Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gift Guide 2012! Last Minute Gift Guide for the Anthropologist in Your Life

Look, I know how it goes. You're not really sure what anthropology is all about, but you want to get something thoughtful for your loved one who studies, teaches, or practices anthropology. So what do you do, go straight for the Indiana Jones Box Set, right? No. Put down the whip - it's not funny anymore. Here are some last minute gift ideas for your loved ones in Anthropology. Equally important: pay special attention to the Holiday Anti-Gift List at the bottom.

For the undergraduate:

Yep. And the Matrix.

Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths About Human Nature (Fuentes) - This brilliant book will start any undergraduate off on the right track, planting the seeds of critical thinking and analysis, and getting the record straight on nature and nuture. Hell, pick one up for yourself! - $18 at AbeBooks

Anthropological Theory: An Introductory History (McGee & Warms) - It's a heavy price tag, that's for sure, but this book is an amazing compendium of the history of anthropological theory - something in which I believe every anthropologist should have a strong foundation. (Also, buy it now or buy it in graduate school!) - $113 at Amazon

AAA Student Membership - This is a bargain deal right here: For next to nothing, undergraduate members of the American Anthropological Association get discounted registration to the annual AAA meetings ($92 versus $166), the AAA newsletter, and a free membership to the National Association of Student Anthropologists. But well worth the price by itself is the unlimited access to AnthroSource, the AAA's searchable database of over 30 publications reaching back over 100 years. - $35/year at

For the graduate student:

Business cards - Your grad student is probably already a member of various organizations, and doing a fair bit of travelling to meetings by now, so hook them up with some business cards so people remember their names. Spring for the not-free variety to get the unprofessional VistaPrint URL off the back. - Startingat $5.99 at

Staedtler Telescoping Poster Tube - If they're anything like me, they enjoy presenting the occasional poster now and again. Let me tell you, it is no fun hunting down cardboard tubes to fit, and they end up being kind of expensive too. Be sustainable and pick up this one-size-fits-all telescoping poster tube! - $18 at Staples

Record your voice in the shower!
Logitech Professional Presenter R800 - Encourage your loved one to give the keyboard a break and walk away from the podium with this handy presenter. It has a highly visible green laser and the USB jump drive is stored in its base for portability. - $60 at Amazon

Zoom H2n Handy Recorder - Fieldwork! For the biological or archaeological students taking notes or for the cultural or linguistic students conducting interviews! Pricey? Yes. Worth it? Totally. (There are much, much more expensive versions of this.) - $160 on Amazon


Anthropology makes
me baby-crazy.
For the cultural anthropologist: Debt: The First 5000 Years (Graeber) - $15 at Amazon

For the biological anthropologist: Building Babies: Primate Development in Proximate and Ultimate Perspective (Clancy, Hinde, & Rutherford, eds.) - $182 at Amazon

For the medical anthropologist: Reproduction, Globalization, and the State (Browner & Sargent, eds.) - $25 at Amazon

For the forensic anthropologist: Color Atlas of Forensic Toolmark Identification - $110 at AbeBooks

For the archaeologist: "Uh, just beer money. Thanks."

For any anthropologist on your list:

Let them pick: Amazon gift cards - $25 - 2,000 at Amazon

Jon Marks has never
looked so good.
The boardgame that simulates natural selection: Dominant Species - $60 at Amazon

Speaking of evolution: 98% Chimp shirt - $18 at ThinkGeek

You can never go wrong with a National Geographic subscription$15 for printed or digital

And because it served me extraordinarily well during my own fieldwork this past summer: Custom Timbuk2 Laptop Messengerstarting at $150 at Timbuk2

What not to buy for the anthropologist in your life, even if they specifically ask:

Be sure to charge this
to your credit card.
No Indiana Jones. It's not cute anymore. Opt instead for the fictional anthropologist du jour: Doctor Who - at ThinkGeek or Amazon

Look, it's tempting, I know but no Jared Diamond books. Here's a secret: He has more cargo, because he's good at selling you drivel. I would instead recommend two books that I've already outlined here: Debt (Graeber) and Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies (Fuentes).

If you're going to spend the money on personal genomics, I think it's important to know whether or not the recipient really understands how little such a service can actually do for them. As it stands, there is little value beyond recognizing preventable genetic diseases early - which, I grant you, is huge. If that's the case, it's equally important to have a doctor who knows what they are looking at. Outside of genetic risk assessment, personal genomic services are really just an expensive peek-beneath-the-hood, for curiosity's sake.

Questions? Suggestions? Let me know in the comments.

But no really, check this game out:


Kerim Friedman of Savage Minds suggests you check out the card game Yams which is based on the economic (and social) functions of the Trobriand Islanders, as recorded by the father of participant-observation, Bronislaw Malinowski - $17 at

And while we're talking about crowd-funded projects (which Yams was), I direct you to the BioLite Stove and the GravityLight, both of which are projects concerned with bringing sustainable sources of light and electricity to developing nations. The BioLite Stove is in production (and you can buy the CampStove version for $130 at, while the GravityLight is still needs your pledges at (even though it's $150,000 over the goal as I write this).

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