Old Discipline, New Trajectories: Theories, Methods and Practices in Anthropology

June 16-18, 2022 | Vilnius, Lithuania


Chris Hann (Max Planck Institute For Social Anthropology) 

In 1999 Chris Hann came to Berlin where he became the founding Director of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, a position he held until his retirement in August 2021. Professor Hann comes up as one of the top ten most influential living anthropologists. He was born and raised in Wales and is a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales. His work has sought to integrate his interest in comparative economics largely inspired by the work of Polanyi with an interest in religion. His early fieldwork sites were Hungary and Poland, and Turkey. In 2016 he began fieldwork in Xinjiang, China studying social support and kinship. He has received numerous academic awards for his work as an anthropologist. Among those awards are the Curl Essay Prize in 2015, the Rivers Memorial Medal in 2016 and the Huxley Memorial Prize in 2019. He taught at Cambridge and the University of Kent before he took on the position of founding director of Social Anthropology at the Max Planck Institute. In describing his work Professor Hann writes that it is “…designed to break down disciplinary boundaries and contribute to a better understanding of Eurasia in world history. The concept of Eurasia is the principal frame for all research in my Department.”

Anthropology, Science and Politics: Renewing the Vocation 
(June 16, 2022, 10:00-11:30, Aula Parva) 

In Germany, the discipline known traditionally as Völkerkunde or Ethnologie is currently (as a result of anglophone dominance) being rebranded as Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie. Similar developments can be observed elsewhere in Europe. Whatever the exact name, this discipline is usually classified with the humanities. Sometimes it may be assigned to the social sciences. Real science is assumed to lie elsewhere. For a long time, however, anthropology was a holistic field of enquiry, transcending contemporary demarcation lines that separate natural science from social science and humanities. In the German language, all three can lay claim to the mantle of science (Wissenschaft). In questioning evolved institutional boundaries, contemporary anthropologists of all specializations can rediscover their original vocation. All must be aware of the political dimensions of their work. The second part of the lecture will illustrate this point with reference to the current situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (N-W China).

Smadar Lavie conferencSmadar Lavie (University of California, Davis) 

Smadar Lavie is professor of anthropology at UC Davis. She authored The Poetics of Military Occupation (1990), receiving the honorable mention of the Victor Turner Award, and co-edited Displacement, Diaspora and Geographies of Identity (1996). Her ethnography, Wrapped in the Flag of Israel: Mizrahi Single Mothers and Bureaucratic Torture (2014/2018), received the honorable mention of the Association of Middle East Women's Studies. The book was finalist in the Clifford Geertz Competition of the Society for the Anthropology of Religion. Lavie won the American Studies Association's 2009 Gloria Anzaldúa Prize and the “Heart at East” Honor Plaque for lifetime service to Mizrahi communities in Israel-Palestine. 

Who Can Publish Decolonized Ethnography and Cultural Theory with the Anger it Deserves? 
Unclassified Lloronas and the Academic Text 
(June 17, 2022, 9:00-10:30, J. Kovalevskis auditorium)

Gloria Anzaldua’s autohistoria-teoria presents subaltern theorization and autoethnography as testimony. Nevertheless, subaltern women anthropologists from the Global South are not part of the North American “woman of color” classification of Latinas, African-Americans, and Asians. They are therefore expected to use the U.S.-U.K. formula of dispassionate (post)colonial scholarship. The underlying assumption for the unclassified woman ethnographer from the Global South is that she comes from her country’s cosmopolitan elite. She is therefore required to deploy the detached Northern social science language. This presentation calls academic publishers to remove the elite label from the unclassified Women-of-Color authorship, and publish them in the decolonized, emotive Anzaldua auto-ethnography of bearing witness.

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Bumochir Dulam (National University of Mongolia)

Dr Bumochir Dulam is a professor of anthropology and chair at the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, National University of Mongolia. In 1998, he completed an MA at the National University of Mongolia in Mongolian philology and in 2000 a PhD at the Mongolian Academy of Sciences. His earlier works focused on shamanism, ritual and religion. In 2000, he completed a MPhil and in 2006 a PhD in social anthropology at the University of Cambridge. For his later PhD he conducted fieldwork among Mongolian minorities in Qinghai, China, and elaborated respect in the local politics. From 2015 to 2019, he completed a post-doctoral research at UCL on resource, mining, environment, mobilisation, nationalism, neoliberalism and the state. He has conducted fieldwork in Mongolia, China and Kyrgyzstan and published numerous articles, monographs and anthropology text books.

