A frictionless history of fieldwork: In Search of Us reviewed

To be an anthropologist today is to understand, as few in the secular modern university can, what it is to be marked by a consciousness of original sin. Contemporary ethnographies are full of passionate mea culpas from scholars concerned that they have inherited the guilt of their discipline’s founding fathers, men who inhabited a world of red-cheeked missionaries and pith-helmeted viceroys. Lucy Moore is not the most natural candidate for a historian of the discipline. Her back-catalogue shows her to be a generalist and belletrist – a book on the Roaring Twenties, one on Indian princesses and another on Georgian rakes. Her prose is fluent and soothing, her narratives informative

The 17th-century Huron chief Kondiaronk can still teach us valuable lessons

Ten years ago, David Graeber was a leading figure of the Occupy Wall Street movement. He and his fellow protesters camped out in Zucotti Park, storing $800,000 of donations in trash bags because they didn’t believe in banks. The American anthropologist and anarchist activist called this an experiment in ‘post-bureaucratic living’. But such politics made Graeber persona non grata at US universities, so he moved to Britain where, in 2013, he became a full professor at the LSE. There, until his death last year aged 59, he imagined anarchist utopias and indicted what he took to be an oxymoron: western civilisation. In Debt: The First 5,000 Years he called for

This is the golden age of the grifter – and there’s a podcast for every con

Truly we are living in the golden age of the grifter. From Fyre Fest to the WeWork empire to Theranos to the personal development cult NXIVM, we see a charismatic person promising us endless growth, pleasure or wealth and we give them all our money. The con-man economy doesn’t just stop at the men and women leading these frauds and profiting wildly from them. (Some of them go to jail, yes, but WeWork leader/charlatan Adam Neumann was paid many millions of dollars just to go away.) There is also now a podcast, usually sponsored by a security system, for every con. Barbara Kruger’s shopping bag indicting shopping has become a

Is it possible that Neanderthals had a spiritual life?

When I studied anthropology back in the early 1980s, Neanderthals were still largely the bulk-browed brutes of yore, grunting in smoky caves and loping across the tundra. Their vanishing from the fossil record some 40,000 years ago was a result of competition, along with a little interbreeding, with our own forebears. The story, as I received it then, retained something of the racially hierarchical views at large when the first fossilised bones were recovered in Germany, from near the Neander river, in 1856. Neanderthals were made extinct by an altogether smarter creature. It was inevitable — the clue was in the name: Homo sapiens. Neanderthals have come a long way