University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences and Biotechnical Faculty, Master Study of Anthropology
NEUROSCIENCE AND ANTHROPOLOGY
The bittersweet taste of (r)evolution
Celje, May 2008
There has been much debate about the so called neuroscience revolution in the research fields commonly associated with the theories of the mind and the brain. Recent developments in neuroimaging techniques, namely the widely accessible and relatively cheap (for some) fMRIs, discovery of mirror neurons combined with major breakthroughs in (epi)genomics, have created a buzz in wider scientific community. It looks like we are on the verge of something big and important. Something »larger than life«.The excitement has spilled over even to humanities; once more it seems that sociologists, anthropologists and other social scientists are on the verge of finding their holy grail. Again. For the first time in history the advanced neuroimaging techniques enable us to see what is understood as »the human mind at work«, to see the “ghost in the machine”. It could be compared to seeing the image of an atom with the electronic microscope for the first time. The conscious ego, the very essence of what is believed to be human, has finally been caught in act, with the brain confirmed as its throne.
(R)EVOLUTION IN NEUROSCINCE AND THE HOLY GRAIL OF ANTHROPOLOGY
The evolutionary paradigm in the natural sciences dealing with the human condition is still a top choice among the theories. How could it not be? General principles of evolution on the macro level in the universe seem undeniable. All organic systems tend to go pass through stages in complexity, depending on the adaptation external conditions and not forgetting the coincidence factor. From one there can be many and from many there can be one. An eternal interplay of integration and disintegration of matter-energy. Yin and yang, libido and the death drive. It does not make sense to go in depth into these concepts at this point, only to state that the evolution is part of grand Western paradigm of the deterministic universe within which scientists believe they can predict events with complete certainty. It started with the first Greek materialists, trough Newtonian mechanics to Einstein’s relativity. The arrow of time is still seen only as an illusion (Prigogine, 1997). Judeo-Christian doctrine with God as an omnipotent legislator follows this path. Armed with this logic, the Western man has (temporarily) conquered the Nature. Everything makes sense, is predictable and comprehendible. But with chaos theory and similar spin-offs from established theories comes a new threat to the idea of the universe as the automata. These new perspectives on certainty and simple causality picture these more like an misapprehension and a universe governed by simple laws of physics seems more like white man’s anthropocentric foolishness. Psychology, neurology, psychiatry, medicine and all the hybrids among them follow in the same dogmatic footsteps. Why is this important and relevant for anthropology?
Firstly, one should define anthropology. The discipline includes diverse fields of research from archeology to linguistic anthropology, trying to embrace together the knowledge of seemingly incommensurable ideas about the human existence. We are dealing with tricky issues, ranging from pottery to poetry. It is a difficult enterprise. Understanding a phenomena as complex as humanity might seem as an intellectual suicide. Geertz somewhere said that anthropology is more like art and music and we could easily say that it also could be one of the “impossible professions” (Freud, 1937). Maybe that is why anthropology still does not hold the status of a “real” science. Its object of enquiry is too broad, too vague and too hard to grasp. We are divided into different schools of thought, held together only by the respect of our untouchable “totemic” founding fathers such as Spencer, Durkheim, Morgan, Tylor, Frazer, Rivers, Boas, Malinowski, Mead, Benedict, Sapir, Radcliffe-Brown, Evans-Pritchard, Kroeber, Steward, White, Levi-Strauss, etc., strong belief in methodology of participant observation and an ideal about the understanding what it means to be human. While it might be ridiculed as to being unscientific, naïve, full of “just-so stories” and lacking true positivistic methodologies and producing little quantifiable evidences, anthropology, if viewed from the historical bird view, is the first of sciences which does not take relativity of observed phenomena for granted. We are skeptical of grand theories that make a splash every from time to time, but on the other hand easily fall in the trap of false prophets.
It was a bitter learning experience for anthropology and her devoted pupils. As a stepchild of 19. century Darwinian/Spencerian evolution, anthropology never totally lost its biological framework. How could it? But the ideo-political manipulations with facts, which culminated in eugenics and scientific racism of the early 20. century totalitarian regimes, to some extent sobered the anthropological community. Nurture, not nature was the favored explanatory concept. “Social structure”(Radcliffe-Brown, 1952) and “function” of culture (Malinowski, 1944) were topics that puzzled the British functionalism-structuralists, Boas’s heirs, armed with psychoanalysis and Marxists anthropologists studying post-colonial societies. It was only with Levi-Strauss and later even more with Wilson (Wilson, 1975), Lorenz (Lorenz, 1966) and sociobiology that the human “hardware” became an important issue in the anthropological discourse. We can, of course, only speculate what theories would have come out of the brilliant minds of early anthropologists when faced with new insights about the human condition, brought on by the rapid developments in genetics, linguistics and medicine after 1945.
It is difficult to argue against the notion, that we are all part of the Nature and at the same time part of the system, a unique system, which is distinctly human. It is not the world of atoms, but of elements of a different order; of non-material representations, images and symbols, of Culture. We are creatures wearing a cloth out of signifiers to cover up our inherited animalistic nudity.
Although I stated that anthropology is (and should be) to some extent skeptical of theoretical frameworks that base understanding of the widest possible range of human phenomena on human biology due to unpleasant experiences from the past, these theories should not be automatically dismissed. I believe anthropology should study Man as a “totality”, a complex system of interplaying natural and symbolic traits, a view already expressed by Marcel Mauss (Levi-Strauss, 1950). Culture was born out of Nature and Nature is being conceptualized trough the lenses of Culture.
This is why the latest developments and concepts associated with neurosciences seem so appealing for anthropology. Backed up by “hard” science, these insights sure look promising and new. Or do they?
Interpretations of psychopathological conditions in humans have created an appealing base for theories about the essence of human society and its laws. At the core of these concepts are the re-discovery of the so called Jacksonian brain, named after the 19. century neurologist John Hughlings Jackson, and the evolution of the social brain. The Jacksonian scheme follows the findings of the great Victorian biologists and social philosopher, Herbert Spencer, founder of social Darwinism. His influence and elaborations of the general evolutionary principles are the founding blocks of today’s understanding of the modular mind-brain, principles that have long been put aside and forgotten and are now being re-recognized and taken for a fact. The main idea is that the human brain, just as every other system in the universe, consists of hierarchical elements (“modules” in neuroscientific jargon) , which with time get incorporated or transformed into evolutionary more advanced ones. The so called “executive functions”, which include selection, generalization and modification, planning, flexible execution, monitoring and inhibition of lower modules are seen as the most advanced and recent structures in the human brain(Young, 2008). As the complexity of the system grows, the from higher developed centers inhibited archaic and primitive components become like a window in time, Lamarckian relicts of times long gone. In case of the brains, only in pathological (epilepsy) or unconscious (dreams) conditions do these lower centers “come to life” and offer a glimpse to our evolutionary past. This idea is articulated in the concept of the reptilian, (limbic), paleo-mammalian and neo-mammalian brain and Ernst Haeckel`s comparative embryology. This (old) model of the brain is now being resurrected and embodied in the concept of the social brain. Technology, namely the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) which measures the haemodynamic response related to neural activity in the brain or spinal cord, has only recently allowed us to actually measure and see the concomitance of mind and flesh. While it is hard to argue against interpretations of brain “hardware” genesis, things are not as straightforward when theorizing on “software” development and its implications in social relations.
The very same evolutionary model was and is being applied to the interpretation of neuro/psychopathologies, starting with the 1967 John Price’s article (Price, 1967) about epidemiology of depression. Later, other similar interpretations of neuro/psychopathologies followed. Depression was interpreted as an evolutionary residue, as a “surrender complex” developed by the lesser-fit individuals, non-capable of coping with the highly competitive and aggressive social environment of the Paleolithic horde. I wonder if cockroaches also suffer any “neural” consequences for playing “dead” all the time (I do not really believe that…)?
Anxiety, depression, epilepsy and other neuro/psychopathologies are all remnants and trade-offs of Paleolithic adaptations, imprinted in the neural circuitry which today, due to genome lag, have become evolutionary unnecessary and possibly disruptive to life in a modern world.
To understand the conditions, which led to the development of such mechanisms, is to understand the very beginnings of the human society and make plausible conclusions about the modern man. During the course of the Paleolithic era, which lasted for 5 to 6 million years, the human brain had to adapt to different social and natural conditions. In addition to older, automatic and spontaneous neural schemes or “modules”, more and more complex and domain neutral centers evolved. If the module served the cause of reproductive success well, it developed further and stayed partially embedded it the neural structure of the brain. As time passed, these modules became analog to geological layers, each representing a specific period, which can be read as an open book.
But not only natural conditions influenced the evolution of mind modules. Human brain had to adapt to other brains as well to successfully compete with other, potentially deceptive individuals. Special “mind reading” modules had to emerge. A so called “cognitive arms race” began which resulted in increasingly larger and larger human brain. Modern human brain is the result of diverse evolutionary adaptations, culminating in what is today brain of a mosaic of modules, each processing its specific task.
The most obvious counter-argument for such an understanding of the human social evolution is the starting point, the very hypothesis of the primordial horde, an old Darwinian concept, supported by observations modern East African baboons (Price, 1967). This “reverse engineering” which only speculates on conditions many millennia before our time can be seen as a mere speculation, a “just so” story. The very same concept was harshly attacked, when Freud proposed his theory in 1913 on the evolution of human society (Freud, 2007). Freud took the Darwinian notion of the primal horde as the original human social organization. A small group of humans was dominated by a powerful alpha-male, having total control over females and access to enjoyment. The rival younger males at one point in history, decided to kill the Father in a bloody coupe d`etat and take over the power. The patricidal brotherhood soon realized their mistake. Feelings of guilt and disgust soon led to the restoration of the institution of the Father. The father was never defeated, on the contrary, he returned victorious and even more powerful in the reified version of the totem, which later in history changed its form to deities and eventually to the monotheistic god-Father. Lacanians later tried to defend the Oedipal theory of culture, claiming that the Father was never “real”. The obscene and vulgar father, who dominates the horde and has full access to enjoyment (females) is by the logic of the forever unobtainable Desire only a fantasy of the (Paleolithic) males. He is only a symbolic figure, a made-up authority and a strong reference for enforcement of social norms (Žižek, 1991).
Similar causal conclusions between natural “hardware” and cultural “software” have been made by the (discipline of) sociobiology, relying mostly upon the studies of animals (Wilson, 1975). Sociobiology argues that some human behaviors, such as male-female relations, kin selection, altruism, etc., are to an important extent determined by our genetic heritage. The most important mechanism is natural selection and reproductive success of the species. Some behaviors or social practices are “better” than others in the eyes our “selfish genes” (Dawkins, 2006). Cultural anthropologists argue about the highly speculative nature of, out-of-the-cultural-context taken sociobiological models and hypothesis, something that was stressed by Boas more than hundred years ago (Boas, 1896).
It is not hard to imagine the excitement of the sociobiologists when presented with the “new” data from the psychiatric and medical circles. Among other things, sociobiologists argue that altruism is genetically based and has evolved by means of natural selection. Altruism, sacrificing oneself to save some other members of the group (kin), is not incompatible with Darwinian laws of natural selection. On the contrary, the sacrifice is made in order to save (genetically) close related individuals for the benefit of the group (gene pool). Life must go on; it is the genes that have to be preserved and passed on to the next generations. When I go for a walk in the park and suddenly see a little boy drowning in the pond, I will most likely jump in the water and save him. Again, advocates of the “nurture” group in anthropology argue, that altruism is learned, not genetically programmed (Sahlins, 1976). “Love thy neighbor, as thyself”. This might had been the case in the past when humans lived in small and closely related groups, but today it has been replaced by cultural mechanism. Maybe somehow my brain misread the situation and interpreted the little boy as one of my kin; an evolutionary older switch was “turned-on” and engaged my motoric centers.
