facebook, or leave us a voicemail at 1-970-368-9730.
34 minutes | Jul 1, 2020
The Problem With Abstract Threats
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. Hugh Gusterson is a professor of anthropology and international affairs at George Washington University. Follow him on Twitter @GustersonP and read his recent piece at SAPIENS magazine: “The Problem of Imagining the Real.” Kristin Hedges is an applied medical anthropologist who studies how understanding cultural constructions of illness is essential for successful health intervention campaigns. She is an assistant professor at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @kristinhedges6 and read her recent piece at SAPIENS magazine: “The Symbolic Power of Virus Testing.” Steve Nash is a historian of science, an archaeologist at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and a columnist for SAPIENS. Follow him on Twitter @nash_dr, check out his column Curiosities, and read the column post he mentions in this episode: “The Long Count.”
35 minutes | Jun 17, 2020
What Pandemics Leave Behind
At some time in the future, the novel coronavirus pandemic will fade. What will this globally traumatic contagion leave in its wake? In this episode of the SAPIENS podcast, hosts Jen Shannon and Chip Colwell keep an eye on the future while looking to the past for answers: In the 14th century, the Black Death killed as much as one-third of the population of Europe, but it also sparked new ideas that linger to this day, including one of our favorite modern myths. In closing, Steve Nash returns to discuss the plague doctors of Venice and the many meanings of masks. Sara Toth Stub is a journalist based in Jerusalem who writes about religion, business, travel, and archaeology. Follow her on Twitter at @saratothstub and read her recent piece at SAPIENS magazine: “Venice’s Black Death and the Dawn of Quarantine.” Matteo Borrini is a forensic anthropologist in the School of Biological and Environmental Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University. Check out one of his academic papers for more about “Carmilla.” Jane Stevens Crawshaw is a senior lecturer in early modern European history at Oxford Brookes University and the author of Plague Hospitals: Public Health for the City in Early Modern Venice. Steve Nash is a historian of science, an archaeologist at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and a columnist for SAPIENS. Check out his column Curiosities and follow him on Twitter @nash_dr.
24 minutes | Jun 11, 2020
Police Violence and the Pandemic
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. The poll Jen mentions in this episode was conducted by Monmouth and published on June 2, 2020.
16 minutes | May 28, 2020
Could the Coronavirus Pandemic Be Good for the Environment?
SAPIENS host Chip Colwell interviews Elic Weitzel, a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Connecticut, about his recent article for SAPIENS that considers how the global pandemic may impact climate change—for better or for worse. Weitzel is currently working on his dissertation on the environmental effects of the Black Death on 14th-century Eurasia and the depopulation of Native Americans in the wake of European colonization. Read his SAPIENS article: “Are Pandemics Good for the Environment?”
29 minutes | May 18, 2020
Preppers and the Pandemic
With the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, the SAPIENS podcast is going viral. In this first episode of season 3, SAPIENS hosts Chip Colwell and Jen Shannon revisit a story about preppers from our first season. Jen calls Chad Huddleston, one of the anthropologists featured on that show, to find out how he and the preppers he studies are handling the COVID-19 crisis. In closing, Chip reaches out to SAPIENS columnist and anthropologist Steve Nash to discuss panic buying, toilet paper, and more. Chad Huddleston is an adjunct assistant professor at St. Louis University and an instructor at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. Read his SAPIENS article: “For Preppers, the Apocalypse Is Just Another Disaster.” Steve Nash is a historian of science, an archaeologist at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and a columnist for SAPIENS. Check out his column Curiosities and follow him on Twitter @nash_dr.
26 minutes | Dec 2, 2019
What Does it Mean to be Human? Your Questions, Answered
In this season 2 finale of the SAPIENS podcast, hosts Jen Shannon, Chip Colwell, and Esteban Gómez field questions from listeners on Twitter and at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science about what it means to be human. They address human origins and self-awareness, discrimination, social media, and more! You can follow all of our expert guests on Twitter: Augustin Fuentes at the University of Notre Dame (@Anthrofuentes); Daniel Miller at the University College London (@DannyAnth); and Barbara King, professor emerita at William and Mary (@bjkingape). Mark Shriver, professor at Pennsylvania State University, did a study on human nose shape and climate adaptation that also informed our conversation. Finally, here's a link to the nose-picking gorilla photos mentioned in this episode. SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human is a part of the American Anthropological Association Podcast Library.
34 minutes | Nov 18, 2019
Does Generosity Come Naturally?
