Antropologicheskij forum. 2015. No. 26. Summaries and keywords

Forum: “Over Here” and “Over There”: the Structure of Academic Life in One’s Home Country and Beyond

Replies by Natalya Bichurina, Mikhail Voronkov, Valentin Vydrin, Aleksandr Dolinin, Faye Gotlieb, Mariya Gumerova, Aleksandra Kasatkina, Natalia Kovalyova, Tatyana Krikhtova, Mikhail Krom, Nikolay Mitrokhin, Konstantin Pozdnyakov, Adil Rodionov

There are two main models of academic life: in some countries (for instance, in France, Germany, and Russia) the most prestigious places to work have traditionally been research institutes (in Russia the most prestigious are under the umbrella of the Academy of Sciences), while in others, universities (e.g. Britain, America) are the nerve centres of science and scholarship. Teaching may be regarded as an aid to academic creativity, or merely a drain on time. When these two models are compared, the criteria by which they assess academic work may differ considerably, but they may vary across national boundaries where the same basic model is in use as well.

The “Forum” (written round-table) addresses the issues of different national traditions in academia. The Editorial Board invited scholars to respond to a questionnaire on the positive and negative sides of the two different models. Participants of the “Forum” were asked how the systems they have worked in might be reformed. They also discussed whether emigration should be seen as detrimental to academic cultures (“the brain drain”), and if it is, could the losses be offset by gains of any kind.

Keywords: national traditions in academia, models of academic life, academic migration.



“Ghosts of the Past”: Historic Memory as a Factor in the Mutual Perception of African Americans and Contemporary African Migrants in the USA

By Dmitri M. Bondarenko

African Americans, descendants of slaves forcibly brought from Africa to America hundreds years ago, and contemporary voluntary African migrants to the USA do not form a single “Black community.” Remarkably, this fact contradicts the postulates of many breeds of “Black nationalism” from the mid-19th century onward, which argue that all Black people are “brothers and sisters,” because they share a common spirituality and have a common cause that demands their joint action all over the world. Among the reasons for this, differences in the reflection of the past in their historic memory play an important role. Based on evidence collected in six states in 2013 and 2014, this article discusses reflection in historic memory and place in the mass consciousness of African Americans and contemporary African migrants of the key periods and events in Black American and African history: pre-slave trade and pre-colonial time; transatlantic save trade, slavery and its abolition in the US; colonialism and anticolonial struggle in Africa; civil rights movement in the USA; and the demise of apartheid in South Africa. It is shown that contemporary African migrants and African Americans see the key events of the past differently. Even more so, each group sees different events as key. Many members of both groups do not feel that they share a common “Black history.” To some extent, visions of the past promote Africans and African Americans’ rapprochement as victims of long-lasting White domination. However, in the final analysis, collective historic memory of both groups works more in the direction of separating them from each other by generating and supporting contradictory or even negative images of mutual perception. In general, the relations between African Americans and recent African migrants are characterised by simultaneous mutual attraction and repulsion of two magnets. They understand that among all ethnoracial communities in the country, they (and also African Caribbeans) are the closest to each other, but myriads of differences cause mutual repulsion. The differences in the historic memory of African Americans and recent African migrants in the USA play a significant role in the fact that the “magnetic poles” of the Black communities both attract and repel them.

Keywords: African Americans, African migrants, historical memory, mass consciousness, intercultural interaction.


Children in Migrant Families: Parenting Strategies in Transnational Contexts

By Olga Brednikova and Guzel Sabirova

The central focus of this article are parental strategies of migrants from Central Asia in St. Petersburg. We understand parenting strategies as a set of ideas and practises on the implementation of parenthood, which include parental involvement and care in the context of migration; the decision-making process on the migration of children and the sending back them to their home country; parents’ actions in relation to their child’s integration in a particular environment; the emotional support of parenthood and others. The parenting strategies presented in this paper are unfolding in transnational contexts. The article is mainly based on the investigation of individual cases of families with a history of migration (interviews with parents, children and family observations in different contexts) in 2013 and 2014. Parent-child relationships, migration strategy concerning children, remote participation in the practises of childcare, the concept of education in "doubling" frames of reference, and social realities in terms of transnationalism remain quite relevant and actively developing themes. Russian migration policy is not ready to accept the fact of family migration or change conditions. Therefore, migrant children are not included in social support programs, and their well-being is determined by their parental strategies. The findings show that while caring for the well-being of the children, migrant parents try to choose or to recreate a more or less definite and clear context of life for them, avoiding the duality of transnationalism. Parents choose how and where the child will feel better in migration or at home. Transnational contexts problematise parenthood: they not only provide new opportunities, but also become a serious challenge, particularly when it comes to the problems of children integrating and the need to define and create a comfortable and perspective cultural frame of reference.