Exactly this is the point sociobiologists and modular mind theorists are trying to make. While many, if not most of our behaviors are culturally influenced, we can not bypass the fact that some might be rooted in our biology. Altruism and empathy are the best proofs for this claim. With the discovery of mirror neurons, first in monkeys and later also in the inferior frontal cortex and superior parietal lobe of the human brain, new insights and conclusions in the dynamics of these puzzling behavioral modes have been made. This special neurons get activated when we perform, see or even speak of an action and even more importantly also, when we see another person doing a specific task or being in a emotional state. We can “tune-in” with another’s emotional state due to “resonance” of mirror neuron system and can, if necessary, take appropriate action. Empathy, as it is argued, is therefore organically imprinted in our biological hardware and a result of evolutionary adaptations. "We are good," says professor Iacoboni, director of the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation laboratory of the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at UCLA, "because our biology drives us to be good." (Slack, 2007). Damage to the neural system, as in high-functioning autism or Asperger syndrome, may affect individual`s social abilities and social functioning. Such individuals scored significantly lower on the “Emphaty quotient” (EQ) scale, as presented in Baron-Cohen`s article. Important differences in EQ were also found between the male and female group (Baron-Cohen and Wheelwright, 2004).
Concept of empathy as a “social glue” becomes questionable, if we take into account that sometimes not all human emotional responses match. A sadist will feel extreme joy and pleasure when experiencing someone’s agony. The darker, egoistic and violent side of human nature, captured in the Roman proverb and later used by Thomas Hobbes, “Homo homini lupus”, is not an alternative side of human nature, but should be seen as complementary and therefore not overlooked, although it sometimes is.
Results from the “Iowa gambling task” (IGT) also showed the importance of the higher brain regions, in particular the ventromedial prefrontal cortex in regulation of decision-making. Successful decision-making was linked with the well functioning mechanism between anticipatory skin conductance responses (“marker” signals from the body) and prefrontal cortex (Dunn et al., 2006).
Psychopathologies, such as schizophrenia (Brüne, 2005) and pseudopsychopathic personality syndrome (Spence et al., 2004) were also illustrated as malfunctions of the “executive function” and the mirror neuron system and put in the evolutionary frame.
In the beginning of this essay I asked a question, which new insights do the new neuroscientific concepts and theories bring to the field of anthropology.
Remarkable discoveries in neurology, brought to light with the newest state of the art technologies, look promising for the anthropological discourse. In my opinion, we as anthropologists should be wary of the appearance. It is true that some human behaviors, such as empathy, are rooted in our biology. Solid evidences for explanation of structural mechanisms have been presented. One can not overlook the discovery of mirror neurons and the effect it will have on theories about child development and learning etc. It seems like the brain has finally been justly recognized as the seat of the mind.
But these theories lack a paradigmatic break-trough; they are conceptualized within an old, Western cosmological framework. Evolution is back, although it never went fully away, at least in humanities. Unless some radically new technology, as described in Arthur C. Clark’s novel, “The light of other days”, is developed, enabling us to see through tiny worm-holes in the past, then theories based on Paleolithic conditions, remain only that, just theories.
The problem occurs when these new insights lure biologists and similar natural scientists into theorizing on complex human phenomena, which can not be explained with simple causality and deduction. Anthropology knows things are not that transparent and straightforward. Take for example the concept of the (human) body. As Lock showed (Lock, 1993) the universal theory of embodiment is still not on the horizon. The body refuses to hold still and is an “excellent forum to reflect not only on theoretical dilemmas, but also on the politics of the practice of anthropology and its use beyond the confines of the discipline” (Lock, 1993: 148). It looks more like a Levi-Strauss’s “floating signifier” like mana, possessing "symbolic value zero", meaning different things to different people: it may stand for many or even any signifieds (Levi-Strauss, 1950).
Although sceptical, I still believe anthropology should study humanity in its totality of psychological, sociological and biological parameters. Something that was stressed by Marcel Mauss (Levi-Strauss, 1950).
It is this promise of finding the balance of nature and nurture that appears so “sweet” for anthropology. But the danger is in getting stuck in the honey of stagnant theoretical production. I am still waiting for the epistemological shift in the humanities, which might prove to be fatal for the classical theoretical horizon. The horns of Jericho are yet to raze the old walls of Western evolutionary paradigm.
So, the question is not what neurosciences can do for anthropology, but what can anthropology do for neurosciences?
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University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences and Biotechnical Faculty, Master Study of Anthropology
Paul Nchoji Nkwi
African anthropologists grew up in societies that were either colonized or recently decolonized. Westerners initially controlled the production of anthropological knowledge and the result was functionalist studies. These studies were explicitly ahistorical and often myopic about colonialism. After the colonial period, the new nations of Africa dismissed anthropology both as a cultivation of primitivism and as an apologetic for colonialism. As all states do, the new nations rewarded knowledge production that served state goals, and anthropology simply did not figure into those goals during the early post-colonial period. While new nations were appearing in Africa, anthropology in Europe and North America remained mostly committed to the dispassionate study of cultures, looking on knowledge production as tainted if done on behalf of government or for policy purposes. African anthropologists were trapped in a terrible Catch-22: the more, they practiced anthropology by the standards of the former colonial powers, the more their governments regarded them as worthless, or worse; the more they worked to develop an anthropology that served the needs of the state, the more their knowledge production was dismissed by European and North American centers of anthropology.
There were three possible solutions for these scholars: 1) declare anthropology dead and try to legitimate themselves as social historians within Africa; 2) export themselves to the USA and Europe, the way many Third World scholars of all disciplines have exported themselves; 3) change the content of anthropology and search out the information required by their governments. The first solution was defeatist and unappealing to most scholars. The second was appealing, but anthropologists were not needed in the West to the same extent that, say, chemists and engineers were, and there were thus few opportunities for migration. The third option raised a serious question: would involvement in policy research harm anthropology or make something better of it? In the end, the choice was made for African anthropologists by government funding for research and university posts. Anthropologists would, in fact, serve the research and teaching needs of the state.
This chapter examines the ways in which African anthropologists have developed knowledge within a particular set of state needs and within a particular set of power relations. The paper focuses on a particular effort, the Pan African Association of Anthropologists. Today, the Pan African Anthropological Association (PAAA) is a professional organization accepted by a once hostile community of social scientists. This has dramatically affected the applied dimensions of anthropological knowledge and the way anthropology has been taught and practiced. The chapter begins with an overview of the anthropology of sub-Saharan Africa and then offers a history of the PAAA. The development of the organization took place at a time when Western-trained African anthropologists were renegotiating their place in the discipline, both in Africa and internationally. The dilemma faced by African anthropologists—to carry out investigations according to internationally held canons of scientific practice while keeping faithful to the demand for immediately useful research at home—mirrors that of all Third World academics; but the dilemma for African anthropologists is an extreme case because of the discipline’s well-documented history as the handmaiden of colonialism.
Africa’s Place in the World System
From the beginning of colonial rule, anthropology in Africa—as the study of human cultures and peoples—largely reflected the outsiders’ view of the continent. It would take many decades for Africans to articulate a view of themselves in relation to that outside world. When anthropology emerged as a discipline in the 1860s, Africa was not part of the world economic system. Of course, it had been four hundred years earlier, but by the mid-nineteenth century scholars in Europe had long forgotten this and saw Africa only as a backwater. It soon would be part of the world system again. The slave trade had led to the creation of European stations on the African coast for the recruitment of human capital. And, by the late 19th century, despite the abolition of slavery in most of the world, European nations jockeyed for position and access to the human and other resources of the continent. The treaty of Berlin, in 1878, granted any “civilized state” occupying a coastal African region, the right to claim the hinterland. This could only be achieved, however, by occupation (cf. Graniage 1969: 199), and so the scramble for Africa was on, with a massive outpouring of explorers, travelers and missionaries who would shape future anthropological work on the continent. Just eight years later, in 1885, the jurisdictional disputes between rival European countries over Africa were settled with the recognition of territorial claims (Sklar, 1985:1). Africa had become an integral part of the world economic system as a supplier of basic resources.
The establishment of the Journal “Présence Africaine” in the 1940s was a reaction among African and African-American intellectuals against what they saw as a failure to recognize adequately Africa’s role in world history. Basil Davidson showed consistently that sub-Saharan African history was, in fact, an integral and important part of world history (1959). This reaction later developed into what came to be known as Pan-Africanism, which was to be a powerful influence on many of Africa’s early post-colonial leaders and intellectuals.
English-speaking anthropologists dominated anthropology during the colonial period, partly I think, because of the philosophical doctrine of empiricism, which fostered greater respect for local culture. Whatever the cause, English-speaking anthropologists served colonial administrators whose directive was to rule through local personnel and this, in the jargon of post-modernism, produced multi-vocality and gave anthropologists the opportunity to assert themselves more creatively. The emergence of anthropology as a discipline in the university system in Great Britain during the period between the two World Wars led, in 1925, to the creation of a state-sponsored research institute, the International Institute of African Languages and Culture (IIALC). This institute (later known as the International African Institute or IAI) encouraged the collection of massive amounts of ethnographic data on Africa and further consolidated the discipline.
The Institute established the Journal Africa in 1928 and, in 1938, under Lord Hailey, published The African Survey. It inspired monographs on African politics (African Political Systems 1940, edited by Meyer Fortes, and Tribes Without Rulers 1958, edited by John Middleton, David Tait, and Laura Bohannan), cosmology and religion (African Worlds 1954, edited by Daryll Forde), witchcraft (Witchcraft and Sorcery in East Africa 1963, edited by John Middleton and E.H. Winter), and kinship (African Systems of Kinships and Marriage, 1956, edited by A.R. Radcliffe-Brown and Daryll Forde). Other English-speaking anthropologists of the period included E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Victor Turner, Audrey Richards, and Mary Douglas, all of whom contributed to what Leinhardt (1975), called the early theoretical capital of the generation that came into academic seniority after the Second World War. By the time that Beattie and Middleton edited Spirit Mediumship and Society in Africa (1969), social anthropology had captured the imaginations of black Africans who were turning to the discipline for answers to questions about making development schemes successful in culturally heterogeneous societies. In the 1930s, Jomo Kenyatta from Kenya would study under Malinowksi, his Facing Mount Kenya was published in 1938. Kofi Busia from Ghana (1962) and Cheik Anta Diop from Senegal (1974), who had emerged as defenders of the right of Africans to be part of world history, were also deeply committed to anthropology.
The emergence of African ethnology in France was to await the return of Georges Balandier (1966), Jacques Lombard (1967) and others to the university system. Balandier, one of the leading French political anthropologists, would influence a whole generation of French anthropologists but also drew a lot of inspiration from Great Britain. He trained a whole new group of French anthropologists including Claude Meillassoux (1968), Marc Augé (1985), Jean Copans (1990) and others.
However, the development of anthropology in France was largely the work of two key government sponsored institutes: Institut Francaise pour l’Afrique Noire (IFAN)) and Organisation de Recherche Scientifique et Technique d’Outre Mer (ORSTOM). IFAN was established principally to document, for comparative purposes, the customs and traditions of African “ethnic nations.” ORSTOM, on the other hand, had a broad mandate allowing it to conduct more comprehensive studies in all French colonies, including Africa, by focusing on social, human, mineral, health and geological research. The creative work of ORSTOM would, like its British counterpart, also generate massive amounts of ethnographic data.
Under Claude Meillassoux, Marxist anthropology would again capture the imagination of Africanists across the world. As an ideology, not just as a theory of history, it was more sympathetic to the fight against capitalists and the imperial project of the west, than was the empiricist tradition of Great Britain. French anthropologists would leave their anthropological ghetto as French speaking scholars and explore the rest of the continent. To their great surprise, they found a totally different intellectual and academic outlook. And, of course, there was the huge language barrier between French and British anthropologists. As we will see, the PAAA would, from its beginning in 1989, take this issue on directly and make a conscious effort to deal with it.
Ironically, despite their use of anthropologists in the colonial enterprise, officials at the British colonial office were profoundly suspicious of anthropologists, especially those who came from the practical school of anthropology headed by Bronislaw Malinowski. Some colonial administrators accused anthropologists of peddling “tribalism.” Nonetheless, under intense pressure from nationalists, Africanist anthropologists from the West withdrew from studies on the continent during the 1960s. They correctly feared that the post-colonial African leaders would endorse neither the old colonial policies of governance, nor those scholars who had supported those policies.
