This article addresses some methodological problems related to the mapping out of cultural data and more specifically those related to so-called cultural borders and boundaries in space. The second part of the article is devoted to the Mediterranean region. For half a century, this region has been the locus of much anthropological fieldwork, and has also provoked much debate on the topic of the region surrounding a closed sea as a conceptual entity. As both the Baltic and the Mediterranean seas have been spaces of intense human relations rather than obstacles for exchange, a future anthropological comparison between these two areas may prove stimulating.
Author of presented here article joined, as the only social anthropologist, an inter-disciplinary research team, formed in 1996, and dominated by historians, but also including an economist, a geographer, a literary scholar and a political scientist. The team members were recruited from research institutions located in Austria, Italy and Slovenia – all were personally familiar with the region, and their objective was to investigate the “causes and consequences of the division of a region by nation-states.” The work of this group emphasized documentation of the past. The contemporary situation – it accounted for lives lived in the region today also was examined. Three leading questions guided our work: How have the institutions of modern bureaucratic states manifested themselves in the life-worlds of people who came to populate a state frontier. How has the presence of the modern bureaucratic state in this borderland transformed local communities? How has the ideology of nationalism intervened in local lives as social facts? Investigation strategy used in such inter-state research project may serve as a positive example of inter-disciplinary collaboration model.
To conduct an ethnographic research means to do a job of investigating something, which is always geographically located in a particular place: a village, a city, a country, or an area. A map is the first attribute of an ethnographer. But anytime we, as ethnographers, take the map and choose an ethnographic site to study it becomes immediately filled up in our imagination with the discourses already existing in historical, political, social, cultural, or local contexts. Then the question emerges about how does the view of a priori about the place come together with the ‘practise’ of fieldwork? The empirical ground of this article is my experience as of a researcher at the international EU project ‘Public Understanding of Genetics: A Cross-Cultural and Ethnographic Study of the “New Genetics” and Social Identity (2002–2004)’. Thus in the article I would like to discuss the role of ethnographic research in the construction of images about the place. I would return to the initial idea that region is a conventional category. Place-names and maps like natural symbols crystallize and justify the essence of its identity.
The glance at the classical anthropological perspectives implies that the concept of ‘region’ was often tied to the environment and used mainly as a comparison unit and there were fewer intentions to try to discover the internal aspects of a ‘region’. The ideas of the contemporary scholars give a new room for the discussions about the connections between different territories, regions, concepts of local/global, homogeneity/heterogeneity, place, space/time etc. Generally, the article strives to prefigure possible ‘framework’ for the concept of ‘region’ and main elements as well as problems of its definition, and its application possibilities in the anthropological studies. The term ‘region’ is often occurring both in everyday and academic languages. But the question is, if it is possible to describe what kind of content is framed within the word ‘region’, because it does not have its own exact definition. Still it is usual to relate the term ‘region’ with geographical terms of various kinds of territories, for example, area, place, site, city etc. The scholarly discussions about globalization, its elements and processes influence perceptions of different territorial units and start questioning their stability and fixity.
Some of the words used in these discourses about multiculturalism, and everyday multicultural practice, such as “culture”, “ethnicity”, and “identity”, are ubiquitous and figure in almost every argument about multiculturalism, or discussion about multicultural practice. What I am going to argue is that, in popular and some scholarly discourses, these words and concepts may be used in ways that may be completely incompatible with our anthropological understandings of them. I am going to focus on three interrelated problems: ethnocentrism, essentialism, and primordialism.
In this article I present the rudiments of a theoretical approach to the religious field in Lithuania. These reflections are part of an ongoing process of designing a research project on religious and moral pluralism. Religious pluralism is a fairly recent feature of East-Central European societies. When religion was suppressed by the socialist regimes after World War II, the church, especially the Catholic Church, be-came part of a polarized social experience built upon the dichotomy of the state versus the unified nation. In many countries the church established itself as the guardian of a national Christian tradition and claimed a moral monopoly on people’s values. Appearing as gross oversimplifications, presented in the article theoretical reflections can serve as helpful stepping-stones in the process of combining theoretical models and grassroots ethnography.
Being based on empirical material collected during field work in the Latvian–Russian border zone and theoretical border zone studies, this article analyzes the ways how the state, as well as transnational and global factors, influence the lives of border zone inhabitants. The focus is on the interaction between the state and global agents on the one hand and the local and individual agents on the other hand within the territory, which is also the external border of the European Union and the NATO. The case study permits several theoretical and empirical conclusions about the role of the state and transnational agents in the lives of individuals and the vision for the development of the border zone. In conclusion an author emphasizes the necessity for both practical and theoretical discussions about solidarity and the responsibility of global agents to local communities in the event that under globalization conditions places emerge that are more in the role of patients of globalization rather than beneficiaries from the process. From a periphery-centre viewpoint, the border zone may seem like the end of the Earth to people from the centre, but to those who live there it is the centre of the world.
The debate about the public role of ethnology and folklore has been ongoing for some time, and has its parallel in the current debate about an ‘applied anthropology’. In Great Britain folklore and ethnology are, at least in institutional terms, virtually absent from higher education institutions. An author set pointers for the future – concentrating on the need for the study of culture to focus on lived experience as well as, and perhaps before, text; the need to revisit the political roots of the discipline in a critical but constructive spirit; and, the need to reconceptualise the region as the theatre of ethnological fieldwork – with a view to developing an ethically aware, evidence-based, policy-oriented and culture-critical European ethnology. Within this broad framework, we need to explore further the issues surrounding cultural mediation as a process for applying, but also generating, cultural knowledge and understanding, and the role(s) that ethnologists do, could, should, and perhaps should not play in that process.
The region of Lithuania Minor to which the northern part of the Curonian Spit belongs, has been characterized by changing national affiliation in the course of the twentieth century (Germany, Soviet Union, Lithuania) and the resulting change of population. The following article analyses how different social actors have recurred to and managed the Curonian Spit’s cultural heritage. It shows how Curonian cultural heritage has been mobilized for the making of nationalist identities. Taking the case of the village of Nida (Nidden) it is shown that heritage is nothing fixed or given but is, in fact, produced over the course of time depending on the political, economic and social interests of the social actors involved as well as on the societal background. The example of the Curonian Spit and the making of cultural heritage is a contested and flexible process. Heritage is nothing fixed or given but is made and remade over the course of time, depending on the political, economic and social interests and power resources of the social actors involved. My examples have shown how the production of Curonian heritage has flexibly contributed to the making of German, Soviet as well as Lithuanian identities.