EASA, 2008: EASA08: Experiencing diversity and mutuality

Ljubljana, 26/08/2008 – 29/08/2008


Liminal Europe

Location DID and 0.2A
Date and Start Time 28 Aug, 2008 at 11:00


Ines Prica (Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research) email
Tomislav Pletenac (Faculty of Philosophy) email
Bojan Zikic email
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Short Abstract

The concept of Europe is well comprehensible through the doubtful status of "liminal" scientific traditions in the main-stream anthropology. We consider the misunderstandings and malpractices from "both sides of liminality" and from without the gloomy perspectives of the new hierarchy of knowledge.

Long Abstract

The aim of the workshop is to examine the status of "liminal" Europe in recent anthropological theory. The notion, whether tacitly or overtly, acutely or chronically referring to the limits of European identity, has been working in accord with the general theoretical enhancement, but also in favor of the unified disciplinary discourse, restrictive towards the contributions of the different types of reflections and intellectual continuities. The new priorities of the post-1989 world have made the unilateral character of main-stream anthropology palpable, as it has been faced with the multiple ethnological practices on its post-socialist terrain, unfamiliar and outlandish whereas implanted in beaten and deserted intellectual and professional traditions. Together with the alarmed plea for the integrative, and admistratively tamable anthropology, it has created a professional atmosphere of post-colonial odor, with the liminal practices never enough attuned to the core, which is announcing the lack of anthropological imagination within itself. Here, we will consider the problem in a most open manner, display the misunderstandings and malpractices from "both sides of liminality" and from without the gloomy perspectives of the new hierarchy of knowledge. How can we differentiate the experiental and purely practical aspects of the mutual (mis)apprehension, from its epistemological, intellectual and academic background? At what point are the differences harmlessly dismissive and under which conditions, however, the semi-autonomous, auto-reflexive and localized practices work more productively for the cognitive and ethical value of European anthropology?


Neglected interdisciplinarities: the Balkans, gender, and historical anthropology

Author: Svetlana Slapšak (ISH - Institutum Studiorum Humanitatis, Ljubljana Graduate School of Humanities)  email
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Long Abstract

"Hyper-colonial" is used to describe and define colonial stereotypes and narratives in academic discourse, used for cultures and regions which did not have a traditional colonial rule, but have been treated as colonial: different in status due to the European quest for Ancient Greece (and colonialism inflicted on Modern Greece), the Balkans were the object of a special academic interest, formulated as "balkanology": a discipline interdisciplinary by definition. Where does it stand today, what impact have Gender Studies had, how interdisciplinarity is performed, within which theoretical frameworks? Hyper-colonial, especially visible and present in the new interest for the region's anthropology of gender, is first historicized, then deconstructed in the paper. The neglected model of RIEB is revised and reflected in the light of new possibilities for interdisciplinarity.

Writing Europe: the dialogue of 'liminal Europeans'

Author: Máiréad Nic Craith (Heriot-Watt University)  email
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Long Abstract

In his Dialogic Imagination Mikhail Bakhtin focuses on the dialogic and the 'monologic' process of literature. He suggests that a dialogic work is engaged in a continual dialogue with other pieces of writing. It is not simply that one literary work responds to previous publications, but it also engages with and is informed by previous endeavours. This presentation focuses on the writings of what are called 'liminal Europeans' i.e. migrants who have transferred from one cultural context to another and who have experienced the challenge of living in a dominant culture and language which is not native to them. Migration has been a regular feature in Europe since before the Romans. However an acceleration of this process in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has resulted in the breaking down of old affinities and alignments and the emergence of new formations that challenge traditional group definitions. Many Europeans experience strong senses of exclusion from the mainstream society to which they have migrated. Some have explored this challenge of liminality in writing. The presentation focuses on auto/ethnographies that have been penned in a liminal context with particular reference to the concept of Europe. How do migrants translate their own memories and stories from one region of Europe into a new cultural setting? What is the composite picture of Europe that is created in these migrant writings and how significant is the experience of liminality?