New Nation States and the University system
At independence, each new nation created its own institution of higher learning with a curriculum based on that of the European universities. It was assumed that the transfer of scientific knowledge was crucial for development and there was also an urgent need for trained manpower, especially in the civil service. For example, at independence one African nation had about 16 university graduates of whom 12 were priests and four were laymen. This was a need that was understood and supported by international donors, and among the first objectives of the new universities was to produce that manpower. Little attention was paid to the study of African cultures in the new university curricula. African faculty with overseas training were recruited to teach alongside, and gradually replace, expatriates. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the returning graduates were guaranteed salaries, housing, and even transportation.
The applied dimensions of the discipline would suffer a setback, however, as nationalist movements turned to modernization theory to transform Africa into what they hoped would be an economic power. These nationalist movements continued to regard anthropology as a tool of colonial subjugation and as a discipline of no relevance for the new and modernizing Africa (Nkwi 2000: 21). African and Africanist anthropologists found it difficult to practice their profession openly. At Makerere University in Kampala, for example, the British had established the Institute of Cultural Anthropology (ICA) to promote ethnographic research. This once flourishing institute disappeared into the sociology department (Crossman and Devisch 1999: 117).
Caught between a desire to break with the colonialist past and a desire to attain economic and social progress equivalent to that in the former colonial powers, some Marxist-oriented African leaders plunged into an ill-conceived economic development model called «African socialism,” or “communalism.” The model was an odd mixture of statist and classical development economics. Although many of these leaders claimed African roots for their political ideology, few relied on anthropology to provide the basis for such an ideology. Many spoke of African culture without comprehending what that might mean in practice. Two UNESCO conferences (one in Monrovia in 1979 and another in Yaoundé in 1984) called for the teaching of African languages and cultures, but this simply never happened in most countries. Anthropology could have provided the material for such a curriculum, but the discipline was not taken seriously, carrying the stigma, as it did, of its ties to the colonial past (Crossman P & Devisch, 1999:117, cf Sawadogo 1995).
The first call for a university for West Africa came from three 19th century black intellectuals: Dr. James Africanus Beale Horton (1835–1883), Edward Blyden (1832–1912), and Rev. James Johnson (1839–1917). Blyden, for example, called for an indigenous university that would “release Africa from the grip of the despotic mind and restore cultural self-respect among Africans” and Johnson called for “an institution that would leave undisturbed our peculiarities” (Wanderia, 1978:39-40, cf Odumosu, 1973).
A century later, while opening the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana-Legon, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the then president of Ghana, invited African scholars to study Africa in all of its complexities and diversity, in order to stimulate respect for the idea of African unity. The study of African cultures and people was not to be limited to conventional and regional boundaries. Nkrumah urged that all investigations “must inevitably lead towards the exploration of the connections between musical forms, the dances, the literature, the plastic arts, the philosophical and religious beliefs, the systems of government, the patterns of trade and economic organization that have been developed here in Ghana and in the cultures of other African peoples and other regions of Africa” (Rays, 1958:10, cf Hagan, 1989). In his book Africa Must Unite (Nkrumah 1963), culture is also a dominant theme. Anthropological studies would be part of the essential programs of the Institute.
As it turned out, if African socialism did not work then neither did the main opposing strategy for development. With profound respect for the scientific principles behind the hugely successful Marshall Plan in post-War Europe, African planners swallowed development theories that targeted investment in industrial development and human capital. Most African leaders in the early decades after independence followed a pattern of industry-first investment; the development of so-called urban growth poles (see Eicher ad Staatz 1986), all mixed with overbearing state involvement in the management of the economy.
The policies adopted in the 1960s and 1970s permitted the State to intervene at all levels, controlling market forces by providing credit and setting prices for commodities. The construction of the postcolonial State saw the disarticulation of economic, cultural, and ethnic differences, and the endorsement of the arbitrary colonial borders. Economic failure and criticism of State policies would lead to the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP) of the 1980s. Those programs demanded the separation of the state from the market economy, reducing public expenditure, and empowering the private sector (Coussy, 1991:123-139). These adjustments were the price of continued international loans and other supports, but were detrimental to the masses who would become poorer and poorer. During the 1990s, the new buzzword was “poverty alleviation”— referring to the poverty that had been created during the 1980s by the poorly executed SAPs of the international financial institutions.
These vitriolic attacks on the discipline retarded its progress as the “rejectionist syndrome” drove some of our social science colleagues to extremes. In 1991, Ife Amadiume, an African sociologist, recommended abolishing anthropology and turning it into “African social history and sociology of history” (Mafeje, 1997:22). As the criticism intensified in the 1970s three trends emerged. First, anthropology took cover within African Studies programs. Centers of African Studies emerged in many American universities, and analogous Institutes of African Studies flourished in most English-speaking African universities. Within those institutes, anthropology per se was taught and practiced. Second, the role of Marxist intellectuals in fighting imperialism and colonialism led to the emergence of Marxist anthropology. Marxism, as a philosophy, served as an intellectual cover for many European anthropologists desiring to continue doing anthropology in Africa without being accused by nationalist movements of being part of the colonial apparatus. Being a Marxist anthropologist was politically correct at the time. Third, anthropology was labeled as one of the branches of sociology and was taught within the nascent departments of sociology in African universities.
In South Africa, anthropology continued to function as a formal discipline at the universities of Cape Town, Witswatersrand, as well as at Rhodes and Natal universities. These institutions, however, provided little support to departments of anthropology at the so-called “bush-colleges” (i.e. Transkei, Unitra, Durban-Westville, Venda, the North, and so on) (cf. Svawda 1998). These “bush-colleges” had been established under the apartheid system to provide education to Blacks and the so-called Colored. The voelkerkunde tradition, the ideological ingredient of the apartheid system, continued at the Universities of Pretoria, Port Elisabeth, Stellenboesch and Bloemfontein. In 1996 the voelkerkunde tradition attempted to legitimate itself by joining the PAAA during the Association’s seventh annual conference in Pretoria. They were not admitted because of the tradition’s association with past racism. In 2000, however, the two traditions merged (Bogopa, 2000:2).
Despite the stigma of its colonialist past, many Africanists from Western universities continued to study anthropology after independence. The Rhodes Livingstone Institute continued to enhance the anthropology of Africa, while the Manchester School, with Africanists like Clyde Mitchell (1969), continued to publish on African anthropological issues. Other Africanists such as Elisabeth Colson (1971), Mary Douglas (1963), Audrey Richards (1969), and Ronald Cohen (1971) worked intensively for decades even after independence. Kofi Busia, the Ghanian who studied anthropology and established the Department of sociology at the University of Ghana-Legon, would even head the department of anthropology at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Jomo Kenyatta, a student of Malinowski, would use his anthropological skills to construct the mau mau movement to claim power in Kenya. Leading African anthropologists like Adam Kuper (1987), John Comaroff and Brian du Toit (1974), Archie Mafeje, and Maxwell Owusu (1970), left their countries in search of more conducive environments for serious anthropological work, while others like Kwesi Prah (1993), Godwin Nukunya (1969), Harris Memel-Fotê (1980) and Théophile Obenga (1985), remained in Africa to do research and teach anthropology.
In Francophone Africa, as OSRTOM’s influence began to diminish, institutes of human sciences were established outside of the university system. Within the universities, courses on marriage, kinship, African political and social institutions, and others with anthropological content were taught in departments of sociology; the teachers who taught these courses preferred to be called sociologists. This period coincided with the establishment of professional African studies associations in the U.S. and Canada and journals like the Journal of African Studies in 1974. French anthropological research continued in non-university settings, not only in ORSTOM, but also in the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the Musée de l’Homme, and the École Pratiques des Hautes Études (EPHE). This continued even after independence, perpetuating the colonial legacy of these institutions (cf Copans, 1990:32-36). During the 1960s and 1970s, however, the University of Paris X-Nanterre was the only one out of seventy six French institutions that offered anthropology at the undergraduate level (Copans 1990: 66-70).
These timid efforts within the French University system gained more impetus, however, under Georges Balandier and Pierre Alexandre. They established the Center for International Relations, (this was later known as the Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Internationales, or the Center for Studies and International Research) with a specific focus on Africa; and Marcel Merle and Albert Mabileau set up the Centre for the Study of Black Africa (Centre d’Etudes d’Afrique Noire) in Bordeau. After independence ORSTOM forged a new relationship with new institutes of human sciences throughout the former colonies, and it also continued to work under a new umbrella called the Institut de Récherche pour le Développement (IRD). In fact, in French speaking Africa ORSTOM remained, until the 1980s, the only credible institution with the resources to conduct serious anthropological work (that included archeology, linguistics, ethnology, and social anthropology). Even in countries such as Cameroon, where the Social Sciences Institute in the Ministry of Scientific Research collapsed during the Structural Adjustment Programs, ORSTOM continued its research work, though it did so without involving senior local scholars. Despite the slowdown of knowledge production and the reduction in scholarship, the anthropology of Africa continued to contribute to the development of comparative ethnological theory and to the academic debates of the 1960s and 1970s.
Policy Shifts and Years of Awakening
By the end of the 1970s, mounting evidence showed stagnation or decline in per capita growth rates in Africa. The failure of modernization theory to transform nascent modern African economies led development agencies to rethink their policies. The World Bank committed major resources to developing the “poorest of the poor”, which was basically an open admission that macro-level policies had failed to achieve their set objectives. As the micro-level approach became a real alternative, some argued for the need for input by anthropologists. This was based on the theory that these field-working scholars were in the best position to understand how, for example, food markets work in Africa as well as who the participants were (Reeves 1989: 86 – 111).
In Development from Below, illustrated through a series of case studies, David Pitt (1976) and others showed how development projects failed specifically when the people for whom the projects were intended to help did not participate in either the design or the implementation of those projects. Anthropologists with knowledge of local cultures would have argued for exactly that kind of input—though this might not have been enough to stave off failure. By the 1980s, the demand for anthropological input had strengthened. This had an impact on the small community of African anthropologists who were still operating underground in departments of sociology. These scholars consulted with NGOs and other bilateral and multi-lateral agencies regarding the design of development projects, but they had little involvement in the implementation process.
Another major policy shift involved the training of applied scientists for rural development. If the emphasis at independence was to produce a critical mass of people to run the post-colonial administration, by the early 1980s, the focus had shifted to improving agricultural production and the living standards of the rural poor. This required training Africans in agronomy, animal science, veterinary medicine, soil science, rural economics, rural sociology, and the emerging field of development anthropology. The Land Grant university system had worked agricultural miracles in the United States and the US government launched a massive program to help build and staff entire agricultural universities in Africa, based on that Land Grant model. Science and extension would be the key to a new Green Revolution. The Agricultural University of Dschang in Cameroon was one of the beneficiaries of such a policy. However, despite the training of over 40 faculty members, the country-wide agricultural extension model envisioned in the design of the university never occurred.
Another major impetus for engagement by anthropologists in development programs was the Alma Ata (in Kazakhstan) conference of 1978 on health care. The Declaration of Alma Ata called for a new emphasis on primary health care and on the participation of locals in the design and management of health systems. This shift from hospital-centered to people-centered health care gave medical anthropologists a window of opportunity. The Bamako Initiative —Africa’s interpretation of the Alma-Ata declaration —called for “health for all in the year 2000” and this further opened opportunities for medical anthropologists.1
. Immediate Burial
. Desinfection of Corpse
. Absence of Ritual
. Honour/Dressing of Dead
. Wake Keeping
. Return of the Dead
. Regular Cleaning of Tombs
. Non Respect of Ancestors
. Non Respect of Social Norms
. Violation Taboos (Fady)Another major policy shift took place at the joint conference of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA/UN) and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) held in 1984 in Arusha, Tanzania. This conference brought together experts to address the failure of Africa to produce economic and social prosperity after two decades of massive foreign assistance. In the final document, the ECA and OAU acknowledged that the beneficiaries of development had been marginalized in the process. The document failed, however, to acknowledge that the social sciences had also been left out of the process. Michael Cernea (1985) would also indicate the importance of culture and people-centered approach in his writings. Of course, the failure to achieve prosperity in Africa was not only the result of leaving social science out of development; corruption and ethnic violence both had significant roles to play.
