Accepted paper:

(Self-)exotization as a strategy of identity formation in contemporary Polish anthropology

Author:

Monika Baer (University of Wroclaw)

Paper short abstract:

In the proposed paper I analyze how the need to “catch up with the West” is negotiated in debates on the appropriate form that anthropology as an imported phenomenon should assume in contemporary Poland and how in this process the (self-)exotization is employed as a strategy of identity formation.

Paper long abstract:

Considering that the need to "catch up with the West" still provides a vital theme in contemporary Poland, the debates on the appropriate form that anthropology as an imported phenomenon should assume could not escape its influence. In fact, the whole discussion is to a certain extent structured by Wallerstein-like ideas that the high quality knowledge flows from global, western (mostly Anglo-American) centers to local, non-western (half-)peripheries. However, to negotiate their own positioning, Polish anthropologists evoke that distinction in rather complex, uneven and contingent ways. In the proposed paper I examine how in this process the (self-)exotization is employed as a strategy of (resistant) identity formation. Depending on specific contexts, the label "exotic" is applied in a highly diverse and subversive manner. Considering discourses on "external" relations between the western center and the non-western (half-)periphery, it is the center - (half)periphery distinction which remains basically stable, while the western - non-western division that indicates the difference between the normalized and the exotic is being constantly shifted due to particular aims. With regard to discourses on "internal" relations between Polish anthropologists themselves, whereas western and non-western appear obvious (though differently valued) concepts, the normalized center and the exoticized (half-)periphery are variously approached by various social actors to meet their various ends. The heterogeneity of the resultant discursive space within which flexible identities are being forged, reveals performative, fragmented and unstable character of all those categories, which once seemed to form predictable and transparent world.

panel G22
Exoticisation, self-exoticisation: agency, identity and transformation