Plenary A


EASA beyond crises: continuities and innovations in European anthropology 
Convenor:
Noel B. Salazar (KU Leuven)
Format:
Plenaries
Location:
A-002
Start time:
1 August, 2014 at 14:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:
1

Short Abstract:

We take EASA’s 25th anniversary as an opportunity to locate the association in some key events of the past century, and to look forward to the role we envision for the future of EASA in particular and European anthropology in general in the next 25 years.

Long Abstract

The European Association of Social Anthropologists is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The inaugural General Assembly of EASA was held in 1989, in Italy. That year was also marked by the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the World Wide Web. The fall of the Wall in Berlin stands as a symbol for both epochal crisis and opportunity in late twentieth century Europe, and crisis is one, amongst other, iconic tropes of our time. A quarter-century later, Europe is in the midst of a different kind of crisis and one which informs the theme of the association’s biennial conference in Tallinn. This plenary addresses how European anthropology has reacted to and engaged in different revolutions of the 20th century, how it inhabits crisis as an epistemic moment, and how it manages its intimacies and fall-outs. We take our 25th anniversary as an opportunity to locate EASA in the key events of the past century, and to look forward to the role we envision for the future of the association in particular and European anthropology in general in the next 25 years.

Accepted papers:

Author:

Sydel Silverman (CUNY Graduate School)

Paper short abstract:

The meeting that created EASA took place against the backdrop of the realization of the European Union and what would soon be a new relationship between East and West. This anniversary is an apt moment to revisit what led up to that meeting, what happened there, and the course that it set for EASA.

Paper long abstract:

In 1989, Europe was on the threshold of two major transformations: the realization of the European Union and a redefined relationship between East and West. It was against that background that the meeting was held that marked the founding of EASA. This is an apt moment to revisit what led up to the meeting and what happened there: the issues that were raised (and those that were not), and the resolutions that resulted (and those that did not). That history bears some lessons for EASA today.

Author:

Adam Kuper (London School of Economics)

Paper short abstract:

EASA’s founders had various aims: to develop the institutional basis of social anthropology in Europe; to encourage research dealing with modern European concerns; to support the development of a shared theoretical discourse, rooted in the social sciences; and to increase the visibility of our discipline. Have we succeeded?

Paper long abstract:

What were we after when we established the EASA a quarter of a century ago? There were several concerns, not equally shared, not all clearly formulated. One was the need to shore up the institutional basis of the discipline in Europe, and to develop European networks that worked against the established centre-periphery structures. Another was to encourage research programmes that engaged with modern European concerns. A third was to support the development of a shared theoretical discourse, rooted in the social sciences. A fourth was to increase our visibility, not least to other disciplines. Looking back, how have we done? And what should our priorities be now?

Author:

Antónia Pedroso de Lima (ISCTE-IUL CRIA)

Paper short abstract:

In this presentation I will discuss the effects that the present crises situation in Portugal and the southern Europe might have in the future of Anthropology in these countries, addressing the role that EASA can play in this challenge.

Paper long abstract:

The first EASA conference was held in 1990 in Coimbra, Portugal, at a time when Portuguese anthropology was undergoing a process of expansion at a national and international level. Focusing on the important role played by EASA, in this presentation I will reflect upon these mutual and intertwined developments. The profound effects of the present crises situation in Portugal and in the southern European countries, makes this an inspiring moment to discuss the future of the discipline in these countries, the differences and parallels we can draw between them, and the role that EASA can play in this challenge.

Author:

Agnieszka Koscianska (University of Warsaw)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation shows how EASA influenced Central European ethnology/ethnography.

Paper long abstract:

In this presentation, I show how EASA influenced Central European ethnology/ethnography (a discipline, which started in the region in the early 19th century and focused on peasant studies) and contributed to its transformation into social/cultural anthropology in the 1990s and early 2000s. I point to the role that EASA has played in the more recent search for the specificity of ethnology/anthropology in the region. I also discuss how EASA based networking (both between scholars from Western Europe and Eastern Europe as well as among various Central/Eastern European countries) and ideas conceived during EASA workshops influenced the conceptualization of postsocialism, neoliberalism, revolutions, social movements (e.g. trade unions, feminism) and crises in Central Europe and contributed to the development of engaged anthropology dedicated to these issues.

Author:

Samuli Schielke (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO))

Paper short abstract:

The question about the future of social anthropology in Europe - and with it, the EASA - is a political question: How can social anthropology be relevant without being instrumentalised?

Paper long abstract:

There is a crisis, partly evident and partly still invisible, caused by a tension between the way anthropologists feel committed to the worlds they study, and the forms of communication that are promoted by academic careers. This is something that regularly emerges in teaching, but in academic conferences and publications much of this tension is toned down by established communication formats. However, whenever major crises and revolutions occur, this tension also becomes more visible. For example, the uprisings in the Arab world and elsewhere since 2011 have given a boost to a sort of committed ethnographic work and on-spot publishing that fits only with difficulty into the conventional formats of academic publishing. Looking at the record and potential of EASA publications in the recent years, and linking it with the interest for anthropological knowledge I have faced among students, in fieldwork, and from journalists and governments, I reflect about the future prospects of this uneasy dynamics between academic anthropology with its specific forms of communication and recruitment on the one hand, and the desire and need of many anthropologists to interact and communicate in a world that is in an almost constant state of crisis. The question about the future of social anthropology - and with it, the EASA - is a political question: How can social anthropology be relevant without being instrumentalised?