The Cameroon Case
Through a process of slow and deliberate infiltration into the policy-making process, anthropology has come to be recognized in the intellectual circles of my own country, Cameroon. Anthropologists in Cameroon have been engaged with the State in several capacities. First, as employees of the State—civil servants—the duty of university professors has been to teach the subjects we are assigned. Second, some social scientists have become part of the State’s policy-making apparatus as members of government ministries, as deans of faculties, or even as the chancellors or vice chancellors of a university.
Cameroon became a German protectorate in 1884. For 32 years, until 1916, pacification operations to quell uprisings by ethnic groups that refused to recognize German sovereignty were conducted in the area. During this time, scanty ethnographic work was conducted (Nkwi 1989). When the combined forces of British and French troops defeated the Germans in 1915, Cameroon was split into two parts and administered under the League of Nations. France administered almost two thirds of the original German territory, while Britain took over the rest of the territory that bordered on Nigeria and administered it from Lagos. ORSTOM and CNRS worked in the French speaking part of Cameroon, collecting and analyzing ethnographic data. The creation of Études Camérounaise by these French institutions offered an opportunity to all scholars to publish their findings in a unique journal. Some of the well-known anthropologists who worked during this period include Claude Tardits (1960) and Phillipe Laburthe-Tolra (1985) from France and Peter Geshiere (1983,1984) from the University of Leiden.
Between 1916–1960, while OSRTOM and CNRS conducted anthropological surveys in French Cameroon, anthropologists from Oxford and the University College of London focused on collecting ethnographic material to give the British colonial administration a better picture of the ethnic diversity of the so-called British Cameroons. Phyllis Kaberry from London (1952), Sally Chilver (1968) and Edwin Ardener (1958, 1966) from Oxford would spend their young lives building the basis of future anthropological work in English Cameroon. A younger generation of anthropologists, including myself, would be inspired by the massive amount of ethnographic data accumulated and sometimes published in the Journal Nigerian Fields. This generation would include Philip Burnham (1996), Michael Rowlands, Jean Pierre Warnier (1993) and Richard Fardon (1990).
In 1973 the government of Cameroon decided to reorganize the research that had remained largely in the hands of French scholars. Of the seven institutes created, one institute was reserved for the social and human sciences. Within this institute a department of anthropology was established and the first head of the institute was an anthropologist. The Institute of Human Sciences remained in existence until 1993 when the government shut it down and moved the researchers to various ministries. The reasons for its closure were largely political. With the push for democracy of the 1990s, as well as the political engagement of many of the institute’s researchers, the government came under criticism for its mismanagement and for the growing economic crisis. At least ten anthropologists accepted transfers to various government departments, while others refused to accede to government pressure and instead joined various opposition parties.
Earlier, in 1962, the Federal University of Cameroon had been established. Within its Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, there was a department of sociology and it was headed by a French anthropologist. As such, anthropological research and teaching continued at the university for years, although the courses were referred to as sociology. It must be said that the emerging state of Cameroon was not hostile to anthropology, for it continued to invite and deliver research clearance to researchers from Europe, America and Asia (especially Japan).
I joined the Department of Sociology in 1976. Being the first from the English-speaking part of Cameroon, my first assignments were to assist and counsel English-speaking students as well as to teach basic courses in anthropology. Two other colleagues, who were trained in France in general ethnology, taught courses in the department as well as in the Faculty of Law and Economics. 2 While I identified myself with anthropology, they continued to call themselves sociologists. Then came the crisis of 1978. The university administration convened a meeting of the heads of departments within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. As acting head of the department, I attended the meeting, chaired by the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor. The Dean of the Faculty, a historian, presented a report on reforms in the faculty that implied that sociology, and anthropology would be phased out from the university curriculum. After a series of meetings involving the departmental staff, university authorities, and the government the Minister of Education called off the reforms. Strict instructions were given to the Dean to maintain sociology and anthropology in the curriculum, but the reforms were put in place nonetheless. Sociology and anthropology would be taught as part of philosophy, but no BA degrees were awarded.
When the first continent-wide conference of African anthropologists was held in 1989, the Ministry supported it and provided resources. To highlight the importance of anthropology as a teaching subject, the Minister of Higher Education asked the Chancellor of the University of Yaoundé to open the conference in the name of the Cameroon government. In welcoming the 35 African anthropologists from 21 universities, the Chancellor called on anthropologists to take their rightful place in the development arena and to show what the “discipline can do to solve some of the problems Africa was facing.” From 1993 on we rebuilt the discipline, designing courses for the Bachelor’s, Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in anthropology. Prior to this, the Bachelor’s degree was not offered in anthropology. Just eight students declared anthropology as their major in the 1993-1994 academic year, but the number grew to over one hundred just a decade later. In the 2002-2003 academic year, there were 525 students majoring in anthropology, not to mention the same number of students taking it as their minor.
During this period, I witnessed the increased involvement of the social sciences in health, agriculture, animal, environmental, and population research programs funded by the government. There were several reasons for this. First, the proliferation of development programs increased the demand for social science input in general, and for anthropology in particular. Second, the university reforms that took place in the 1980s across Africa offered an opportunity for the enhancement of sociology and anthropology teaching programs. For example, in 1985 the University of Nairobi established a full department of anthropology within the Institute of African studies; and the University of Yaoundé started a full degree program in anthropology in 1993, giving students access to both undergraduate and graduate degrees in anthropology.
Kilbride (1994:10) notes that Kenyan anthropologists were “struggling to resurrect anthropology from the ash heap of its colonial associations by advocating anthropology in diverse public and private forums.” By 1994, he said, Kenyan anthropology was flourishing “at universities and institutes with research on such issues as overpopulation, polygyny, the status of women, AIDS and sexuality, tourism and children’s health.” Anthropology had to rediscover itself both as an academic discipline as well as a discipline that could help to solve problems. Anthropologists had to show that they were not peddlers of tribalism but that they sought to expand the horizons of human knowledge and to adapt to new areas and the challenges of development (Montero 2002:8)
At the University of Yaoundé, anthropology and sociology remained- for historical reasons- in one department, but awarded separate degrees at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. With increased resources and the desire to evolve independently, sociology and anthropology went their separate ways. Anthropology expanded its teaching and research and attracted an increasing number of students. The increased demand for consulting work provided visibility for anthropologists. This in turn pressured them to assert their identity and to highlight the dual academic and applied approaches of the discipline. Application was seen by many of us as the best option for the discipline to claim its lost glory. Given the strong market for professionals in both national and international development work, I argued that anthropology was a social science discipline ripe for professionalization. Many of us in academia who were already active in consulting knew exactly what was necessary. Targeting critical areas such as general health, reproductive health, population growth, the environment, and agricultural development led to the design of courses in medical anthropology, development anthropology, and environmental impact assessment. Today, the University of Yaoundé-I has one of the most active and dynamic departments of anthropology in Central Africa, attracting students from the entire region. This department played a vital role in the creation of the Pan African Anthropological Association.
The formation of the PAAA was one of a series of events in the late 1980s and early 1990s that helped integrate anthropology into the discourse of development in Africa.
First, was the establishment of CASA, the Council on Sociology and Anthropology in Africa, by CODESRIA, (the Council for the Development of Economic and Social Research in Africa) in 1987. UNESCO’s Regional Bureau for Social Sciences in Dakar, known by its French acronym, BREDA, endorsed the initiative and provided initial resources to establish the association. In 1988 CASA held its first conference in Abidjan, bringing senior sociologists and anthropologists together for the first time. The government of Ivory Coast, under then President Felix Houphouët Boigny, provided substantial financial support for the consolidation of the association, but CASA failed to market itself to anthropologists and sociologists across the continent.
The second event was a spontaneous meeting of African anthropologists during the Twelfth International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (ICAES) in Zagreb in 1988. The ICAES is the meeting of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, it has been held every five years since 1934. In 1986 Lake Nyos in Cameroon exploded, killing over 1800 people. I was studying the disaster and was invited by the Center for Environmental Studies at the University of Leiden, Netherlands to present a paper at the ICAES on how anthropologists, in collaboration with colleagues from other disciplines, approached the study of disaster mitigation (Nkwi 1992).
After my presentation, which was attended by a few African colleagues, I ran into George Hagan and Albert Awedoba, from Ghana, while they were having coffee with Adam Kuper. Kuper was the then newly elected president of the European Association of Social Anthropology (EASA) and he encouraged the three of us —Hagan, Awedoba and me —to establish an African anthropological association. A chance meeting with H. Russell Bernard from the University of Florida, Gainesville, who was attending the same conference, would also contribute to the PAAA’s training programs.
The third important event was a workshop organized in 1991 by CODESRIA in Dakar to review the status of anthropology in Africa. It was an attempt to reassert CODESRIA’s determination to revive or establish professional associations. This workshop brought together a small group of established anthropologists from different theoretical and ideological persuasions. Most participants were keenly aware of the fast-paced globalization of science that was underway and were convinced of the need for greater collaboration between anthropology and other social sciences. For example, during that meeting, I argued that the emphasis should be placed on the reorganization of the discipline rather than on the “deconstruction” of ethnography and Abdalla Bujra argued for a constructive engagement of anthropology in the development enterprise.
Fourth, and most important, was the increasing engagement of the discipline in applied work generally. While anthropologists must continue to produce knowledge as their primary objective, they cannot remain indifferent to the problems faced by local communities every day. How many anthropologists confront their governments for failing to improve the quality of life of the people? How many produce ethnographies as their Ph.D. theses, obtain their degrees, and promote their careers, while remaining indifferent to the plight of people whom they studied? What use is anthropology if we do not listen to the people and assist them in finding lasting solutions to their daily problems? Anthropology must and can find ways to survive as a useful discipline without sacrificing scholarship.
It is against this background that a group of African anthropologists sought the assistance of the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research to establish the Pan African Anthropological Association. A few of the Africans who attended the 1988 ICAES got together at that congress and formed a steering committee to organize a meeting of African anthropologists. We sent a letter to vice-chancellors of African universities asking them to identify anthropologists who might attend the conference. Thirty-five participants from 21 universities across Africa attended the first conference held in September 1989. It was organized around the theme “Teaching and Practice of Anthropology in Africa.” Approximately eighty percent of the participants had been trained as anthropologists; the remaining twenty percent were from sociology, education and philosophy. Some participants described the conference as a unique occasion for anthropologists to emerge from their “academic bunkers” and practice the discipline openly and with a sense of purpose and pride.
Since 1989, the PAAA has organized twelve annual conferences and a series of training workshops for junior anthropologists. The association has also worked hard to bring the discipline closer to other social sciences. The future of anthropology depends, we feel, on how well the discipline integrates with the other social sciences. For anthropology to attract funds it must take on, and bring a unique perspective to, research problems that are common to other social sciences.
The establishment of the PAAA was guided by four motivating needs: a) the need to break professional isolation; b) the need to improve teaching and training programs; c) the need to improve research capacity and enhance publication possibilities; and, d) the need to increase opportunities for African anthropologists to participate in the growing market for consultants and for their effective participation in multi-disciplinary development teams. All of these desires were captured in the constitution adopted at the end of the first PAAA conference.
While the PAAA has helped revive anthropology on the continent, Africanists in Europe and the USA have also been reorganizing themselves, seeking greater visibility in the world of scholarship in general. In 1991, the French scholars established the Association Euro-Africaine pour l’Anthropologie du Changement Social et du Dévelopment (APAD), mobilizing Africanists in Europe to share information on the anthropology of change. In the USA in the early 1990s, Africanist anthropologists began to lobby for the establishment of an Africanist branch of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) (Catell, 1996). Their efforts were rebuffed at first, but eventually, the Association for Africanist Anthropology (AfAA) was established within the AAA. Leaders of both initiatives, the AfAA and the APAD, declared that they would work with African anthropologists for the promotion and enhancement of the discipline on the continent.