A man can die but thrice: anthropology of death through Lacan

Author: Karmen Šterk (Faculty of Social Science)  email
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Long Abstract

In accordance with the Lacanian triad, the paper will deconstruct death as a three-fold philosophical model which in cultural reality takes shape of logical sequence of metaphysical, physical and ritual events. On the level of the Imaginary, we are dealing with phantasmatic, deceptive universe of images of wholeness which support our existence, (culturally specific) images of coherence, i.e. the concept, the idea of life. On the level of the Symbolic, we are faced with the differential structure which organizes our experience of meaning and designates our social relations, i.e. the meaning of life, the subject's suture to the idea of life. The Real is to be understood as the traumatic reminder that resists symbolization, i.e. life devoid of any idea, sense or meaning of life.

Within this framework, the paper will analyze the (cultural) necessity of death/dying being perceived as a sequence of Imaginary - Real - Symbolic (separation - transition - reincorporation), whereby the Imaginary can be defined retroactively, but always placed at the beginning, and the Symbolic should not precede the Real. If this course of logic is disrupted, inversed, lacking either the boundaries or even one of the features, the subject that caused it would necessitate attribution of special social status and be deemed »ritually unclean«, in Freud's term Uncanny. By the same token, those who experience the Symbolic death prior to Real(ly) dying, such as Aghoris among Hindus or Janez Drnovšek, can come to embody the very concept of life itself, support the Imaginary level of living.

Remembering socialism and "post-socializing" the West

Author: Tomislav Pletenac (Faculty of Philosophy)  email
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Long Abstract

The concept of transition through which societies that came into existence after the fall of the Berlin wall were attempted to be categorized, is not entirely new. It has been established as an additional product of "planetary consciousness" (Louise Pratt) and described in terms of the registry that Bhabha calls "almost-but-not-quite". Following Bhabha's arguments, transition remains the permanent condition of the colonial subject which has to represent a justification for its very existence. In case of postsocialism it firmly tries to deduct the core of the socialist, transforming it into a potentially threatening slippage. In these circumstances liminal anthropology (better known as ethnology) is doubly inscribed into the discourse of postsocialist anthropology: as a lagging discourse of cultural analytics, but also as a possible source of empirical material on socialism. By this ethnology also acquires the identical threatening quality - in Žižek's terminology, it becomes a symptom. Changing the analytical situation, the symptom gains new meaning. Everything becomes a possible socialist residue that legitimizes the new symbolic order, but also gives a new meaning to the object (socialism). In this gap it is difficult to decide whether the nativity of the socialist subject clad in ethnological discourse with a burden of postcolonial formation remains the symptom or the active substance of the new symbolic order's redefinition. Didn't the West inevitably change in the course of the rupture of the old East/West order, becoming the postsocialist First that will understand its novelty later - through the falsity of its own position?

Dis-closing encounters: European public space, cultural diversity, and the Slovenian EU presidency

Author: Ksenija Vidmar-Horvat  email
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Long Abstract

This presentation will focus on the Slovenian EU presidency in the first half of 2008. The analysis will concentrate on three areas in which the presidency has left its most immediate imprint: domestic political arena, public sphere and the national news media. In addition, the paper will also summarize the results of the field research on the implementation of the European year of intercultural dialogue in Slovenia. The main objective of the analysis is to critically reflect on the EU presidency and its potential to act, in the limited time frame, as a motor of enhancing European citizenship and the formation of the European public sphere within the local national environment of a member state. Although the research is bound by very specific circumstances of the EU presidency by one member state, the analysis aims to provide critical insights into broader processes of Europeanization. The main argument therefore will be that although governed by political elites, the close encounters with "Europe" generated during the presidency nonetheless open up the space to examine potentials to create critical, post-national and cosmopolitan European public sphere that challenge the governing paradigms of identity and belonging.

Local community on the 'peripheries of Europe': between sociology and anthropology

Author: Agnieszka Chwieduk (Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology)  email
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Long Abstract

The workings of local (small) communities in the “unifing Europe” can be viewed from the angle of the 'centre' and 'peripheries'. The latter should be understood in the context of the post-communist Europe showing, as discussed in professional literature, a multi-layer backwardness compared to Western Europe. On the other hand, the peripheries are affected by a specific type of 'distance' between their communities and various centres of decision, also including those expected to be carriers of social and cultural norms and union standards. Such a 'Europe of cultural peripheries' brings on questions about the nature of reception, in those communities, of a changing reality within the European Union.