Keywords: transnationalism, children of migrants, strategies of migrant parents.


Areal Spread of Folklore Motifs as Information Exchange, or About the Borderline Between West and East

By Yuri Berezkin

The author describes the results of statistical processing of data on the distribution of 548 motifs corresponding to episodes of adventure and tricks according to 309 traditions of the Old World. Factor analysis has been applied. The totality of traditions can be understood as a cloud of dots with uneven density. Traditions which contain similar sets of motifs are located close to each other and those that share a minimum number of common motifs are the most distant from each other. The program finds such assemblies of dots in pairs and confers every dot a conditional number which is positive for one group and negative for the opposite one. Every pair of assemblies of dots corresponds to a principal component of which the first two provide information on the most important tendencies. The intensity of the exchange of the motifs between traditions can be taken as a proxy for exchange of information between people in the pre-industrial epoch. The results of the analysis demonstrate that besides the Americas, Australia and Oceania, the islands of Southeast Asia and Northern and Northeastern Siberia were the most isolated regions from Nuclear Eurasia (the latter encompasses the Mediterraneum, Europe, Southwest, Central, South and East Asia). The Nuclear Eurasian contacts of sub-Saharan Africa were significantly more intensive. The Chinese tradition contains much less typically Nuclear Eurasian motifs than the Korean and the Japanese ones. Inside Nuclear Eurasia itself, the Eastern and the Western interaction spheres can be selected, the borderline between them going across Eastern Europe and then separating the Turkic and Iranian traditions from the Arabian ones. Traditions of the Baltic peoples, Byelorussians and Ukrainians are in the western cluster, those of the peoples of the Caucasus, the Bashkir and the Volga Tatars in the eastern one. The Russians, the Setu (southeastern Estonians) and the Mordvinians have a slight preponderance of the western motifs while the Gagauz and the Crimea Tatars have a slight preponderance of the eastern motifs. An increase of the share of the eastern motifs in the southern Balkans and Central Mediterraneum can be a consequence of the Osman onslaught. Though the described tendencies accumulate only 18 % of all the information that the factor analysis is able to extract from the data, just this information reflects the most significant regularities in the areal distribution of the motifs in continental scale.

Keywords: folklore databases, folklore indexes, folktales, cultural borders, Nuclear Eurasia, Eastern Europe.


Tynevil’s Writing: Micro-historical Analysis of an Invention

By Elena Davydova

This paper investigates the case of the a Chukchi man, Tynevil, and his invention of a writing system in 1920s. The phenomenon is analyzed not from a linguistic, but rather from an anthropological point of view. The goal of the article is to approach an understanding of how the writing was used, what the causes and consequences of this use were, and what the sociocultural context of its invention and application was. I interpret the data about Tynevil and his signs by using micro-historical approach. An analysis of Tynevil’s biography and historical context during the second quarter of the XX century leads to the conclusion that the invention was a kind of compromise for the creator, a form of the dialogue with the Soviet state, and an attempt to adapt to the social changes that were taking place in the Chukotka region at that time. In the context of the Chukchi’s wary and sometimes hostile attitude toward Russians’ capacity to write and moreover forcible liquidation of illiteracy among local people, Tynevil created written signs himself. Imitating the writing systems of “other cultures”, he ultimately created an alternative one — the Chukchi’s “own” writing.

Keywords: Chukotka, Siberian Studies, Tynevil, writing systems, history of writing, political resistance.



Review of Alexei Yurchak. Eto bylo navsegda, poka ne konchilos. Poslednee sovetskoe pokolenie [Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation]. Moscow: NLO, 2014, 664 pp.