Unfortunately, after more than a decade, neither the AfAA nor the APAD have initiated constructive engagement with the PAAA, the only continent-wide professional association of anthropologists in Africa. While the PAAA has made substantial progress, the problems of running an international organization in Africa are daunting. The constituent national bases of professional anthropologists remain weak, due to lack of resources at the local level. The PAAA counts over 550 colleagues among its members, but few can pay their dues regularly because of the low salaries in African universities. In addition, members cannot finance their own way to meetings. Participants in the PAAA’s annual conference expect the organizers to pay all expenses and this is not likely to change for some time. On the other hand, few of our Africanist colleagues in anthropology from wealthier parts of the world—including Africans who have migrated to greener pastures—attend the PAAA’s annual conference. In fact, only one American colleague, Maxwell Owusu (University of Michigan), has consistently attended the PAAA conferences since 1996.
THE CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT OF PAAA
To assert its presence within the African social science community, the PAAA focused on the training of young professionals and on networking activities. We emphasized applied anthropology as the focus of academic work in order to rehabilitate a discipline that had been discredited in the post-colonial era. Many colleagues of my generation in Africa stood against those in the West who maligned applied anthropology. The West invented anthropology to study the “Other” and it defined the canons. But in developing economies, where resources are scarce, science has to be either useful or be gone. Under these conditions—when the so-called “other” comes to study itself—disdain for applied anthropology perforce dissipates.
As Kottak describes it, the ivory-tower approach demands that anthropologists “should avoid practical matters and concentrate on research, publication and teaching” (1997:254). Most African anthropologists, however, follow what Kottak calls the “schizoid approach.” This demands that anthropologists “should provide information for policy formulation but should not be part of the implementation process” in order to keep personal value judgments separate from scientific work (ibid). Advocacy, however, calls for greater engagement of anthropologists in designing policies that promote wellbeing or that protect people from harmful development schemes. This approach motivates a large number of African students who want to be part of the anthropological enterprise without being castigated for not doing anthropology.
Precisely because the applied option dominates anthropology in Africa, the need to stay current in method and theory remains critical. During the first PAAA conference in 1989, many participants argued that addressing important human issues, such as the need for health care, the spread of famine, rapid population growth, environmental degradation, discrimination and violence against women, poverty, and ethnic violence would enhance the discipline’s tarnished image. These problems, which affect the most vulnerable members of our African communities, could not be addressed without appropriate training in method and theory. Every brand of anthropology—interpretivist and materialist, qualitative and quantitative, applied and basic—must aim for excellence of scholarship. This was the vision for the PAAA’s training program. The program seeks to increase the skills of our youngest members so that they can compete successfully with colleagues everywhere for grants, publications in prestigious journals, consulting work and academic jobs.
The association established professional networks for the exchange of information and experiences in dealing with basic human suffering and problems. These networks organized training workshops for acquiring skills in writing proposals, in publishing the results of research, and in the use of software for data analysis. By addressing contemporary problems, the networks became a vehicle for the exchange of ideas and experiences. This, in turn, enhanced the teaching and practice of anthropology.3
If the discipline were to survive and make itself visible, the PAAA had to understand the internal logics of other sciences. Their participation in team efforts had to be more than just a token, with an anthropologist drafted into a project simply to fulfill a funding condition. Anthropologists had to offer something of intellectual and practical value. The workshops also attracted other social scientists, enhancing and promoting interdisciplinary collaboration. Over the years, African anthropologists have worked closely with environmental biologists, organic chemists, economists, demographers, health providers, and others. This experience showed that multi-disciplinary work is mutually enriching since each discipline draws on its unique insights to attain a common goal. Another area of concern was the lack of good libraries in African universities. Most institutions cannot even afford new books, let alone expand their library space. All participants in the PAAA workshops received basic training in computing, if they had none, or upgrading of their computer skills, if they already had some. It was our conviction that acquiring such skills would empower young scholars to access libraries abroad electronically and keep them abreast of the latest developments in anthropology. Libraries in African universities can concentrate on the collection of materials that are unavailable elsewhere – the kind of materials that scholars everywhere require for research on African cultures and societies.
One of the problems identified during the first conference was the lack of refereed anthropology journals. In 1992, we established the journal African Anthropology that became The African Anthropologist in 1994. This journal is a forum for African scholars and Africanists around the world to debate, exchange ideas, and contribute to the social science discourse on issues of importance to the continent. Articles on development issues have dominated the journal, now in its tenth volume. Almost all articles submitted for publication focus on practical issues associated with health, agriculture, politics, the environment, ethnicity and ethnic conflicts. These articles are often the byproducts of consulting work in which African anthropologists are increasingly involved. As part of its efforts to increase the quality of articles, the PAAA includes writing clinics in its training programs.
While many of the activities of the PAAA have been successful, others have not. One of the most glaring failures has been our inability to incorporate the growing number of African anthropologists who work full-time outside of academia. The link between this large group of applied anthropologists and those teaching continues to be very weak. And, despite their growing numbers, only a few non-academic anthropologists have either joined or have chosen to participate in PAAA programs or publications. Although a similar problem plagues the mainline anthropology associations in Europe and North America, the implications of this non-participation are more serious in Africa, given its profound impact on training and employment.
AFRICANISTS AND THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES
This article has attempted to tell the PAAA’s story from the perspective of an African who was affected strongly by the resurgence of African anthropology and sociology. My motivation for writing this article has been to provide some insights into how a North-South partnership can be fostered and reinforced.
The European and American traditions of the discipline are distinct and the discipline surely deserves an African twist as well. It is time for the social sciences, including anthropology, across Africa to regroup and to face the challenges that confront us as a continent and as part of the human family: Disease, hunger, HIV/AIDS, ethnic wars, poverty … We need to look for answers to these scourges. It will be salutary for Africans to bring their own particular perspectives to all the social sciences, including anthropology; but in science, as Bernard (2000:6) says, anything that is true in London or Paris is also true in Nairobi and Dakar. There is a visceral reaction among many intellectuals in the social sciences today against a scientific, or positivist perspective. It is particularly strong in anthropology, but African anthropologists, at least in some circles today, are rejecting this anti-science perspective and taking a leadership role in anthropology and development.
Although most Northern academics acknowledge the critical importance of working with colleagues from Africa, this has occurred only on a case-by-case basis with the Northern anthropologist almost always taking the lead. That is, their African academic colleagues are seen as key contacts for getting research clearance and background knowledge, without which the northern colleagues could not function. However, it is indeed rare indeed that the cash resources brought in by a Northern academic are shared appropriately with their southern partner or partner institutions.
Almost every day one or another of us in Africa is confronted with the myopic bellyaching of some First World anthropologists about the harsh conditions under which they work in their own country—their lack of funding for graduate assistants, their lack of funding for attending international meetings, and so on—with little reference to the conditions under which their African-based colleagues labor. These small, subtle indignities mirror deeper inequities that are only partially mitigated by the fat per diems that one may occasionally earn by attending a five-day conference in northern Europe or the US. The $600-1000 that one may save by eating crackers in one’s room rather than dining out is cold comfort when one returns to the everyday realities of a $350 per month salary, five children, and ne’er-do well relatives who depend on you.
African academics don’t want a handout; they want opportunities to work and earn their way. These opportunities exist and can be expanded and strengthened to benefit all of the parties involved, including the First World anthropologists who collaborate with them. To bring this about requires a series of small but doable changes in the formal academic training programs, grant administration procedures, and grant requirements to promote better partnership arrangements. These changes will need to be made in both African and Northern universities as well as in the professional associations. Strengthening the ability of Africans to organize and develop their own professional associations is a way to address all of these issues at once. Truly professional associations will link Northern and African anthropologists in a single intellectual, publishing, and teaching endeavor on a more equal footing.
1 As a local anthropologist, on several occasions I was called upon to participate in multidisciplinary team research bringing anthropological insights to bear on health issues. For example, in early 2000, an outbreak of cholera in Madagascar killed over a thousand people within a few months. The WHO regional headquarters in Harare, asked me to join a team of medical experts in Madagascar and evaluate the epidemic. The team, comprising two public health specialists, a physician, an epidemiologist, and an anthropologist spent four weeks visiting the affected areas, talking to health officials, the military, local people and politicians. At the end of the visit, after examining the ethnographic information and talking to officials about their prevention strategies, I produced a model that took into account the role of culture in the epidemic, and we recommended a drastic review of prevention strategies taking into account cultural inputs.
2 Pierre Titi and Joseph Mboui. The latter became a full professor after obtaining his doctorat d’état. He later became dean, then adviser to the the Prime Minister and ended his career as a Minister of National Education, after serving as permanent secretary. He is now Member of Parliament along with two other anthropologists.
3. As a matter of record, from 1992–1999, the PAAA trained 153 mid-career anthropologists in workshops supported by donations from the Carnegie Corporation ($200,000), the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research ($100,000), the World Bank ($15,000), UNFPA ($35,000) and UNESCO ($30,000). These trainees belonged to the following networks: the Network of African Medical Anthropologists (NAMA), the Network of African Population Anthropologists (NAPA), the Network of African Women Anthropologists (NAWA), the Network of African Environmental Anthropologists (NAEA), the Network of African Students in Anthropology (NASA), and ETHNO-NET AFRICA. This last network grew out of a meeting in Nairobi in 1995, sponsored by the UNESCO-MOST programme on the social problems facing the continent. The ETHNO-NET was designed as a network of African social scientists who can work together to collect data and who can serve as an advance warning system for ethnic conflicts.
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European University, St. Petersburg, Russia
The idea of anthropological (ethnographic) research came to Russia in the early-mid-nineteenth century from Germany, together with the Romantic ideas of the nation-state (Schweitzer 2001). The vast expanses of Siberia populated by several dozen indigenous peoples, were, alongside with Central Asia and the Caucasus, a natural field for anthropological research1 Siberian anthropology was particularly reinforced by the Jesup North Pacific Expedition (1897-1902), intellectually designed and led by Franz Boas. This event and the consequent research and publishing shaped, to a high extent, the Russian anthropological paradigm in the first two decades of the twentieth century, making it part of the international anthropological scene (see: Krupnik, Vakhtin: 2003).
Simultaneously, the specific character of Russian colonialism, as well as the theoretical mainstream of the Soviet ethnography, determined the development of Siberian anthropology in two respects: it was ethnohistorically biased, and it had an emphatic eschatological disposition. Russian (Soviet) ethnographers viewed the 'objects' of their research as people who will very soon become 'like us', hence their restraint from studies of contemporary conditions of 'the native peoples' and the tendency to study ethnic history. And, since the 'objects' of study were supposed to disappear soon and merge into a homogeneous mass (be it "citizens of the Empire", or "the Soviet people"), the primary mission of an ethnologist was to record this vanishing past – an approach Susan Gal (1989) calls 'pastoralist'.
This tendency was reinforced in Soviet times by fierce ideological pressure: the present was supposed to be described solely in accordance with ideologically approved prescriptions; as a matter of fact, this was also true for the past but still, the margin of free choice was, for social research of the present, much narrower. It was safer to turn away from the present and focus on the past. This, together with ideological censorship and a language barrier, caused a deep breach between Russian and Western anthropological traditions.
The situation in Siberian research changed after 1989: Siberian anthropology has once again become internationalized through fieldwork done in Siberia by scores of Western anthropologists (with a large share of joint projects) as well as by intensive academic contacts. This new development revealed interesting discrepancies between the two traditions, such as different approaches to the object of study, contrasting theoretical frameworks, different attitudes towards sharing outcomes of research, and different ethical procedures and requirements.
Siberian Anthropology at the Turn of the 20th Century: An International Enterprise
Although until the late eighteenth century foreigners made up the majority of Siberian researchers, they were, as a rule, employed by the Russian State, usually by the Academy of Sciences, and worked in close contact with Russian scholars. Some "foreigners" stayed in Russia for relatively short periods and viewed their assignments there as temporary, others spent their entire professional lives in Russia and considered themselves part of Russian science (Schweitzer 2001: 268 ff.).