In order to answer this question, extensive field research is required, the starting point of which should be a new definition of the notion of 'local community'. Polish scientific literature in the field of social sciences offers various interpretations of the notion of local community. The reading reveals dissimilar conceptualizations of the notion in the area of sociology and ethnology/anthropology. The purpose of the paper would thus be a comparative analysis of the notions. What deserves particular notice here is the role of ethnology/anthropology (methodology and methods) in diagnosing the life of this type of community.

Heroic past versus un-heroic present: the politics of memory and its discontent

Author: Sanja Potkonjak (University of Zagreb)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper aims at exploring how past became a central issue in the construction of the present of the post-socialist Croatia. By analyzing the case of the main square in the town of Sisak, Croatia, which has been undergoing substantial changes due to the changed political climate in 1990's, the paper surveys public narratives, administrative practices and decisions, as well as art projects as mediators of identity-building through the memorization strategies. It follows a research conducted in the town of Sisak during the last two years and the narratives of the past/future employed after the collapse of socialism which were developed in the reconstruction of the urban landscapes of the town. The paper seeks to answer a research question: who are the "curators» of social and cultural memory? Which discourses of the past are in denial and which are emergent? Is the past the only thing that articulates the present, owns the present and provides an authoritative and prevailing voice in construction of the present?

By showing how undergoing art projects oppose collective and administrative endeavors of memorization of place, the paper hopes to enlighten the ways in which "self-affirming" and oppositional tradition is constructed in a new political context via the discourse of diversity.

"Europeanization" in Istria: differences between official and private discourse

Author: Olga Orlic (Institute for Anthropological Research)  email
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Long Abstract

Since 1970s the idea of the "European identity" has become one of the most important concerns for the politicians and bureaucrats of the European Community. But the European Union (EU) policy makers are not the only ones involved in the processes of the European identity construction. Since the membership in EU the is achieved by a process of inclusion/integration, there are still enough "excluded" countries like Croatia, who are almost desperately trying to enter EU. Throughout the various discourses that emerged on the Croatian political scene and in the Croatian media (TV, radio, newspapers, internet sites) in the last two decades, the aspiration to enter to EU has been presented as the Croatian national goal. One of the strategies Croatia is employing in this process is public discourse about "belonging to Europe" and "being Europe". In Istria County, the Croatian region bordering Slovenia and Italy, the official discourses of Europeism are parallel with the strong regionalism. In this Istrian "Europeanization process" the discourses of multiculturalism (similar to the European motto: "Unity in diversity") and of co-existence have important roles. But, this co-existence is perceived mainly in relation to the Croats and Italians. There are numerous "other", rather "new" minorities (Bosinans, Albanians etc.) who are, although nominally included, often excluded from these discourses. In this paper, based on the field research carried out in Istria in May 2007 (as a part of LINEE project), I try to show the variety of attitudes toward contemporary processes of Europeanization in Istria.

"In Spain I am like every one else - simply a Bulgarian immigrant": the flexibilization of identification and the double-naming strategy of Bulgarian Muslims in Spain

Author: Neda Deneva (Humboldt University)  email
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Long Abstract

The focus of my research is the complex relationship which Bulgarian Muslims engaged in transnational migration have developed with the two states in which they are simultaneously embedded - Bulgaria and Spain. More particularly, I focus on the interactions and crossing points between official state-proposed, imposed, institutionalized categorizations and the everyday enactments, appropriations, re-interpretations and evasions of such categorizations by Bulgarian Muslim migrants. In Bulgaria, they are positioned on the margins of the state socially, economically, and politically, being simultaneously excluded and included in the nation-state project, living in an economically underdeveloped region, and not having political representation. In Spain, they have to negotiate their position of labour migrants, Muslims and EU citizens simultaniously.

