A defence of folkloric methods in Czech anthropology: departicularizing British school critiques
Michael Vimont (University of Akron)
Paper short abstract:
This paper critically examines critiques of the folkloric and ethnological character of Czech anthropology by Czech authors of the British school.
Paper long abstract:
Comprising the vast majority of academic literature available in the English language on the nature and history of Czech anthropological traditions, Czech authors within the British school such as Vaclav Hubinger and Josef Kandert have levied robust critiques of the folkloric and ethnological nature of the discipline, citing such methodologies as negatively 'positivist' and invariably a 'willing servant of ideology'. Further, the Czech tradition has been presented in contrast to the ostensibly objective tradition of British anthropology, the former's service to ideology being characterized as more or less particular to the Central and Eastern European context. From my view as an outside observer, I analyse central works of the Socialist period, namely those of Olga Skalnikova, Karel Fojtik and Otakar Nahodil. While certain ideological elements are indeed problematic, particularly with Nahodil, I argue they can hardly be characterized as a unique component of folkloric and ethnological methods alone, Malinowskian methods being equally given to ideological motives as illustrated by Talal Asad, Ursula Sharma and other authors on Orientalism. Further, I attempt to illustrate the manner in which the folkloric 'urban ethnography' of Skalnikova and Fojitk provides certain methodological advantages compared to the Malinowskian Anglo-American School.
Is there a sense of community uniting anthropology, ethnology and folklore today? (World Council of Anthropological Associations panel)