Individual travellers, such as Mattias Kastren, Karl von Ditmar or Gerhard Maidel visited the 'Land of Siberia' in the 1850s and 1860s and left valuable descriptions of it (see, for example, Kastren 1860; von Ditmar 1901; Maidel 1894; and compare with Schweitzer 2001: 112–116). Still, in the first two thirds of the nineteenth century Siberia, a vast and remote country, with scanty population and very few literati, wasn't a particularly fascinating field of regular research for Russian science. It was only in the last third of the nineteenth century that ethnology and ethnography developed in Russia into independent and popular academic disciplines. In 1889, the first issue of Etnograficheskoe Obozrenie (Ethnographic Survey) was published,2 in 1890 the first issue of Zhivaya starina (Living Antiquity) appeared; in 1894 Academician Radlov became director of the Kunstkamera museum in St. Petersburg, which turned, under his leadership, into an active and modern research institution (Schweitzer 2001: 138–142).
In 1880s, the interest in Siberian research grew with the growth of the urban educated population there. Sections of the Russian Geographical Society were established in Siberia (first in Irkutsk, later in the Far East – Shirina 1983; 1993); in 1888 the first Siberian University was opened in Tomsk (Schweitzer 2001: 137). An important role in encouraging ethnological research in Siberia (especially in its north-eastern part) was played by the famous Jesup North Pacific Expedition and by the fact that several Russian scholars were able to take part in its work.
The Jesup North Pacific Expedition (JNPE), which was planned, organized and carried out by Franz Boas, was a major enterprise. It so happened that two, and later three Russian scholars became members of the expedition – and simultaneously they became informal students of Boas. These people who had in their young years participated actively in the revolutionary movement, were members of the Narodnaya Volia (People's Freedom) insurgent party; in the 1880s they were arrested and exiled to Siberia for ten years. In Siberia, they became interested in indigenous languages and ethnographies, conducted field research, collected anthropological data and returned to St. Petersburg right at the time when Boas wrote to Academician Radlov asking to help him find specialists in Siberian ethnography for his expedition.
These three people – Vladimir Bogoraz and Vladimir Jochelson, and later Leo Sternberg became during the 1910 to 1920s the "founding fathers" of Siberian studies; the organisers of the famous Institute of the People of the North (Bogoraz and Sternberg), and active members of the Committee of the North (1921–1935). They not only determined, in the early years of the Soviet regime, the directions, format and theoretical framework of anthropological education and research, but also influenced considerably the Soviet policy towards Siberian indigenous peoples and their languages in the 1920s. (For details of the expedition, see: Freed et al. 1988; Fitzhugh, Krupnik 2001; Vakhtin 2001; Schweitzer 2001: 153 ff.; and other works; on Soviet national and language policy, see: Silver 1974; Kreindler 1984; Alpatov 1994; 1997; Slezkine 1996; Vakhtin 2003, and many others).
Among other things, the JNPE project produced for the first time in Siberian anthropology a stream of dozens of contributions under a common agenda that were written, edited, translated, and delivered across the language and political barriers for almost thirty years.3 The partnership established during the years of the project was seemingly on its way to be extended to the second generation of scholars raised by the original JNPE members – a development which never happened (Krupnik, Vakhtin 2003); as we shall see below.
During this period, Russian and Western research in and on Siberia went hand in hand, supporting and nourishing one another in both theoretical approaches and field data.4 The new academic discipline – ethnology – triumphantly developed in Western Europe and the United States and strongly influenced Russian ethnological thinking whose mottoes at that time were pragmatism and descriptive fieldwork (Slezkine 1993: 114; compare: Schweitzer 2001).
Air-Tight Vault: Post-1917 Soviet Siberanists
After the 1917 revolution in Russia, Russian and European-North American ethnologies went along different paths. In the first years after the revolution, there emerged in Russian ethnology certain innovative tendencies that had been formed on common grounds with, and not without influence from, those in Europe: "scholars moved from diachrony and historicism to synchrony, function, and structure" (Slezkine 1996: 830). From a different perspective, these tendencies can be defined as 'internationalist'.
I will not go into details here; let me simply refer to one example from a "hard-boiled evolutionist", Leo Sternberg. In his address given in 1921 before the annual meeting of the Geographic Institute.5 Sternberg formulated the scholarly paradigm that he and his colleagues had made the backbone of the Institute's teaching program, the essence of ethnological education and research. Although this paradigm was clearly evolutionist, the concept of ethnicity was regarded not as an intrinsic characteristic of all people but rather as a surface representation of inner unity. The corner stone of this paradigm was the idea of a united humankind: equality and fraternity of all peoples regardless of their place of the "ladder of civilization". According to Sternberg, ethnology was a science that was supposed, through exact analytical methods and on the basis of numerous collected facts, the "basing of inexhaustible treasury of facts about the life of all peoples, all stages of culture, all epochs", to demonstrate the universal character of human culture (*25).
Other scholars of the time formulated similar ideas: historian Pokrovskii, linguist Marr 6, as well as those linguists who were active in the 1920s in the language policy movement. Publications of the time about 'the national question', languages, writing systems and alphabets are full of statements that emphasize the necessity, value and advantages of giving equal support to all cultures and all languages, regardless of the number of speakers (see, for example, publications in the official Bulletin of Ministry of Education 7). In all, non-Russian primary schools of the country instruction in, and on, native languages was introduced – this was at the time the leitmotif of language and ethnic policy 8.
The ideas of 'the internationalists' were, no doubt, connected with political tendencies of the time – tendencies that quickly became less and less favorable. Archeologist S.N. Bykovsky wrote: "Zealously looking for ethnic or national features of a culture… an educated archaeologist… is "scientifically" endorsing the right of imperialists to snatch some territory or other" (1934; qtd in Shnirelman 1993: 56). As Victor Shnirelman rightfully comments, "…ethnogenetic studies, that is, attempts to trace specific ways of formation of individual peoples, were impossible under Stalin's internationalism. A scholar who risked to do this would be accused of imperial chauvinism or local nationalism" (Shnirelman 1993: 58) 9.
There were, of course, efforts to re-establish the true international format of Siberian research, but they, in this context, looked naïve. Such efforts were made, for instance, by Franz Boas who emphasized in a letter10 to the Russian Academy of Science that "[a]t the present time, the contact between American and Russian science is insufficient… [i]t is, therefore, highly desirable that an exchange of young scientists should be developed. This is particularly necessary in the domain of anthropology…” – the remaining part the letter offered a program of young scholars exchange. In 1928 Boas still tried to restore the lost contacts with his Russian colleagues; the letter, to my knowledge, was never answered.
Attempts to re-establish contact were made from the other side as well, especially from what might be called "the second Jesup generation" (Krupnik, Vakhtin 2003). A student of Bogoraz, Alexander Forshtein, 11 went in 1936 to Denmark as a research fellow at the National Museum of Copenhagen. From there he wrote a letter to Boas (30 June 1936) inquiring about an opportunity to come to the States on a long-term research grant. "Any interruption of our connections with America would be a very painful loss indeed", – he wrote. Boas answered two months later (20 August 1936) saying: "Pardon the long delay of my answer to your letter… I did not know what to answer. I have retired this year from active teaching… I believe that work in America might be very useful for you but I do not know just what to suggest…".
The era of internationalism ended by 1934: At the seventeenth Communist Party Congress Stalin announced that the principle enemy now was local nationalism. In 1936 Pokrovskii's approach to history was purged, together with many historians; the concept of the Russian people was rehabilitated as a legitimate object of research (Shnirelman 1993: 58). The orientation of Soviet ethnography (as well as archaeology and linguistics) changed from internationalist ideas to concepts of ethnic specificity, to research in history of individual ethnic groups etc. Victor Shnirelman connects these changes with changes in Stalin's general politics: About this time hopes for the world revolution died out, and it became clear that the only plausible policy for the Bolsheviks was to establish a strong Soviet state, to "recreate, under the guise of the Soviet Union, the political and administrative structure of the [Russian] Empire" (Shnirelman 1993: 54–56). Similar changes took place in language policy: with all the violence of Stalin's methods, a turn was made to predominant support of the national language – Russian – that is, in Alpatov's terms, to 'normal' language policy in a multiethnic state moving towards industrialization (Alpatov 1994).
For ethnology, this had very serious consequences: it brought along "the sharp downturn in the fortunes of unorthodox intellectuals in the Soviet Union" (Brandist 2002a: 9). While in the 1920s, in spite of the financial conditions of the country, extensive fieldwork was carried out, by the mid-1930s this work was almost totally stopped, and ethnography "became nothing but a theory of primitive communism" (Slezkine 1993: 120). In 1932 N.M. Matorin, a leading Soviet ethnographer, declared that to continue fieldwork in the modern conditions was imperialism. He also claimed that ethnography had no right to study contemporary issues: there is nothing specifically 'ethnographic' in modern kolkhozes (Matorin 1931: 20–21; qtd in Slezkine 1993: 120). Ethnology and ethnography in the Soviet Union were declared, for almost 10 years, redundant and useless (better to translate Russian vrednyi as 'evil', or 'sinister'); serious research was terminated. From the mid-1930s and for many years, the main research topic for the Soviet ethnography became ethnogenesis, that is, archaeological and ethnographic, and partly linguistic, investigation of the formation of "ethnoses" – ethnic groups. From this point on, mutual understanding between Soviet ethnography and Western anthropology began to decrease (Shnirelman 1993: 52). Soviet ethnographers did not do research on "cultures"; rather, their main task was to capture, understand and glorify the imperceptible "ethnos" (Slezkine 2001: 362–363).
In 1932, a Moscow meeting of Soviet archaeologists and ethnographers approved a resolution that stated immediate tasks for ethnographic research. Ethnographers, according to the document, were to study:
(1) the process of ethnogenesis and territorial distribution of ethnic / national groups; (2) material production in its specific (ethnic) variants; (3) the origin of family; (4) the origin of classes; (5) the origin of various forms of religion and art; (6) forms of deterioration of primitive communism [and] feudal society in capitalist surroundings; (7) forms of transition from pre-capitalist formations directly to socialism, and (8) construction of culture, national in its form and socialist in its content12 (Sovetskaya etnografiya, 1932, Vol. 3; qtd in: Slezkine 1993: 119).
This emphasis on ethnic groups, combined with political pressure, gave birth to another interesting feature of Soviet ethnography of the 1930s (and later): ethnographers became agents of the State. Writes Yuri Slezkine: with the coming to power of the Bolsheviks the essence of national policy became a fight to converge ethnic borders with administrative ones, which meant that most ethnographers had to become administrators (Slezkine 2001: 342). Ethnographers had to study ethnic groups? – well, those ethnic groups first had to be constructed, delineated and made rigid. Another author supports this: "A hallmark of Soviet State ethnography has been a concern with establishing those [ethnic] boundaries between people which later became real administrative borders" (Anderson 2000b: 135). And below: "…the fluid boundaries between identity groups… have been made solid and impermeable partly through official ethnographic action" (ibid: 141).
In other words, when in the late 1930s Soviet politics, ideology, and then science returned to the idea of ethnos, and science began to study ethnogenesis and describe differences in 'material' and 'spiritual' culture between different ethnoses (see: Anderson 2000a: 77 ff.), contributing to constructing the ethnoses and, by that, laying the basis for future ethnic conflict. As Shirokogorov wrote in the 1930s (Anderson also quotes him: 8) "The ethnographers' intention to show the inferiority of these small nations and the need of 'protecting them' results from the general attitudes of the great nations… while they seek impartial truth, they are thus preparing the most perfected weapon for the ethnic struggle in the future" (Shirokogoroff 1933: 168).
