Rejoinder

in Focaal
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Chris Hann Anthropologist, Freelance hann@eth.mpg.de

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It is exciting to hear of numerous ethnographies of Ukraine and its inhabitants, both recently published and in the pipeline. One hopes that they remain free of the asymmetry discussed by Volodymyr Ishchenko, and that their authors will investigate all nooks and crannies, including those where the voices of Western “civil society” actors are not yet voluble. I am a committed practitioner of slow ethnography myself (especially in Hungary, hence my final section). But I also believe in lifelong learning and historically informed comparison.

It is exciting to hear of numerous ethnographies of Ukraine and its inhabitants, both recently published and in the pipeline. One hopes that they remain free of the asymmetry discussed by Volodymyr Ishchenko, and that their authors will investigate all nooks and crannies, including those where the voices of Western “civil society” actors are not yet voluble. I am a committed practitioner of slow ethnography myself (especially in Hungary, hence my final section). But I also believe in lifelong learning and historically informed comparison.

My angle on Ukraine derives from fieldwork begun in the 1970s among East Slavs in Southeast Poland. In closely related communities in neighboring Transcarpathia (Ukraine), “anational” affiliation persisted strongly into the present century (Halemba 2015). This is one variant of an “inclusiveness” that devalues national sovereignty in favor of a broader repertoire extending from the local to the civilizational (just as the identifications of many Welsh and Scots are compatible with affiliations to Britain and Europe). Transcarpathian conscripts have been prominent among the casualties in Donbas in 2023. One hopes that Agnieszka Halemba will be able to resume her ethnography soon. I would expect her to find a consolidation of “exclusive” national affiliation; but she will also have to investigate why, at local level, many Orthodox believers in this remote region have resisted pressure to affiliate to the consolidated autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine and instead remained loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate.

The distinction between historical and young nations is helpful in explaining why the case of Ukraine has been so complex and bloody. Historical class analysis must be integrated into analysis of the spatial/regional differentiation that derives from imperial rivalries. I agree with Ishchenko that education was of great importantance. The consequences of the spread of literacy in Austrian Galicia were explored by the translator of Roman Rosdolsky's important work, American-Canadian historian John-Paul Himka (1983, 1988). In that era, alongside competing national affiliations, socialist ideals were very much in the mix. Sadly, that is no longer the case today.

Ishchenko's brilliant class model of the post- Soviet conjuncture might reasonably be stretched to include Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Perhaps subaltern citizens in Ukraine will eventually express themselves in much the same way that discordant populist voices have made themselves heard in CEE after disillusionment with the West set in.

References to Boas and Volksgeist are wide of the mark. I find it a pity that the concept of civilization seems forever tainted in anthropology, despite impressive early contributions from Mauss and Durkheim (see Arnason 2018). Do my critics really suppose that Russian ties to Ukraine are no different from ties to Muslim Central Asia, or the Baltics, or the Caucasus, where the empire encountered different language families and religions? To mock Huntington (as I did myself in the last century) is insufficient. One fruitful question (raised by historical sociologist Johann Arnason and yet to be tackled by anthropologists) is whether Soviet socialism might itself be considered a civilization, and if so, how it connects to earlier Eurasian civilizations. To pursue these issues would not be inconsistent with Ishchenko's perspective on both its revolutionary impact and its degradation.

Anthropologists are inclined to sympathize with programs proposing alternatives to capitalist exploitation and Western domination, and not to abandon all hope of maintaining civilizational plurality when one such alternative program visibly fails. But even very slow ethnography is insufficient if it is not complemented by historical analysis that transcends nation-state boundaries. Since the causes of asymmetries in mobilization capacity within Ukraine cannot be grasped without considering global geopolitical constellations, I cannot apologize for doing so in this essay. Gorbach is right to state that Zelensky was elected in 2019 as a “peace president” but I think it is naive to hail him as “author of the unprecedented yearlong ceasefire of 2020–2021.” There is no denying agency in both Kyiv and Moscow, but NATO and the EU are not innocent patients.

References

  • Arnason, Johann P. 2018. “Mauss revisited. The birth of civilizational analysis from the spirit of anthropology.” In Anthropology and civilizational analysis. Eurasian explorations, ed. Johann P. Arnason and Chris Hann, 133. Albany: State University of New York Press.

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  • Halemba, Agnieszka. 2015. “Not looking through a national lens? Rusyn as an anational self- identification in contemporary Ukrainian Transcarpathia.” In Debatten um Polen und Polentum in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. Yvonne Kleinman and Achim Rabus, 197220. Göttingen: Wallstein.

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  • Himka, John-Paul. 1983. Socialism in Galicia: The emergence of Polish social democracy and Ukrainian radicalism (1860–1890). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute.

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  • Himka, John-Paul. 1988. Galician villagers and the Ukrainian national movement in the nineteenth century. London: Macmillan.

Contributor Notes

Chris Hann is a social anthropologist who has carried out field research in East-Central Europe since the 1970s. Between 1999 and 2021, he was a Director at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle (Saale), Germany. He is the author of Repatriating Polanyi: Market society in the Visegrád states (2019). Email: hann@eth.mpg.de

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Focaal

Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology

  • Arnason, Johann P. 2018. “Mauss revisited. The birth of civilizational analysis from the spirit of anthropology.” In Anthropology and civilizational analysis. Eurasian explorations, ed. Johann P. Arnason and Chris Hann, 133. Albany: State University of New York Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Halemba, Agnieszka. 2015. “Not looking through a national lens? Rusyn as an anational self- identification in contemporary Ukrainian Transcarpathia.” In Debatten um Polen und Polentum in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. Yvonne Kleinman and Achim Rabus, 197220. Göttingen: Wallstein.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Himka, John-Paul. 1983. Socialism in Galicia: The emergence of Polish social democracy and Ukrainian radicalism (1860–1890). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Himka, John-Paul. 1988. Galician villagers and the Ukrainian national movement in the nineteenth century. London: Macmillan.

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