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.) But beyond the obvious, it’s also an allusion to the fact that the topics I focus on are mostly invisible (‘silent’ as it were), but also ‘deadly’ – a term I use in its Aboriginal Australian sense to mean ‘cool’ or ‘awesome’.

I publish one post per week. This mostly takes the form of an anthropological analysis of a taken-for-granted topic, although such pieces are occasionally interspersed with miscellany such as satiric letters, lists of links, short musings, etc. Weekly posts include a mix of pre-published pieces (most of which are no longer available) and new stuff. If you’re not interested in subscribing, but would like to keep abreast of the topics I post on, I provide links to weekly posts on my freshly minted Facebook author page.

This is a free Substack

About Kirsten Bell

I am an Australian social anthropologist currently living in London.

I received my PhD in social anthropology from James Cook University, Australia, in 2000 and have held academic appointments in anthropology programmes at the University of Northern Colorado, Macquarie University in Australia, the University of British Columbia in Canada, and the University of Roehampton in the UK, where I was Professor of Social Anthropology until August 2022. I am currently Visiting Professor at King’s College London. 

My academic scholarship (most of which can be accessed on my website, in the unlikely event that any readers are interested in it) 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.

Although I have frequently been accused of having a ‘journalistic’ writing style by fellow academics,

for the most part, these ruminations have been published outside the esteemed annals of academia – in venues like Wired, Popanth and The Globe & Mail. Silent but Deadly: The Underlying Cultural Patterns of Everyday Behaviour, the inspiration for this Substack, is my first book-length venture into popular anthropology.


That’s London, England, not London, Canada, for all you Canucks. For the record, I’m allowed to call people Canucks, being one myself – I obtained Canadian citizenship in 2015.


This is the worst of all academic sins. If a reader can clearly make out what you’re saying, you’ve failed at your job.

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


Kirsten Bell