Beginning from the late 1930s Slavic-Russian ethnography became the main field of studies for ethnogenetic research. The purpose of these studies was to prove a self-driven formation of a resourceful and productive early Slavic culture, and to demonstrate that Germanic cultures had been underdeveloped, and their influence on neighboring cultures had been totally negative. This was an answer to "ethnogenetic expansion" of German ethnologists: Soviet authors of the 1940s were ready to discover "ancient Slaves" almost everywhere. Soviet authors set apart for the Germanic peoples as insignificant a place as German authors of the 1920-30s allotted to Slavic people (Shnirelman 1993: 62–63). All this "academic research", especially in late 1940s through the early 1950s, was aimed at intimidating the defeated Germany, to "prove" the primitiveness of ancient German culture, and to honor Russia above its Western neighbours (Shnirelman 1993: 63) – that is, it had all sorts of goals but they were not scientific. The roots of ethnogenetic research in the Soviet Union were in "the struggle for the past" (Shnirelman 1993: 64), in the craving to establish a Slavic ethnogenetic myth.13
The journal Sovetskaia etnografiia for 1946 through 1955 demonstrates the following quantitative distribution of papers: 151 papers on ethnogenesis, ethnic statistics, ethnic cartography, research on ethnic composition and ethnonyms; 294 papers on various aspects of subsistence and material culture; 56 papers – on social structure, family and marriage relations, and 182 papers on folklore of different ethnic groups (Sovetskaya etnografiia 1956). Most papers on specific ethnographic or linguistic issues contain in their titles references to ethnicity or ethnogenesis.
After 1936–37, when unrestricted terror began and many ethnographers were arrested, "uncertainty and horror were so strong that those ethnographers who were still not in prison almost lost the gist of the speech" (Slezkine 1993: 122–123). Ethnography – in Matorin's and Bykovskii's version – was revived only after the World War II, and ethnographers returned to studies of what was required by the resolution of the 1932 meeting mentioned above.
The Soviet Union thus became "the first State in history that legalized ethno-territorial federalism, classified all citizens in accordance with their 'biological nationality', and formally ascribed a policy of governmental preference by ethnicity" (Slezkine 2001: 330; see also: Brubaker, Cooper 2000). As another author writes, "…reduction of national to ethnic is a characteristic feature of Russian social sciences" (Malakhov 2002: 12).
The Dam Breaks Down: Cultural Anthropologists in an Ethnographic Field
One of the inevitable consequences of the claustrophobic development of the Soviet State was the isolation of scholars, including those who did ethnographic and linguistic research in Siberia. I do not mean isolation from new theoretical achievements of Western science: even in the Soviet times, there were scholars who watched carefully what was going on in the West. The problem was that Russian ethnographers could work only within the approved theoretical paradigm; and that Russian and Western scholars could not work together in the field: for many decades, the Siberian 'field' was completely sealed.14
As a matter of fact, individual Western ethnologists could sometimes find a way to work in Siberia even before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In 1975, Marjorie Mandelstam-Balzer managed to get, partly illegally, to northern Siberia; in the mid-1980s she began fieldwork in Western Siberia among the Khanty people, and in Yakutia, among the Sakha people. Caroline Humphrey did fieldwork in southern Siberia, among the Buryats in the late 1970s. Piers Vitebsky also began to do fieldwork in Yakutia fairly early, in 1986.
However, Western fieldwork in Siberia in Soviet times had 'official', that is, approved and controlled, status. Western scholars, who had to be formally invited by the Academy of Science, were carefully passed on from one academic institution to another, they were told where they could go and where they were not allowed to go; their contacts were strictly monitored and controlled by what was then called 'the competent organizations' (Soviet euphemism for KGB); besides, their stays in Siberia usually were brief.
At the turn of the 1980s through the 1990s, the serene landscape of Soviet Siberian studies was shattered by the unanticipated arrival of 'other' foreign anthropologists. These 'foreigners' came in a different manner. These were young people, postgraduate students in anthropology from all over the world, magnetized by the sudden accessibility of a vast anthropological 'field'. In full accord with the traditions of British and North American anthropology, they came to the area for a long period of time, usually for a year, often more; they moved about on their own, with no control from the State officials; they made friends with the local people, lived in villages and camps, stayed with families, roamed with indigenous reindeer herders on the tundra, fished and hunted with indigenous hunters and fishers in the taiga and, generally, behaved like free people, cheerfully breaking, in the eyes of the bewildered local administration, all the unwritten rules of the Soviet era.
It may not be an exaggeration to say that in the late 1980s there appeared in the West, and especially in North America, a real craze for Siberia. In the late 1980s and early to mid1990s, over a dozen young anthropologists who graduated from universities in the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Norway and France. They managed to complete serious fieldwork in Taimyr and Yakutia, in Chukotka and Sakhalin, in Kamchatka and Yamal to collect data for their Ph.D. projects15. By the end of the 1990s, this work began to produce results: publications appeared, first articles, then books;16 their authors found jobs at anthropology departments of universities in the USA, Canada, UK, Finland, France, Germany; and they became permanent participants of academic conferences of Siberian anthropology both in Russia and abroad. Russian scholars who did research on cultures and languages of Siberia began to feel a metamorphosis of their academic landscape.
This metamorphosis can be perceived in several respects.
First of all, the (invisible) international academic community of Siberian anthropologists has grown considerably in numbers, and has become much younger. Approximately three dozen Russian anthropologists and linguists who did research in and on Siberia have been reinforced by a strong and active cohort, comparable in numbers, of foreign scholars, whose advent has markedly transformed the community. Alongside with this "mechanical population increase", the numbers in Russian anthropology decreased steadily, due both to natural causes and to the departure of Russian scholars from the underpaid discipline (as well as, in many cases, from the country), as well as the fact that young Russian students seemed to be unwilling to enter a discipline that, in the early 1990s, seemed to have no career perspectives at all. Against the background of decreasing numbers of research staff in the Siberian departments of Institutes of Ethnology and that of Linguistics of the Academy of Science and the Universities of St. Petersburg, Moscow, Tomsk and Novosibirsk, and other traditional research centers, the advent of ten to fifteen young and energetic scholars from the West was a major transformation.17 Interestingly, among the Western Siberianists there are no 'generations': all of them are approximately of the same age. This creates special relations both within the group and between the group and their Russian colleagues.
The second important change in the Siberian academic landscape is the change of the object of anthropological research. Russian (Soviet) ethnological research, as I have mentioned, was always connected with the past, with tradition, with studies of cultures, languages and societies that are 'on the verge of extinction' and thus must urgently be recorded before it is too late. This isn't of course a Russian invention: as Susan Gal writes, claims about the inevitable disappearance of cultures, languages and dialects, soon after they were discovered, is a constant and central rhetorical figure of European ethnography of the 20th century. Scholars often were in search of remote rural areas, of elderly people, they were looking for archaic, unchanged and, hence, "genuine" and authentic elements of culture. Changes were interpreted as distortions, as loss of this "genuineness". Susan Gal calls this approach "pastoral": the past is the model, the present is regarded as "spoiled past". Although many scholars explicitly reject this approach, it still influenced their results (see: Gal 1989: 315-316).18
The opposite approach to the 'ethnographic field' – studies of contemporary social, cultural and linguistic features of modern communities – was, as I mentioned, totally washed away in the late 1920s by studies of 'ethnogenesis' and 'material culture'. The new cohort of young Western anthropologists brought this approach back: their work strongly emphasizes the present as a value in itself. They study contemporary reindeer herding, contemporary ethnic identities and conflicts, contemporary power and gender relations. This, as well as the fact that international foundations emphasized their support for research of contemporary topics, caused Russian scholars to adjust their research along the new – or, rather, forgotten – lines.
Another important transformation is what one might call changes in 'property relations' between Soviet Siberian anthropologists in dividing domains of study. For decades, these relations rested undisturbed: everybody knew who studied what, and who had "the right" to study what. In a way, Siberia was divided into 'spheres of influence' between scholars from Moscow, Leningrad, Novosibirsk, Tomsk and some other cities: it was rare that two scholars, be it linguists or ethnographers, did research in the same area or on the same language. This division of Siberia into 'hunting sites'--where each scholar had his or her 'legitimate' area, people, or language, and trespassing was definitely not welcomed-- can be explained partly by the small numbers of scholars: The field is too vast and human life too short to take more than one indigenous group or language for serious research. Partly, however, this situation was maintained consciously, and not always due to purely academic considerations.
The arrival of Western anthropologists changed this situation considerably. In the 1990s almost every Russian ethnologist discovered that they had acquired a colleague (or rivalry – depending on the point of view) who worked in the same area, in the same villages and often at the same time. "Natural monopoly" of Russian ethnologists over "their" people, area, or language came to an end.
The theoretical paradigm of Siberian research has also changed. Soviet ethnology worked, willingly or not, within pseudo-Marxist theory, developed and approved by several 'recognized' scholars, first of all – within the "theory of ethnos". Western scholars brought in new theoretical approaches. It is not that those ideas were totally new to Soviet scholars; but the mere fact that now it became possible to choose between approaches, between different conceptual and terminological systems, was a breath of fresh air for Russian scholarship.
I do not mean to say that all 'foreign' theories and methodologies were necessarily better, or that foreign scholars were free from theoretical stereotypes or fashions, with inevitable references to Mikhail Bakhtin and Lev Iakubinskii, Michel Foucault and Frederich Barth, Ernst Gellner and Benedict Anderson (references that often resemble the very unavoidable references to Marx, Engels and Lenin on the first pages of Soviet publications). However, the mere fact that these were different theories and that there was now a possibility of choice affected Russian ethnography.
Finally, the rise of the system of research grants, including international ones, was also a new development. The possibility of approaching international funding agencies directly and to start a (joint) research project with colleagues from other countries eroded the State monopoly of international collaboration and led to active development of ethnological, archaeological and linguistic research in Siberia-- at Siberian universities and research institutions. Modern Siberian ethnology in Russia is much more decentralized than it used to be.
Although the fashion for doing fieldwork in Siberia has by now somewhat ebbed, it is clear that this outburst of interest was not accidental or temporary: the changes in the Siberianist landscape are now an established fact. Siberian anthropological studies are now, theoretically, methodologically, and practically, a much more international field than they used to be during the Soviet era; they are in a sense starting over from the point in the early 1920s when cultural anthropology brought to the country by Bogoraz, Sternberg, Jochelson and others began to develop as a natural part of international science, a development that was violently terminated by the Soviet power.
What's New?: Current Changes in Research Paradigm
As a result of the developments outlined above, today's Siberian anthropological research in Russia is undergoing acute disciplinary transformations. I will limit myself to just two very brief examples of these transformations within two aspects of research: changes of the object of study, and changes of the attitude towards ethical aspects of anthropological research in Siberia (Vakhtin, Sirina 2003 for details).
Field methodology accepted in Russian ethnological research, as well as the programs of such research, had been originally designed to study specific territories (Sirina 2002). However, with the rise of the "theory of ethnos", these methods were applied to individual "ethnic groups" ("peoples"), which caused numerous problems, especially in parts of Siberia known as "zones of ethnic contact" (Vasiliev 1985) where different "ethnoses" have lived together and influenced one another for centuries. In these areas, it is often impossible to tell where the ethnic boundaries lie, if they exist at all. This approach is also not very useful for groups who occupy large territories and consist of several distant groups, such as Evens, Evenki, or Nenets.
Since most of Siberia is in fact one big "zone of ethnic contact", and since indigenous demography has changed considerably in the last fifty years, influenced by the high mobility of the population, research that takes "one ethnos" as its object drives itself into a dead-end: it is often impossible to define the object. This tendency is now slowly being overcome, not without the positive influence of Western anthropologists who employ, in their research, a territorial approach. (Again, I do not mean to say that Western approaches are necessarily better: in many cases it is only collaborative research that can yield convincing results).
