Accepted paper:

Postmodernism and post-socialism


Michal Buchowski (Adam Mickiewicz University)

Paper short abstract:

Postmodernism as a theory emerged in Western anthropology, but it has had different implications for various anthropologies worldwide. This paper considers its reception, consequences and ultimate rejection in a post-socialist context.

Paper long abstract:

Postmodernism affected the anthropological art in the post-socialist regions, and this paper discusses the example of Poland. At the time when postmodernism had become popular in the West, Polish ethnology was developing its own interpretive approaches that were largely detached from historical materialism. The result of this development was an intellectual milieu in which postmodern ideas could easily flourish. The reason for their acceptance was different from those in Western centres of anthropology and they need to be identified and analysed. Also after 1989, many scholars understood anthropology as predominantly a kind of philosophical endeavour and cultural reflection on anthropological issues, although new issues, trends and theories have been integrated into local discourses. The list involved not only the notion of postmodernism, but also the literary turn in anthropology, reflexive anthropology, multiculturalism, media and popular culture problems, and the status of ethnographic description from a post-structural perspective. However, this 'ideational' approach seldom addressed the enormous social and economic changes that took place in the 1990s. Those changes have not been anthropologically conceptualised and no significant anthropological theory of the post-socialist change has been proposed. However, combined socio-economic circumstances, particularly the imposition of economic neoliberalism, and the revival of anthropological theories addressing these kinds problems have led to the emergence of non-interpretive anthropologies.

panel W006
After the crisis: neoliberalism, postmodernism and the discipline of anthropology (EN)