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Accepted Paper:

Area Studies in Soviet Ethnography and American Anthropology  
Anna Soldatova Andrey Tutorski (Moscow State University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper was co-authored by Andrey Tutorski. In our paper we seek to explore the theoretical and conceptual links between culture area studies in Soviet ethnography and US anthropology. Drawing on the works of Alfred Kroeber and Clark Wissler on the one hand and Sergey Tolstov, Vladimir Nikolsky, Nikolay Cheboksarov and Petr Preobrazhensky on the other hand we integrate their ideas into the intellectual landscape of the 1920 1950s.

Paper long abstract:

In Soviet ethnography the problem of geographic determination (forms of influence of environment upon culture) were discussed mostly in 1920s by Preobrazhensky and Nikolsky. The only article on this topic was published by Sergei Tolstov in 1932. However the topic was forgotten until in 1955 Levin and Cheboksarov published their article about economic cultural types. We argue that the Soviet and American traditions form a comprehensive intellectual background during this time. Furthermore, though Soviet ethnography after the 1920s is usually associated with the Marxist paradigm, Cheboksarov and Tolstov were adepts of area studies while occupying notable administrative positions. Although this is not entirely visible in their published works, we draw on the unpublished text of Tolstov s lectures for the students of MSU s Faculty of History to make this point. Both schools of thought seeked to place culture traits in a historical context to study their evolution and spatial movement. We compare the ethnological method in Nikolsky s works with Wissler s take on how the concept of the culture area came to life within the study of culture traits in American Indian tribes. Both the Soviet and the American academic traditions of studying culture areas stemmed from the intent of explaining the nature of cultural differences. It is a sort of general opinion that Soviet ethnography was mainly isolated from the Western tradition. But the case of area studies shows an interesting intellectual genealogy. We argue that German diffusionism can be considered an antecesor for both the Soviet and the American area studies. Nonetheless this link was not straightforward. We explore how and if the works of German diffusionists are cited contested and conceptualized. We also consider the way anthropologists placed their ideas in a larger social and political context. In our opinion Soviet and American area studies both placed an emphasis on the study of the internal Other: Siberian peoples and Native Americans.

Panel P03b
Collaborations and Confrontations during the Cold War and Into the Future
  Session 1 Friday 10 June, 2022, -