By Jeanne Kormina

This review considers the Russian translation of Alexei Yurchak’s monograph Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More (Moscow, 2014). The main idea of Yurchak’s research is to explain why Soviet civilization, which seemed so unshakable, fell apart so quickly. In his search, Yurchak turns to the realities of the late Soviet period. He frames his mission as the rehabilitation, or “rehumanization” of the Soviet person. He argues that during the period of late Socialism, the Soviet person was neither a wordless victim of the Soviet regime, nor a hypocrite. On the contrary, the Soviet system provided the Soviet person with opportunities to live a happy and meaningful life. Yurchak suggests the idea of performative shift, as a way to analyse late Soviet realities. He argues that while Soviet people participated in performances of ritualized actions and statements, they did not internlize the ideological messages embedded in these performances. As a result, new meanings and forms of being Soviet were born, which the state could not anticipate or fully understand. Yet, it seems that the peculiarities of how the Soviet symbolic system worked could be better explained in the framework of the arbitrariness of signs. According to this theory, the same signifier can receive new designatum or have multiple designata as a result of changing conventions concerning its interpretation. The group under investigation is one more specific feature of this anthropological volume. Although his work has been represented as a story of the last Soviet generation, Yurchak writes about a quite specific group of Soviet youth. The main protagonist of this work would be a person living in Leningrad with a higher education in engineering, who considers the Komsomol to be a vehicle for his social mobility. Although there are other voices represented in this work, this is the main character. Unfortunately, the Russian translation of the book, which was published in English almost ten years ago, does not include new research published on the topic. Yet the publication of this volume in Russian will provide it with a wider audience.

Keywords: Soviet society, fall of the Soviet system, speech act theory, performative shift.


Review of Michael Rasell and Elena Iarskaia-Smirnova (eds.). Disability in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union: History, Policy and Everyday Life. Oxon: Routledge, 2014, 274 pp.

By Anna Klepikova

The paper reviews a recently published collection of articles in the field of disability studies “Disability in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union: History, Policy and Everyday Life” under the editorship of M. Rasell and E. lIaskaia-Smirnova. The book is in fact one of few extensive publications in social research on disability dedicated to the post-Soviet region, where people with disabilities still remain a marginal and neglected group.The authors and editors of the book stress that they view disability as a social and cultural construct. Throughout the book, the analysis of social policy towards people with disabilities is seen as a lens for understanding the broader socio-political, socio-economic, and cultural processes in the former socialist region. The articles are organised into three blocks: the first, possibly the strongest one, deals with historical aspects of disability, the second is dedicated to the modern everyday life of people with disabilities, and the third includes papers on global issues of social policy in comparative perspective. The topics touched upon in the articles, include the following: state socio-economic provision for people of disabilities, the role of non-governmental organisations that provide support for people with disabilities, the perspectives of educational inclusion for children with disabilities, iconography of disability in Soviet visual art, sexuality of people with physical disabilities, and others. With one exception, all the articles deal mostly with physical, rather than mental, disabilities. Some of them are practise-oriented, rather than purely academic. All in all, disability related issues are understood very broadly in the book and the academic level and quality of the papers comprising it varies a lot, but still, the efforts of the editors to unify the works are evident. This review provides a detailed critical rendering of each article in the book.

Keywords: disability, disability studies, history of disability, Soviet studies, post-Socialism, social policy, non-governmental organisations.


Review of Aksel Tjora and Graham Scambler (eds.). Café Society. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, 224 pp.

By Alexandra Kviat

The reviewed book is one of the first edited volumes on the social and cultural role of the café. Drawing on such empirical trends as a rapidly increasing number of commercially viable cafés and their growing significance in contemporary urban landscapes, the editors coin the notion of a “café society.” This concept, along with the Oldenburg’s term “third place”, is used as a core theoretical framework to unite fourteen researchers from different disciplines (sociology, urban studies, history, anthropology, geography, and communication studies) and countries (Norway, the UK, the USA, and Australia). The essays composing this book explore café as a cultural form and a social institution, touching upon such “Big Questions” as public sphere, civil society, and democracy; social interaction, sociability, and community; class, gender, and age; glocalisation, gentrification, and mediatisation.

Keywords: café culture, café studies, third place, public sphere, social interaction, sociability, community, urban public space.


Review of Aline Gubrium and Krista Harper. Participatory Visual and Digital Methods. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2013. (Developing Qualitative Inquiry Series, Vol. 10), 227 pp.

By Ilya Utekhin

Involving members of studied communities in the research process was one of the trends that emerged within visual anthropology during the last decades of the 20th century. Participatory visual methods delineated in this work attempt to bring this line of thought to its extreme: in order to give voice to underrepresented groups, the researcher (at least partly) passes control over the content of her final project to natives.

Keywords: visual methods, participatory research.


Review of Sila vzglyada: glaza v mifologii i ikonografii [Power of the Gaze: Eyes in Mythology and Iconography] / Ed. D. I. Antonov. M.: RGGU, 2014 (Traditsiya — tekst — folklor: tipologiya i semiotika), 361 pp.