Based on my field research, I argue that migration is conceived by the Bulgarian Muslims migrants as an empowering mechanism which allows them to circumvent the Bulgarian state categorizations and other ethnic and social groups marginalizing definitions. In Spain they are able to reinvent themselves and choose other labels to which to subscribe. While keeping their Muslims names and Muslim identification for the internal village community which is reproduced in Spain, they present themselves to the outside world, both institutional and social, with their alternative Bulgarian names and their Bulgarian citizenship. Consequently, while sustaining and reproducing the village community migrants more and more differentiate themselves from the group of other Bulgarian Muslims through this duality. By downplaying their Muslimness they offer their Bulgarian nationality and European citizenship as a distinctive marker of their group identity.

Extracting one's past from a grey future: nostalgia in post-1989 Romania

Author: Marina Elena Tataram (University of Bucharest)  email
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Long Abstract

The probing of their recollections from this era has been known to make people talk, producing a remarkable collection of stories. Based on an archive of student interviews, our focus will lie with the ordinary people who claim that "all was better then".

Two possible patterns emerge: either the existence of a syndrome or that of a contagion. This study proposes to test these hypotheses against the discourses mentioned.

While nowadays political discourse re-appropriates relevant themes from the past, there is an increasing (and understandable) avoidance of representing the nostalgic layers of society, moderated by the need to account for these latter's discontent.

Perhaps the representation of the discontent understood in these terms is neither a legitimate political grievance, nor is it a problem for democracy and representation or a moral issue. Nevertheless, the puzzle is not the existence of several layers of discontentment, but the fact that such regrets associated with dictatorships occur in post-totalitarian or post-authoritarian countries (Chile, the former GDR, Romania, Serbia, etc.).

We shall identify several categories of discontent according to the usual sociological variables.

We shall distinguish between people who loved the past (and may want to get back to the past, but no party asks for it, so they are underrepresented), people who are unhappy with the present (hence the volatility of the social bases of the parties), and people who see no future (liberalization affects them negatively, hence they form the constituency of extremist parties). What is more, these categories may overlap.

Moral and religious re-education of Russia

Author: Agata Ładykowska (Polish Academy of Sciences)  email
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Long Abstract

The central role of education in the grand Soviet project of creating a new society and a new man has been described well in the field of history, especially for the Stalinist period. Equally known is the role of teachers and schools in the process of forming the so called Soviet morality, implemented partly through means of a special pedagogical approach - vospitanie ("moral education"). However, there is little ethnographic data on contemporary schooling, the professional practice and private life of the teachers, especially those whose professional biography is rooted in the Soviet context. The so-called post-Soviet period has been marked (among other things) by a great change in the field of religion, where there has been massive conversion of Russians into Orthodoxy. The change resulted in the actual introduction of religion-oriented subjects into some public schools (still, much debated in the society). My paper, based on 12-months of fieldwork, will offer an anthropological perspective on lives of contemporary active teachers, educated and having their professional experience in the Soviet system, currently engaged with instruction of religion. By investigating millenarian-like concepts I will analyse the ways that teachers engage in transforming themselves into "modern" Orthodox believers. I will also look at the transformation of the content of the new vospitanie, with the help of questions about continuity, change, replacement, resistance, and accommodation.

Lady in Pink. Different aspects of one color in the direct selling organization in Poland

Author: Pawel Krzyworzeka (Kozminski University)  email
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Long Abstract

Direct Selling Organization where I conducted my Ph.D. fieldwork was founded in US "by woman for women". Pink color can be seen as key element through which we can understand the most important cultural aspects of that very organization. Pink is everywhere: main prize is pink car, smaller prizes are in pink, pink is the dominant color in office décor, one of the organizational slogans is "feel the power of pink", etc. Pink in that organizational setting can be analyzed as: 1) Synonym of femininity. This women's organization can be characterized as prefeminist, "celebrating womanly abilities and values but not challenging dominant social structures" (N.W. Biggart). The dominating image of femininity is quite stereotypical here and pink is core symbol of womanly abilities and values. 2) Synonym of joy and happiness. Colors are used for implementing feeling rules. 3) Pink as an identity color. Although formal ties in direct selling are weak - because sellers are independent entrepreneurs - the feeling of membership is very strong. Pink is one of the main symbols upon which they build their group identity.