Up as ethnographer: Women moving anthropology in early Socialist Central Europe
Paper short abstract:
By comparing the professional biographies of female ethnographers in Czechoslovakia and in the GDR this paper analyzes the links between social mobility provided by the political changes after 1945 and the transformation of anthropology into ethnography.
Paper long abstract:
Since the institutional beginnings of anthropology in the 19th century, women were - as in any other academic professional field - underrepresented, according to their position in society in general. This situation changed rapidly in the course of the 1940ies and 1950ies after the political and economic order in parts of Central Europe transformed to state socialism. New professional opportunities for the formerly excluded and expulsion for the formerly included were introduced. The experience of social mobility was wide spread in anthropology as an academic and cultural branch.
This paper analyzes the links between political change and the development of anthropology with a special focus on four important female scholars: Olga Skalnikova and Bozena Filova in Czechoslovakia, Ursula Schlenther and Irmgard Sellnow in East Germany. All of them have been trained in the 1940ies and 1950ies and all of them have had active impact on the transformation of anthropology into socialist ethnography. In activating the right resources and networks at the right time these women moved not only their own biographies to new frontiers but the whole discipline with new concepts of research and teaching and the organization of socialist academic work.
My presentation draws on my completed PhD thesis at the Department for Contemporanean History, HU Berlin, and my further research during Volkswagen-funded "Akteurinnen, Praxen, Theorien: Zur Wissensgeschichte der Ethnologie in der DDR" at the Institute for European Ethnology, HU Berlin.
On the move: fieldwork, academy and home in the early anthropologists' careers