Putting the Folk in Their Place

Tradition, Ecology and the Public Role of Ethnology

in Anthropological Journal of European Cultures

The folk, who have been exorcised from contemporary academic concern, are now replaced with the populace. Simultaneously, places as ecological loci of meaning and social relations have been discarded in favour of globalised spaces. Arguably, the contemporary obsession with proving the inauthenticity of tradition is itself an essentialising discourse. This obsession has helped destroy places and their ecological relationships. European ethnology originated in the Enlightenment pursuit of good governance and social improvement, which rendered it an instrument of political control - putting the folk in their place. By critically reconstructing the public role of ethnology, we can redirect the ethnological searchlight. Should not the responsible ethnologist, rather than colluding in evictions of the folk from their place, cultivate a respectfully critical understanding of social, economic, political and ecological contexts, working with the folk reflexively, to help reclaim their place.

Anthropological Journal of European Cultures

(formerly: Anthropological Yearbook of European Cultures)