Until very recently, Colin Turnbull was the only anthropologist who had lived and studied with both the Mbuti people of the Congo region and the Ik of Uganda. Because of his writings, one community became known for its egalitarianism and the other for its selfishness. His observations of the Ik in particular, as “inhuman” and “inhospitable,” led to them being dubbed as “the loveless people.” Then in 2009, Cathryn Townsend earned the chance to live with the Ik to study to generosity. In this episode, she shares her insights on what she found, and what Turnbull may have gotten wrong. To learn more about Cathryn Townsend's work, follow her on Twitter @CathrynTownsend. This episode is inspired by the SAPIENS.org article “Is a More Generous Society Possible?” Learn more about the Human Generosity Project, of which Cathryn is a part. SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human is a part of the American Anthropological Association Podcast Library. Music for this episode includes: “Hello World,” “Who Were These People,” “Malaria,” “In Transit” by Matthew Simonson. “As I Was Saying,” “Curiosity,” “Quizitive,” Reflections,” All I have Left Are These Photographs” by Lee Rosevere “Silver Flame” by Kevin Macleod “Walking Bells” by Studio D
26 minutes | Nov 4, 2019
How Belonging Shapes the Vaccination Crisis
Anthropologist Elisa Sobo never wanted to study the issue of vaccination. The topic was too fraught, she says, and she didn't want to touch it. But then she initiated a children’s health study at a school in California. Today her work on vaccine hesitancy offers insights into how those on opposing sides might better understand each other and work through this highly controversial issue. For more, check out Elisa Sobo’s SAPIENS piece about her work on vaccination: “Beyond the Vaccination Rift.” For the other vaccination-related SAPIENS article Chip mentions in this episode, see: “Why Eradicating Polio Is More Complicated Than It Seems.” SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human is part of the American Anthropological Association Podcast Library. Music for this episode includes: “Metadata in One Lesson,” “School Daze,” “Museum,” “In Transit” by Matthew Simonson “Missa Pastoralis Bohemica, Hej, Mistre” by Georg Munzel “Trusted News V2” by David Fesliyan “Here’s the Thing,” “Sad Marimba Planet” by Lee Rosevere “Come As You Were” by Blue Dot Sessions
35 minutes | Oct 21, 2019
The Deep Roots of Navajo Country Music
What is it about certain musical traditions that cause them to take root in communities far away from where they originated? Anthropologist Kristina Jacobsen leads SAPIENS hosts Jen Shannon and Chip Colwell on a musical journey into the U.S. Southwest to understand the phenomenon that is Navajo country music. In addition to authoring the book The Sound of Navajo Country: Music, Language, and Diné Belonging, Jacobsen is a singer-songwriter. This episode includes one of her songs and a number of others she learned about during her time on the Navajo Nation. Listen to more music by Dennis Yazzie and the Night Breeze Band here. For more on Navajo country music, read Jacobsen's article at SAPIENS: “Why Navajos Love Their Country Music.” SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human is part of the American Anthropological Association Podcast Library. Music for this episode includes: “Selja Star” by Ken Jacobsen “El Tajo,” “Moon Bicycle Theme,” “FasterFasterBrighter,” “Villano,” “Waltz for Zacaria” by Blue Dot Sessions “In Transit,” “Chads Story” by Matthew Simonson “Room at the Top of the Stairs,” “Wanted Man,” “Made in Japan” by Dennis Yazzie and the Night Breeze Band “Inez” by Kristina Jacobsen
30 minutes | Oct 7, 2019
Are Colors Universal?
