The previous issue of AJEC had ‘Ethnological Approaches to Cultural Heritages’ as its theme. As that issue was being produced, the Société Internationale d’Ethnologie et de Folklore (SIEF) held its 9th Congress, entitled ‘Transcending European Heritages: Liberating the Ethnological Imagination’, at the University of Ulster during the week 16–20 June, 2008 (see Fenske 2008 for details). This offered an opportunity to explore our theme further, and therefore the plenary speakers at that congress, representing a broad spectrum of backgrounds and approaches, nationalities and intellectual biographies, were invited to submit their texts for the present issue.
Engaging Anthropological Legacies toward Cosmo-optimistic Futures?
Sharon Macdonald, Henrietta Lidchi and Margareta von Oswald
How to deal with the legacies of colonial and other problematic pasts is a challenge shared by most museums of ethnography and ethnology. In this introduction to the following special section on the same topic, the section editors provide an overview and analysis of the burdens and potentials of the past in such museums. They set out different strategies that have been devised by ethnographic museums, identifying and assessing the most promising approaches. In doing so, they are especially concerned to consider the cosmopolitan potential of ethnographic museums and how this might be best realized. This entails explaining how the articles that they have brought together can collectively go beyond state-of-the-art approaches to provide new insight not only into the difficulties but also into the possibilities for redeploying ethnographic collections and formats toward more convivial and cosmo-optimistic futures.
All scholarly fields feed on rhetoric of praise and criticism, mostly self-praise and self-criticism. Ethnology and folklore studies are not exceptions in this, regardless of whether they constitute a single field or two separate but related ones. This essay discusses questions concerning ethnological practice and object formation, cultural theory and the theory of tradition (or the lack thereof), cultural transmission, cultural representation, and the ethics and politics of cultural ownership and repatriation. It draws on general observations as well as on work in progress. The main concern is with a discursive move: from tradition to heritage, from the ethnography of repetition and replication to cultural relativist descriptions and prescriptions of identity construction and cultural policy, from ethnography as explanation to ethnography as representation and presentation. In addition, the essay seeks to delineate other underlying tenets that appear to constitute our traditions and heritages - both as strengths and as long-term constraints and biases. Where is ethnology headed in its quest to transcend theories and practices? Less theory and more practice? More theory on practice? Or more practice on theory?
This article discusses a range of pragmatic issues associated with curating intangible cultural heritage, including collection, preservation, interpretation, presentation and representation. It uses as a case study work undertaken with Lough Neagh eel fishermen in preparation for and at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2007, setting this in a much wider curatorial context.
As I settle down to put together this issue, it occurs to me that the development of AJEC in its various phases displays an uncanny correspondence with my personal professional trajectory so far. Its inception and first volume happened during my postdoctoral fellowship when I was happy to place one of my first (coauthored) academic articles in its inaugural issue. The remainder of AJEC’s first approximate decade coincides with my time as a lecturer. At the time I took up my first chair, the format of AJEC changed, eventually turning it, for a while, into a Yearbook rather than a journal. And in the year I moved to my second chair, I was invited to take on the editorship of AJEC, which would now be published by Berghahn and returning to the format of two issues per year. This correspondence raises a curious question: What significant turning point for the journal will correspond with my own as I am becoming an emeritus professor?
A view from inside India's ethnographic state
Venturing into an ethnography of government anthropologists themselves, this article interrogates the bureaucratic inner workings and actual agents of today's “ethnographic state." By engaging with the civil servants who verify India's Scheduled Tribes, I explore the politics of “tribal“ recognition from the inside out. This perspective lends timely insight into the logistical, political, and epistemological difficulties integral to the functioning-and current crisis-of India's affirmative action system. Weighing the demands of “tribal“ recognition through those that arguably know them best-government anthropologists themselves- this study examines the human dimension (and dilemmas) of the Indian state and its affirmative action system for Scheduled Tribes.
Alice L. Conklin
La proposition, avancée par Georges Balandier dans les années 1950, que ce que j'observe, en réalité, n'est pas un village kong ou une tribu fang, mais une situation coloniale, n'a d'une certaine manière pas encore fini d'exercer ses effets subversifs dans la discipline. Le rapport des ethnologues à la domination coloniale ou post-coloniale n'est pas de servilité, mais de dénégation. Tout se passe comme s'ils ne la voyaient pas et leur complicité “objective” se réduit généralement à laisser croire qu'elle pourrait n'être pas visible … — Jean Bazin
Hidden Jokes and the Reinvention of Animistic Ontologies in Southwest China
Anthropology has, among its many accomplishments, become a ‘hyper-reflexive’ discipline that is mastered by anthropologists and their fieldwork friends. Today’s China offers an especially revealing lens onto anthropological reflexivity as it reintroduces animism among ethnic minorities and mobilizes a cosmological-cum-ecological ethos, replete with soul-searching and planet-saving behaviors. This article presents ethnography on the Nuosu of Southwest China, who use the ‘art of capture’ to reinvent local animistic ideas and the Chinese ‘ideology of animism’. In dialogue with a Nuosu ethnologist, rural Nuosu villagers, and a Nuosu anthropologist, I propose that ‘hidden’ knowledge and jokes underpin the expositions of native scholars, who interlace their academic work with local rituals. In this way, Nuosu academics, foreign anthropologists, and villagers all partake in the reinvention of Nuosu animism.
Ethnologists' Uses of the Authentic
This article deals with the often problematic connection between European and ethnological world images. After a short retrospective on the ethnological heritage, it elaborates current social and political problems and determines the ethnological position in these discourses. Finally, it recommends the imagination of an 'ethnology of the present', which increasingly focuses its lens on the European margins, across boundaries, and on movements: ethnology as a 'social ethnography' of the culturally vagrant, ambivalent and fluid.
Ol’ga Danglová (2014), Modrotlač na Slovensku: Blueprint in Slovakia (Bratislava: Centre for Folk Art Production and Institute of Ethnology, Slovak Academy of Sciences), 375 pp., €29, ISBN: 978-80-89639-12-0.