Ethnology in the 3rd Millennium: Topics, Methods, Challenges

19.-21.10. 2016
International Conference is organised on the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Institute of Ethnology SAS under the auspices of the European Commission Representation to the Slovak Republic (19–21 October 2016, SAS Congress Centre, Smolenice Castle, Slovakia).
Ethnology, just like other social sciences and humanities, faces a wide range of new challenges at the beginning of the 3rd millennium. In the 2nd half of the last century, the European ethnology coped, on one hand, with the legacy of “domestic” or even national lines in ethnographic research which implicitly preferred the study of traditional rural culture or, what is usually called (with different meanings), “folklore” and “national cultural heritage”, and, on the other hand, with its relationship to social and cultural anthropology of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century which implicitly preferred the study of exotic cultures “outside”, using mainly traditional stationary research methods. What are the challenges faced by Slovak ethnology in the 3rd millennium? What are and what can be the forms of its research programme in the post-transformation and post-industrial era of the contemporary ultra-modern European society?
What innovations can be used in the study of “old topics”? And what are our “new topics”? What new research methodologies do such new topics require? How should we respond to the increasing public pressure to address the topics applied and to bring answers to current social problems?

The thematic panels of the international conference will seek to respond to these questions. Besides experts from the Institute of Ethnology SAS and registered domestic and foreign participants, the conference will also be attended by invited foreign experts. The conference will thus aim at putting the current research of the Institute of Ethnology SAS in the international context of the today´s current theoretical discourse in modern European ethnology and social and cultural anthropology.

The international preparatory board of the conference

T. Podolinská, G. KiliánováM. Vrzgulová, K. Popelková  (Bratislava, Slovakia), Z. Uherek (Prague, Czech Republic), G. Barna (Szeged, Hungary), T. Smolińska (Opole, Poland), C. Royer (CEFRES, Prague, Czech Republic)

Plenary session

Thematic and methodological challenges in current ethnology and anthropology

Chaired by: Gabriela Kiliánová

The aim of the panel 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. 

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I. Panel

Ritual as a social practice in present-day society (private and public celebrating as a form of establishing personal or group/nation/state identity 

Chaired by: Katarína Popelková

This panel deals with the theoretical and methodological background of the study of rituals in present-day ethnology and summarises the current state of knowledge of Slovak ethnology about holidays in the 21st century.
We will seek to answer the questions on the importance of holidays for the today´s society and on their functions not only from the point of view of those celebrating holidays, but also from the perspective of those producing and preserving holidays. Main topics: 1) Holiday in the content of the public discourse (press, internet, etc.); the mechanisms of the dissemination of information about older as well as emerging holidays; the content, origin and ways of celebrating holidays; 2) The social and cultural contexts of the acceptation of ritualised behaviour, political rituals during state holidays, ritual behaviour of the participants to religious pilgrimages or transition rituals. 

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II. Panel

Communication and memory: inter-generational transfer (focus on shifting sets of values and behaviours – generation-based focus)

Chaired by: Monika Vrzgulová

The communication of the representation of the past between generations or within the same generation of a social group (family) represents an important process of reflection and transmission of experience and information. Through memory, individuals or group (family) members identify themselves with the events, phenomena, processes and personalities that the group considers important. The study of (inter-generational) communication of a group as a community with a memory enables the observation of the process of active, joint shaping of the past in communication and in the process of filling vacant places in stories by their audience. Main topics of the panel: papers covering mainly the 2nd half of the 20th century (or the period of socialism), dealing with the following issues: 1) What memory content (representation of the past) is communicated within a group (family) and/or, 2) In what ways are the representations of the past processed, preserved and spread/communicated within a group (with an emphasis on younger generations).

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III. Panel

Young Scientist Forum (PhD students´ poster presentation)

Chaired by: Lucia Ditmarová

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IV. Panel
Applied anthropology – How to cope with current social and societal challenges? (migrants, poverty, unemployment, the ageing of Europe, marginalised communities, intercultural communication)

Chaired by: Miroslava Hlinčíková

This panel will deal with the practical use of application/engagement oriented ethnological research in addressing the problems of contemporary societies. In this context, we will focus on the use of the approaches of engaged/applied anthropology/ethnology in different areas of the urban environment: human rights, health, social inequality, education, inter-cultural communication, etc. This panel will also discuss the possibilities of engagement of researchers and conscious influencing of processes (participatory research) and the ethical aspects of applied research. Main topics: minorities, public space in a city, volunteering, care for elderly people, migration and integration of migrants, inter-cultural communication and ethical dilemmas in applied research. 

