Thematic and methodological challenges in current ethnology and anthropology / Tematické a metodologické výzvy v súčasnej etnológii a antropológii

The aim of the plenary session will be to present innovative topics and the current theoretical and methodological approaches discussed by ethnologists and social and cultural anthropologists at the international level.
The papers by invited experts will follow two basic lines: 1) Current innovative approaches and concepts and their adaptation to the needs of current ethnology; 2) Critical reflection upon the “eternal truths” and methodological approaches in ethnology and in social and cultural anthropology. The papers will deal with topics such as ethnography of the city, the research of post-socialism, multi-sited ethnography, etc .

Chaired by

Gabriela Killiánová

Panel speakers

Haldis Haukanes: Competing temporalities. Exploring social change through the past-present-future nexus (Department of Health Promotion and Development, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway)

The increasing sense of anxiety about the future, social reproduction and human life itself, found in many communities and among scholars across the world, has led many to the conclusion that the temporal order itself is changing. From high modernity’s future optimism and linear conception of time, via notions of “risk society” and “biographical uncertainty”, scholars currently discuss what is seen as a breakdown of the past-present-future continuum in societies worldwide. Time is increasingly conceptualized as punctuated and fragmented; a fragmentation that is commonly understood as directly linked to the spread of neoliberalism and its “flexible” forms of consumption and labour.  Based on my previous work on change and continuity in post-socialist rural communities in the Czech Republic, and my current multi-sited research on young people’s imaginations of the future, I explore dominant temporal structures through which people frame their experiences and narrate their lives. I argue for the necessity of a diversified understanding of temporality when analysing narrations of both lived lives and future visions , as “La longue durée” of social practices and forms of communality  often appears to co-exist with and sometimes even overrule conceptions  of time as accelerated, incoherent and unpredictable. I also claim the continued importance of the biographical life narrative as a methodological tool for 21st century’s ethnology and anthropology, and its relevance for exploring notions of time, personhood and social change.

Tatiana Podolinská: “Ethnicity without groups” – identity and ethnicity discourse in Roma studies (Institute of Ethnology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovakia)

The paper deals with the discoursive analysis based on the current theoretical discussion in ethnology (the social field concept, habitus, imagined community, identification) and social theory (concept of solid, liquid and ultra-modernity).The author points out the forced ethnicisation of the categories of romipen, Rom and Roma nation not only at the level of the practical discourse, but also at the level of the scientific discourse. From this point of view, the traditional type of ethnicity (based on traditional definitions of the nation) is often intentionally over-communicated. Likewise, we can encounter intentional under-communication of this topic. Both  ethnicisation (excessive accentuation of the ethnic  perspective) and de-ethnicisation (its intentional suppression) usually serve as practical (political) tools for an objective fixing of the unfavourable or unequal position of this ethnic minority not only within particular ethno-national European countries, but also at the supra-national-European level.
The comparative analysis of the practical ways of construction of the various forms of romipen on emic level has shown that it is constructed as a category of practice, which is intentionally ethnically emptied to a large extent and creatively filled with specific content according to the life goals and paths of concrete users either at the individual level or at the community level in line with the creed of good, moral, useful and decent life.
The author pointed out that even though the process of ethnogenesis of the Roma nation runs under the late modernity conditions, the requirements posed to it remained fixed in pre-modernity and fixed modernity. In global societies, however, these traditional ethnic constitution elements are becoming less clearly defined, replaceable and flexible. The majority requirements for a unique character of Roma culture, language, etc.as the constitutive elements of Roma identity in the 21st century can therefore be clearly designated as irrelevant calques of the fixed modernity from the beginning of the 20th century. At the end she picks up the case from practice and turns attention to the analysis of the romipen construction in the Pentecostal pastoral discourse among the Roma in Slovakia. She shows how it works with a positive concept of Romahood in an ahistoric and unconventional manner, i.e. using the de-traditionalisation. This approach  absolutely complies with late modernity and enables the new Roma to leave their old, historically unfavourable and stigmatised positions and to adopt new, socially and personally more favourable positions in the new late-modern world.


Valentina Gulin Zrnić, Jasna Čapo: Approaches to urban culture studies (Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, Zagreb, Croatia)

Ethnology and cultural anthropology have been involved in urban research for decades: anthropology in the city has evolved to anthropology of the city and new emergent topics and paradigms have been continually incorporated into the field of urban anthropology. One of them refers to “spatial turn” which has affirmed space and place as important factors of urban life and they have become - together with culture and identity - the third pillar of ethnological and cultural anthropological research into the city. Building on our research on city-making in Zagreb we will discuss theoretical and methodological challenges of space/place in urban anthropology. Namely we will discuss 1) the politics of space as an analytical agenda (production and construction of space, contested spaces), 2) the relationship between performance studies and urban anthropology (embodiment and sensorial turn, art in public spaces), and 3) potential of various forms of urban mapping (walking ethnography, narrative urbanism, interactive urban maps).


Zdeněk Uherek: Moving not only bodies: migration themes contested (Institute of Ethnology, Czech Academy of Sciences, v.v.i., Praha, Czech Republic)

The theme of migrations is soon beginning to be on the decline in anthropology despite the fact that the problem is not disappearing. It is happening simply because anthropologists  have the feeling that they have already sufficiently expressed themselves on the issue. The theme itself of the movement of not only bodies, however, penetrates permanently into all areas of social knowledge and is therefore permanently present in ethnographic research, whether we are aware of it or not. In migration movement itself, we observe primarily the movement of the physical casing of the person. Yet, this movement follows a whole range of the material and immaterial parts of a person. Some of these attributes migrate with the person, some before the physical body and others follow it. Some are faster than the body itself, some are slower and some cannot be transferred. In my paper, I would like to focus on migration movement in a wider than migratory perspective and consider migration also generally as a component of social movement.

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