About Silent but Deadly

If you’ve ever wondered why farts evoke laughter and disgust, why we tip wait staff but not teachers, and whether you can still spot the difference between a Brit and an American based on their teeth, you’ve come to the right place. Each week, Silent but Deadly takes you on an anthropological tour through the big answers to life’s little questions.

Taking the view that no topic is too small or insignificant for anthropological attention, this is a space for readers who would like a light and entertaining respite from the big social and political issues of our time. In the pages of this newsletter, I’m more interested in body odours than environmental pollutants, tipping than capitalism, farting than feminism, and swearing than social inequality. If these latter topics are your cup of tea, there are plenty of other Substacks awaiting your reading pleasure. If, on the other hand, you’re more interested in the roots of the expression ‘not my cup of tea’ itself, welcome, friends! Grab your beverage of choice and sit a spell.

You may well be asking yourself why I have chosen Silent but Deadly as the title for the newsletter. Is it a shameless bid to promote my book of the same name? (Why, yes, indeed it is.) Does it allude to my longstanding obsession with all manner of bodily effluvia? (Ditto.) Should it be taken as a sign that this newsletter is not particularly highbrow? (Der.)

I publish one post per fortnight. This mostly takes the form of an anthropological analysis of a taken-for-granted topic, although such pieces are interspersed with miscellany such as satiric letters, academic satire, inane lists, interviews with myself, etc. If this sounds like too much commitment, just go ahead and buy my book instead. You won’t regret it – or, at least, I won’t.

About Kirsten Bell

I am an Australian, Canadian and British anthropologist currently living in London. I received my PhD in social anthropology from James Cook University in 2000. I am currently a Senior Research Fellow in Anthropology at Imperial College London, but have previously taught in anthropology programmes at the University of Northern Colorado, Macquarie University, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Roehampton.

My academic scholarship has focused broadly on the anthropology of health and medicine – a far cry from Korean new religion, where I originally started out. However, I also have a longstanding anthropological interest in everyday behaviour. This has been stoked, in part, by the constant cultural whiplash I have experienced from numerous intercontinental moves – something I expected in South Korea, but not in the lands of my Anglophone brethren. But since no credible academic journal wants to publish my thoughts on farting, and academic writing conventions are both restrictive and boring, this is where I share my (questionable) insights.

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An entertaining anthropological tour through the big answers to life's little questions


Anthropologist and author of SILENT BUT DEADLY