Environmental Nationalist Shaping of Neoliberal Policies and the State in Mongolia 
(June 17, 2022, 16:30-18:00, J. Kovalevskis auditorium)

In the 1990s, the rulers of Mongolia adopted neoliberal policies, appealed to foreign investors in order to develop the mining sector to bolster the national economy. As a result of the expansion of the mining industry and its destruction of the environment, pastoralists in rural areas began to experience environmental degradations and shortages of water. Therefore, in 2000, people in rural areas started to protest against gold mining companies. By 2005, activists managed to unite eleven river movements across the country and in 2006 closed down operations of 37 gold mining companies. In 2009, they lobbied the “Law to prohibit mineral exploration and mining operations at headwaters of rivers, protected zones of the water reservoir and forest areas” which suspended 1391 exploration licenses, 391 mining licenses and closed down operations of 242 gold mining companies. In 2010, they took the government to court and the Supreme Court found the government guilty and ordered it to enforce the law and to compensate mining companies affected by the law. In this paper I show how environmental nationalist activists’ fight against gold mining companies and the state shapes neoliberal policies by rethinking the environment and the political configurations of the state.

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Vytis Ciubrinskas (Vilnius University, Vytautas Magnus University)

Vytis Ciubrinskas (Ph.D.) is a Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania and visiting Professor at Vilnius University, and Associate Professor at the Department of Anthropology, Southern Illinois University, USA. He has lectured in Switzerland, India, and China. In 2012-2014 he was leading a comparative research project on the impact of globalization and transnationalism on fragmentation of young persons’ patterns of belonging in ethnic minority, borderland and diasporic cases in the UK, USA, Poland, and Lithuania; in 2014-2019 was engaged in international project, led by the University of East Finland, on transnational families in the Baltic-Nordic migration space and on return migrations to post-socialist Europe. Since 2020 he is leading an international project on return migration and social remittances in Croatia, Lithuania, and Poland and as a partner, is involved in the interdisciplinary research project on identity and social memory of the forced migrants to trans-Volga Russia and Kazakhstan. Editorial board member of the Anthropological Journal of European Cultures and the Urbanities: Journal of Urban Ethnography. He wrote a book on anthropological theory, co-authored a book on globalization and transnationalism from ethnic minority, borderland, and diasporic perspectives, edited a volume on comparative identity politics, citizenship, and transnationalism of the East European immigrants in the USA, UK, Ireland, Spain, Norway and guest-edited (in 2018) a special issue of Ethnologie Francaise and widely publishing his research in peer-reviewed journals and books.

Social anthropology in Lithuania: challenges, resilience, and particularity of the discipline 
(June 18, 2022, 12:30-13:30, J. Kovalevskis auditorium)

The discipline of sociocultural anthropology has particular connotations in Central/Eastern Europe. German scholarly contributions played a major role in setting of the academic agendas for its development in this European region. Herder’s ‘recognition of the unique spirit of each people, conceived of as a separate organism, developing according to its own specific trajectory’ made a synonym of the terms nation and folk (Hann 2007) and laid the ground for ‘studying peoples’, first of all in Germany, defined differently, as just peoples (Völkerkunde) and as those peoples who do belong to nation as folk (Volkskunde). Such a division had a lasting effect on scholarship in Central and Eastern Europe during the era of nationalist mobilization, which followed the collapse of the region's empires in the nineteenth and the Soviet bloc at the end of twentieth century.
As it is also widely acknowledged (Gellner 1996, Verdery 2007) the distinction between ‘national ethnology’ and sociocultural anthropology is influenced if not made on ideological and political grounds: one is ‘nation-building’ and the other ‘empire-building’ anthropology. In regard to such nationalist and colonial backgrounds particular directions of politics of knowledge backed up the people’s studying discipline(s) and different epistemologies were employed, (re)producing, or at least leading to ‘hierarchies of knowledge’ between Western (cosmopolitan) and Central and Eastern (national) scholarship (Buchowski 2004).
What are the contexts where particular ideologies, methodologies and epistemologies were produced and reproduced as well as contested in the field? This presentation is a participant informed reflection on professional practicing (by teaching and doing research) of this discipline(s) in the course of ongoing social and institutional changes in Lithuania during the last three decades. My aim is to link the local politics of the discipline with dominant discourses and national culture and research policies in the country of the period of the post-socialist change. I will try to unpack the influence of dominant discourses, national identity politics as well as EU-nization and globalization on the research and teaching strategies of the discipline.

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Faculty of Philosophy at Vilnius University


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