Eastern Europe as a field of anthropological enquiry (roundtable)

Michal Buchowski (Adam Mickiewicz University)
Michal Buchowski
Wills 3.31
Start time:
19 September, 2006 at 18:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Various scholarly traditions have created different pictures of Eastern Europe. We will examine how context dependent is anthropological knowledge production of and in this region, and what kind of academic relations have emerged in this field of study.

Long abstract:

Eastern Europe has been studied by both anthropologists from outside Europe, from Western Europe and by indigenous scholars themselves. This has created a complex situation in which various groups of researchers have produced different pictures of the societies living in this area. The multiplicity of views represented by these various clusters of experts should generate not only a voluminous body of ethnographic materials, but also comprise an ideal groundwork for insightful anthropological interpretations. However, several specialists claim that Eastern European anthropology has not managed to establish itself as an influential sub-field within the discipline. We will discuss whether this is the case and if so, what has brought about this state of affairs? If this is not the case, what has given rise to such views? The debate should therefore address the research agenda of these various scholarly traditions, the particular understandings of what anthropology in this region is all about, what is universal and also what is particular to doing anthropology of and in Eastern Europe. Since 1989 many studies about this region have been carried out within the framework of post-socialism. Now one must ultimately question whether this intellectual practice was, or still is, theoretically fertile. Attempts have also been made to compare the post-socialist condition with other historical developments. Which ones and to what extent can these studies be substantiated? Furthermore, can we, for instance, draw parallels between post-socialist and post-colonial scholarship? The latter point brings us back to the anthropological enterprise itself, namely, to the issue of whether a flow of ideas and convergence of research paradigms is occurring that enables scholars examining Eastern Europe and living and working in Eastern Europe to work together. But is this mutual partnership or is it colonization involving hierarchies of knowledge based on relations of power within academia?