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V. Panel

Functions of rumours and conspiracy theories in relationships between groups

Chaired by: Zuzana Panczová

The concept of this panel is based on the assumption that rumours (and mainly conspiracy theories) largely contribute to the creation and shaping of group identities and relationships between social groups and their members. Rumours are fast-spreading information which can become popular in society for different reasons and without any support in the form of direct proofs. Rumours can not only influence the attitudes and conduct of group members, but also create the conditions for herd behaviour. This panel will primarily deal with the role of rumours in the shaping of relationship between groups in various forms. Within a wide range of the different forms of rumours, the papers are focusing on the specific area of conspiracy theories either in the form of propaganda texts or information disseminated in an uncontrolled manner by different types of media. Four of the participants (V. Bahna, J. Giry, G. Mesežnikov, Z. Panczová) are members of the COST Action "Comparative Analysis of Conspiracy Theories" (COMPACT CA 15101), their presentations follow up the topics which are solved by the COST Action, so the panel serves also as a platform for dissemination of the activities of this Action. The papers deal with rumours which reflect, escalate or legitimise certain forms of tensions between groups or violence (ethnic, political, religious or within competing currents in the field of medicine, science or specific religion, etc.). The panel is open to different types of approaches of social sciences which study this area from the current and the historical perspective. 

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VI. Panel

Cultural heritage

Chaired by: Alexandra Bitušíková  

The main aim of the panel is to discuss key theoretical concepts, methodological approaches, thematic directions and any pressing issues concerning ethnological/anthropological research on cultural heritage in the 21st century. Scientific discourse on cultural heritage is complex, diverse and not without contradictory interpretations. It reflects the fact that heritage is not value-neutral. What is or what is not defined as heritage is usually a result of political or power relations, although various actors enter and influence the process, too. UNESCO with its Conventions has been the strongest global player with a significant impact on heritage identification and evaluation, yet it reduces scientific knowledge and expertise including anthropological one through governmental representatives. Ulf Hannerz described UNESCO strategies and practices as “cultural engineering” based on nation-state logics and global governance. Cultural heritage has become an object of political and economic agenda in every country. It has been a subject of protection and preservation, but at the same time a commodity, a tool for becoming an economic asset. The panel will focus on broad anthropological perspectives on cultural heritage in the contemporary world.
Researchers are invited to submit original papers addressing any of the following research questions and related themes in five sessions:

  • Theoretical reflections: What are the main challenges, topics and theoretical and methodological approaches to researching heritage (both tangible and intangible) from an ethnological/anthropological perspective? 
  • Representation: who are the main actors in the process of „heritagisation“ – in the process of identification and designation of cultural phenomena as cultural heritage? What is the role of co-operation, partnerships and co-creation in the process of interpretation and reinterpretation or production and reproduction of heritage? What is the place of heritage transmission from an intergenerational or gender perspective in contemporary societies? 
  • Intangible cultural heritage: What are the main criteria and dimensions required to identify intangible cultural heritage? How do practitioners, community leaders, experts and political authorities evaluate the qualities and sustainability of intangible cultural heritage? How do these evaluations take place? How are local communities involved in decision-making on intangible heritage?
  • Best practices and application: What are the tools and means (best practices) of understanding, protection, production and reproduction of heritage (including different forms of education, digitalisation, social media, etc.)?
  • Economy and regional development: What is the role of cultural heritage in local economy, tourism, social and cultural innovation?  How can heritage become a significant economic asset in local/regional development, while safeguarding its values, symbols and meanings of the past and their importance for the present and the future?

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VII. Panel

V4-Networking Panel

A presentation of the profiles of V4 journals in the field of ethnology by their editors will take place at the panel. In the Visegrad Forum section, Clara Royer - director of CEFRES (French Research Center in Humanities and Social Sciences – Prague, Czech Republic), will introduce its agenda.

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