When I started my anthropology degree at school, one of the first things we learned was that being an anthropologist means that it’s your job first and foremost to understand things – not necessarily condone them, but to understand them on their most fundamental level and how they’re interconnected. 

Anthropologists are known for studying cultures and societies, but they also study bones, evolution, material objects, linguistics, and art. An anthropologist’s work is always adding to the ongoing conversation around what it means to be human – a big question in the social sciences.

The word “anthropology” literally means ‘the study of humans,’ so it’s a discipline that can relate to just about anything in our world. 

How does anthropology relate to creativity and writing? 

We’ve been making art for at least 64,000 years. Prehistoric cave art is one of the first signs that humans engaged with symbolic thinking and creativity. Considering how incredibly popular and important art is and has been throughout the past millennia, it’s safe to say that humans find collective comfort in engaging with creativity and consuming art. Perhaps because it’s a way of communicating, expressing, or being understood on a level that everyday speech simply cannot do. 

As things developed and humans engaged more with physical arts and crafts, they also began telling stories. 

Storytelling has been around at least since 700BC. Thousands of cultures across the globe have at least some form of lore, myths, cultural mythology, or oral traditions that are passed down. We were telling dramatic big stories back then, such as the Greek myths, and we are still telling big stories now. Humans love stories. We are always looking for them. 

How many times have you indulged in gossip or been nosey? Or asked questions about what happened to someone or to an old house? Why? What? How? Where? When? We always want the details, especially the why and the what. 

Writing and poetry are such popular art forms because we are always wanting to tell each other stories and to listen to others. I would argue that not everyone is cut out to be a painter or a drawer, but anyone can be a writer because storytelling is innate to all of us. 

In fact it’s so popular that whole entertainment industries are built on storytelling. Movies, television, radio shows, podcasts. We have our own narratives that we tell ourselves about ourselves, and about the world. And societies have their own narratives that are often imposed on others. Narratives, stories, storytelling are everywhere all the time.

As such, I would further argue that storytelling is our biggest vehicle for describing, sharing and relating to the human condition. Thus, by endeavouring to write, we, too, are anthropologists contributing to the conversation around what it means to be human. 

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