By Alexander Makhov

This collection deals with the theme of the gaze as presented in Russian and European medieval iconography and in the different mythological traditions. The reviewer outlines the main idea of the anthology, which is shared by almost all of its authors: the gaze is a source of aggression; the eyes possess some dangerous force that we need to defend ourselves from. This idea is embodied in a set of recurrent motifs (the evil eye, the blindness, the damage of eyes, the eye anomalies, the asymmetry of eyes, the eye illnesses etc.). The eye (as a vehicle of the gaze) is characterized by strange ambivalence: it is simultaneously a powerful weapon of aggression and, due to its physical vulnerability, a perfect object of reciprocal aggression.

Keywords: gaze, eyes, aggression, demonology, eye anomalitites, damage of eyes, blindness.


Review of Daniel Morat (ed.). Sounds of Modern History: Auditory Cultures in 19th- and 20th-century Europe. New York: Berghahn Books, 2014, 352 pp.

By Andrey Vozyanov

The collective monograph Sounds of Modern History (ed. by Daniel Morat) is one of the first compilations of texts investigating auditory cultures in historical perspective. Focusing on the period of modernity, it embraces topics such as the development of technologies for recording and remote transmission of sound, changing sound environments of urban life, and the social performance of civil and martial soundscapes of World Wars. Practically all of the chapters approach the evolution of cultural habits of listening and hearing, and sonic perception and signification, in order to place the sound in the formation of modern sensitivity. The review aims to provide a brief outline of the main findings and statements of the book chapters.

Keywords: sound studies, history of senses, soundscapes, anthropology of perception, listening cultures, modernity.


Review of Jeffrey Veidlinger. In the Shadow of the Shtetl. Bloomington & Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 2013, 385 pp.

By Valery Dymshits

Jeffery Veidlinger’s work is a study on the oral history of the Jewish people in the small towns of South-Western Ukraine, based on more than 400 interviews that he recorded during his field studies in the early 2000s. The author focuses on memories of life before World War II and  the Rumanian occupation. An important aspect of this work is that it is written on the basis of interviews, recorded exclusively in Yiddish, which had both advantages ad disadvantages. All of the collected materials are placed in a broad historical context. This work is an indispensable guide for those who are interested in the everyday life of Jews in the former shtetls, the last traces of which are disappearing before our very eyes.

Keywords: Shtetls, Ukraine, oral history, 20th century, Jews, Jewish history, social life and customs.


Review of Geneviève Zubrzycki. Krzyże w Auschwitz. Tożsamość narodowa, nacjonalizm i religia w postkomunistycznej Polsce. Kraków: Nomos, 2014. 295 pp.; Geneviève Zubrzycki. The Crosses of Auschwitz: Nationalism and Religion in Post-Communist Poland. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006, 277 pp.

By Aneta Strzemżalska

The book is an important contribution to the scholastic discussion on the relationship between Polish national identity and Catholicism after the fall of communism in 1989. G. Zubrzycki’s point of departure is the events of the former concentration camp Auschwitz, located in southern Poland, near the town Oswiecim. The key case of the monograph is the so-called “War of the Crosses” in 1998–1999, when ultranationalist Polish Catholics erected hundreds of crosses on the outskirts of the former death camp. Describing these incidents, the author examines why and how the religion and its symbols became part of the nationalist discourse. The Crosses of Auschwitz received special recognition outside of Poland, including the American Sociological Association's Distinguished Book Award in the Sociology of Religion; the Orbis Book Prize, awarded annually by the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies to “the best book in any discipline, on any aspect of Polish affairs”; as well as the Polish Studies Association’s Kulczycki Best Book Award.

Keywords: Zubrzycki, Polish Identity, Auschwitz, Oswiecim, Nationalism, the Catholic Church.


Letters to the Editors

A Predecessor’s Reactions to His Successor’s Review of The History of Anthropological Ideas

By Lev Klejn

In Yuri Berezkin’s review of my book The History of Anthropological Ideas, he diminishes the importance of theories in anthropology and places a strong emphasis on facts.  Therefore, he would prefer if I wrote a different book, not a history of ideas. Yet I believe that revolutions in science are performed first and foremost due to changing ideas, that create a new way of seeing the facts themselves.  Additionally, the reviewer does not like my accentuation of scholars’ biographies, but I propose that ideas spring up in a living milieu, whose qualities should be explored.

Keywords: history of anthropology, biographies, theories, relativism, postmodernism.