How do language, biology, and culture shape an individual’s experience of color? A journalist investigates the anthropological debate about whether color is a human universal. Remember the meme #TheDress? Was it white and gold, or blue and black? With the help of Nicola Jones, a freelance science journalist who writes for Nature and SAPIENS, SAPIENS host Jen Shannon explores the question of color perception to find answers. She learns about the book The World Color Survey, an Amazonian tribe in Peru whose language has no color words, the biology of the human eye. Nicola Jones is a science reporter and journalist. Follow her on Twitter @nicolakimjones. Simon Overall is a linguist and guest lecturer at the University of Otago in New Zealand. You can follow him at @ginsengburger. For more on the debate about color perception, read Jones' article at SAPIENS.org: "Do You See What I See?" SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human is part of the American Anthropological Association Podcast Library. Music for this episode includes: “I’m That Guy,” “Chads Story,” “Cerutti,” “In Transit,” “Museum,” “School Daze” by Matthew Simonson “Palms Down,” “Soothe,” “Bridgewalker” by Blue Dot Sessions “Marimba Colors” by Jason Paton
34 minutes | Sep 23, 2019
Stringing Together an Ancient Empire’s Stories
Anthropologist Sabine Hyland attempts to uncover the secrets held in twisted and colored Andean cords called khipus. Thanks to the collaborative approach of anthropologist Sabine Hyland and local communities, outsiders are finally coming to understand what these khipus mean—for the people of the Andes and for the rest of us. Sabine Hyland is a professor of anthropology at the University of St. Andrews. Follow her on Twitter @Coyagirl. For more on khipus, read Hyland’s article about the Collata khipus at SAPIENS.org: “Unraveling an Ancient Code Written in Strings.” The book Chip mentions at the end of this episode is called Wisdom Sits in Places by Keith Basso. SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human is part of the American Anthropological Association Podcast Library. Correction: Hyland confirmed for us that the 1783 rebellion was against the Spanish, not the Inca, as she said in one quote in the initial version of this episode. We have since removed the error. Music for this episode includes: “Denzel Sprak,” “Weathervane,” “Are We Loose Yet,” “Bidious Transit,” “Borough,” “Gullwing Sailor,” “Cases to Rest” by Blue Dot Sessions “4,” “Cerutti,” “Ballgames,” “In Transit” by Matthew Simonson “Hero Down” by Kevin Macleod
23 minutes | Sep 9, 2019
Do You Dream What I Dream?
Anthropologist Roger Lohmann sees a ghost in a dream while working in Papua New Guinea. Even though he knows it's just a dream, he's scared long after he wakes up. To make sense of his dream, Lohmann explores the role dreams play in our waking life and how different cultures make sense of dream worlds. Do all humans dream the same? Or do the cultures we are immersed in shape our dreams? Lohmann has six cultural dream theories that offer some answers to what dreams are and what they mean. Roger Lohmann has six cultural dream theories that offer some answers to what dreams are and what they mean. Roger Lohmann is a professor of anthropology at Trent University, where he specializes in religion, cultural change, and cultural dream theory. Follow him on Twitter @rogerlohmann. Read Lohmann’s article at SAPIENS: “The Night I Was Attacked by a Ghost.” And for more, check out an essay about Islamic dream culture: “Do Dreams Give Voice to the Divine?” SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human is part of the American Anthropological Association Podcast Library. Music for this episode includes: “Thoughtful” by Lee Rosevere “In Transit,” “Metadata in One Lesson” by Matthew Simonson “Balti,” “The Provisions” by Blue Dot Sessions
25 minutes | Aug 26, 2019
What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting Down Syndrome
When Thomas Pearson’s newborn daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome, it changed the course of his life forever. Pearson joins SAPIENS hosts Jen Shannon and Chip Colwell to talk about his story, how his training in anthropology prepared him for his daughter’s diagnosis, and what he hopes other people can learn from his experience. Pearson is a professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, Stout. Read more about Pearson’s story and his research into disability studies on SAPIENS: “A Daughter’s Disability and a Father’s Awakening.” The book Chip recommends at the end of the episode is titled The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human is part of the American Anthropological Association Podcast Library. Music included in this episode are: Walking Bells - Studio D Not Alone, Betrayal, Waiting for the Moment That Never Comes, Under Suspicion, Compassion - Lee Rosevere Cerutti, Who Were These People, School Daze - Matthew Simonson Gymnopedie No 1 - Kevin Macleod
28 minutes | Aug 12, 2019
Where Have All the Denisovans Gone?
The Denisovans have long been one of the most elusive ancient human cousins, until now. In May 2019, scientists revealed the first fossil evidence of Denisovans outside of the Denisova Cave in Siberia. As the historical human family tree grows, what are we learning about why we're the only ones left? In this episode, we pose this question to science journalist Carl Zimmer, a columnist for The New York Times and the author of 13 books. Follow him on Twitter @carlzimmer. We also speak with archaeologist Anna Goldfield about Neanderthals, another close ancient cousin. Goldfield is a columnist at SAPIENS.org, co-host of The Dirt podcast, and the illustrator of The Neanderthal Child of Roc de Marsal: A Prehistoric Mystery. Follow her on Twitter @AnnaGoldfield. Learn more about Denisovans and Neanderthals. SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human is part of the American Anthropological Association Podcast Library. Music in this episode is by: "Willow and the Light" by Kevin MacLeod https://filmmusic.io "Honey Bee" by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com) License: CC by (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)Music from leerosevere.bandcamp.com "Featherlight" by Lee Rosevere (leerosevere.bandcamp.com) "Curiosity" by Lee Rosevere “Let That Sink In” by Lee Rosevere License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) “In Transit” by Matthew Simonson. "Summit" by K2 produced by Blue Dot Sessions, purchased with a professional license.
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