Another interesting trait of current Siberian ethnology is a shift from studies of indigenous populations to studies of all populations. The ethnic picture of modern Siberia is complicated and can not be reduced to simple dichotomies such as "indigenous vs. newcoming", "oppressed vs. oppressors", "traditional vs. innovative", etc. Indigenous populations are today highly structured and stratified and include those who prefer traditional subsistence, those who prefer to live in villages, as well as ethnic elites who occupy leading positions in social and power structures. The 'newcomers" (Russians) are also diversified. They include "old settlers" who have lived in the area for the last 300 years; people born in the area from immigrant parents, as well as "real" newcomers, temporary and even part-time ("shift") workers. Social, educational and economic characteristics of all these groups are diversified. For some areas, at least three kinds of groups are defined: local administration, local industry, and indigenous population; all three are now becoming legitimate objects of anthropological research (cf. Novikova 2002).
Ethical codes of anthropological research are adopted by both national and international associations of anthropologists and by indigenous communities. There is at present an interesting discussion in Russia as to whether such a code can – and should – be adopted. Unwritten rules of conduct 'in the field' have, of course, always existed in Russia; however, to make it a written (para-legal) document one needs two legitimate parties to 'sign' it. The recently established Association of Russian Anthropologists and Ethnologists could be one; the other side is evidently 'the community'. But indigenous communities in Siberia are very misleading units: on the one hand, many of them were created artificially during the infamous era of forceful relocation of the indigenous people in the1950s and 1960s (cf: Vakhtin 1992); on the other hand, many of them exist only on paper and are reduced to native elites; there are doubts whether these units can be partners in a "contract" of this kind.
Importantly, this whole discussion was initiated, although indirectly, by Western anthropologists who obviously feel uncomfortable without such a code. They find themselves even in a more complicated situation than their Russian colleagues because, not being Russian citizens, they cannot interfere in local politics, and cannot take part in local economic, social, or ethnic conflicts. Both Russian and Western anthropologists see their mission in becoming "the voice of the voiceless": to make the problems of the Natives known and heard, to help them formulate their needs in the language of the law, to help them in their struggle for rights (Argunova 2002; Novikova 2002). Joint cultural, language, and educational projects with and for indigenous people (Kasten 2002; Koester 2002) are one possible solution; however, the ethics of anthropological research in Siberia remains a difficult issues for both Russian and non-Russian researchers.
Current Situation: Co-operation or Rivalry?
Western anthropologists, just like their Russian colleagues, are working today in a 'field' that was, to a large extent, constructed by Soviet national (and language) policy and by Soviet ethnographic (and linguistic) research. But, unlike their Russian colleagues of the older generation, Western anthropologists have been brought up within a totally different theoretical and methodological tradition. Coming to 'the Siberian field', they are naturally tempted to 'deconstruct' it, to 'peel off' stereotypes and the 'discursive crust' and identify underlying meanings and facts. However, on this road there is a trap awaiting them: by deconstructing the object of study, they simultaneously and automatically repudiate the scholarly tradition that had constructed this object. Consciously or not, they find themselves in a position of criticism of Soviet (Russian) ethnology – which, naturally, Russian ethnologists do not like.
I will finish with a story about a clash between two scholars: Canadian anthropologist David Anderson who now works in Scotland, and Russian linguist Evgenii Helimskii who now works in Germany. It is important to note that both are, in their respective fields, professionals of the highest rank.
In June 2000 a conference took place in Wien19 where, quite unexpectedly, Helimskii presented a very sharp critical review of Anderson's book (Anderson 2000). One of Anderson's 'sins', in Helimskii's opinion, was underrating the role, achievements and value of Soviet scholarship, and overrating the scale of ethnic conflicts in the region. Helimskii is clearly a 'primordialist': for him, ethnicity is peacefully and simply inherited, passed from parents to children unchanged and unchangeable. He is enraged by how Anderson is treating the issue, accusing the latter of no less than inflating, through his research, ethnic conflict in Taimyr. Anderson, on the contrary, is clearly a 'constructivist': for him, ethnicity that before had been insignificant in the area, was 'constructed' in mid-20th century, not without the help of Soviet ethnographers, and now is claimed by local elites and used as an instrument in political, social, and economic life of the area. The discussion was quite energetic, and caused some long-lasting ripples on the quiet surface of the tiny Siberianists' pond.
This polemics is quite revealing as a good example of mutual 'ideological' misunderstanding that is, unfortunately, quite wide-spread and impedes joint productive work of Russian and Western Siberianists. The 'ideological struggle' in the discipline is further aggravated by the fact that Soviet ethnography, throughout its history, was strongly politicized and 'ideologized': ethnographers received 'political assignments' from the State. When in the late 1980s the ideological constituent dissolved, ethnographers found themselves in a methodological vacuum. At first new 'Western' theories began to pour in and fill in the gap; but in recent years, neo-Nationalist demands began to arise, and ethnography, archaeology and linguistics were once again recruited to help support various political and territorial claims, ‘prove’ the ancient character of an ethnic group, 'prove' the right of this or that group for self-government, or for a piece of land, or for a history (compare: Shnirelman 2000).
Western anthropologists are strangers in this game, and are usually – and quite understandably – not willing to play it. The local elites, since they cannot use them, try to dislodge them from the scene, often using rather straightforward methods. Western anthropologists are accused of working for foreign intelligence agencies; of being 'agents of influence' for the international oil industry; or even of attempting to cut off a piece of Siberia and proclaim it a sovereign country. There are quite a few publications of this kind in the local press; usually they end with demands "to put an end to" the insurgent activities of a certain anthropologist. Here is just one example: a passage from an e-mail message to me from a colleague, that I received in April 2000 (translated from Russian):
NN, social anthropologist, two years of field work in Chukotka:
Well, Nick, this has happened: I have been refused permission to conduct fieldwork in Chukotka… the Department of migration and nationalities sent my papers to the Department of Agriculture for endorsement. They have a new boss there, and he disapproved…(email)
'Disciplinary transformations' are taking place – while the reaction of 'the systems of power' are not always favorable…
* * *
All things considered, one can still state that Russian cultural anthropology is now living through an international phase of its development, or, at least, it is entering this phase. Unlike in the 1990s, the first years of the new millennium seem to bring to Russia a growing economy and economic and social stability; unlike in the 1990s, social sciences and the humanities again began to receive State financial support, however modest and insufficient. Russian scholars are now feeling much more confident in their relations with international research grants and scholarships; this puts them financially on a more equal basis with their Western colleagues. Scholarly paradigms, theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches are also becoming more level. Both epistemological and institutional relations between Russian and Western scholars are thus getting more balanced, and apparently have at present a higher potential for “cross-fertilization”.
I would like to conclude by saying that for me everything described in this paper is more than a dispassionate history of science, or "transformations in Siberian anthropology". It is a history of a branch of science I have worked in for the last thirty years, so my attitudes here are far from disinterested. Just like Peter Schweitzer (2000: 17), I feel that my view of the past is difficult to separate from my interests in the present and in the future of Siberian research. Schweitzer's central analytical concept is the notion of "national" vs. "trans- or international" scholarship; he suggests a model according to which periods of claustrophobia in development of Siberian studies (that is, times of "national" academic approaches) interchange with period of openness ("transnational"). Since I am an "insider", I hope, rather egotistically, that Peter Schweitzer's model, although undoubtedly true for the past, will prove wrong for the future: that in the future Siberian anthropology will not once again become a purely Russian research field; that other national and transnational research traditions will establish themselves permanently in the realm of Siberian anthropology. I hope, in other words, that the claustrophobic years are in the past whatever fluctuations “the systems of power” might undergo – although one never knows, of course.
1 Much of this paper, especially its second part, is but a brief overview of the main tendencies in Soviet ethnology in general, of which Siberian anthropology is merely a part. Due to my personal interests and experience, I am better familiar with linguistic research and, consequently, history of language research and language policy in Siberia.
2 This journal was published until 1926; in the Soviet time its name was changed first to Etnografia (Ethnography) (1926-1929), then to Sovetskaya etnografia (Soviet Ethnography) (1930-1991), and, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, back to Ethograficheskoe Obozrenie (since 1991).
3 See detailed bibliography of publications connected with the expedition, in: Igor Krupnik. A Jesup Bibliography: Tracking the Published and Archival Legacy of the Jesup Expedition // Gateways: Exploring the Legacy of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition, 1897–1902 / Ed. by Igor Krupnik and William W. Fitzhugh. Arctic Studies Center, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution: Washington. 2002. P. 297–316.
4 Compare, for example, obituary of S.M. Shirokogoroff published by W. Muelman (Etnograficheskoe Obozrenie, 2002, No 1) where Shirokogoroff's influence on European theoretical thought is discussed; see also: (Schweitzer 2001).
5 Leo Sternberg. Ethnography and Social Ethics. St. Petersburg Branch of the Archives of the Academy of Sciences. Fond 282, file 1, item 28. As far as I know, this address has never been published. Geographic Institute was established by Sternberg and Bogoraz in 1916 as a ethnological research institution within St. Petersburg University; in early 1920s it became the nucleus of the famous Institute of the Northern Peoples, later transformed into the Northern Department of the Hertzen Pedagogical Institute, the main educational institution for indigenous Northern minorities.
6 From the modern standpoint, in spite of the notorious character of Marr's speculations, there was in them a grain of reason. If one sets aside his 'stadial theory' (i.e., that all languages pass through the same stages of development, from primitive to developed, and the stages coincide with social and economic stages of societies), his ill-famed 'four-element' theory, as well as his thesis that each social class spoke different language (see: Brandist 2002b), there still remain Marr's powerful thoughts about 'interbreeding' of languages, cultures, and peoples, his ideas about their mutual influence, as well as his point of the unified principles determining development of languages and cultures. According to Marr, all modern languages and peoples are mixed; besides, language, culture, race, religion are historical categories, which means that they change with time (see: Marr 1915: 287; quoted from: Shnirelman 1993: 53). We find here a completely different approach to ethnicity ('race', in Marr's terms) as a resilient category, an approach that looks more like the modern ones than the 'primordial' theories of ethnicity that later became dominant in Soviet ethnography.
7 Bulletin of Official Orders and Communications of the Ministry of Education. January 13, 1923. 7. P. 10.
8 Compare the speech given by N.M. Pokrovskii before the First All-Russian Congress of Regional Councils on enlightenment of nationalities (January 26, 19923). In: Bulletin of Official Orders and Communications of the Ministry of Education. January 13, 1923. № 10. P. 12. See also presentation by Rosen (ibid., p. 15).
9 For those who may not be acquainted with Stalinist political slang: "imperial chauvinism" (velikoderzhavnyi shovinizm) and "local nationalism" (mestnyi natsionalizm) were two accusation alternatively used by the Bolsheviks to charge and purge those who carried on their shoulders all cultural work. Too much attention to the general (be it in language, in culture, in habits, in school curriculum) put the person at risk to be accused of imperial chauvinism (and imprisoned); too much emphasis on the particular – wherever that might be – caused charges in local nationalism, with the same result. To make things utterly hopeless, only one person – Stalin – knew the correct balance. For example, what word should one suggest as normative for a schoolbook in Yupik Eskimo to name a hospital? if one uses a Russian borrowing bolnitsa, one is accused of imperial chauvinism; if one coins an Eskimo derivative aknighvik 'place where one is sick', one is accused of local nationalism. No way out.
10 This and other letter by and to Franz Boas are quoted from the collection of the Boas Professional Correspondences are at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia; I used microfilms at the New York Public Library copy, as well as the collection of the American Museum of Natural History.
11 Alexander Forstein was born in 1904 in Marseilles to where his parents emigrated from southern Russia (obviously running away from the pogroms). In 1911 he was brought back to Russia, lived in Rostov. Entered the university in St. Petersburg, department of ethnography, graduated in 1926 and got a job in the Institute of the Northern Peoples, together with a post-graduate position with the same institution. In 1927 he was sent by Bogoraz to Chukotka to conduct research and to teach at school there. In 1927–29 he lived on Cape Chaplin, in 1929–1930 went to Khabarovsk, married there, in 1930–33 returned to Chukotka where he worked as director of social and cultural programs of the District Executive Committee. In 1933 he returned to Leningrad and became a research fellow at the Institute of anthropology and ethnography. In May 1937 he was arrested as a 'Japanese spy', allegedly member of a counter-revolutionary organization led by another Siberianist Yakov Koshkin (an organization clearly invented by the KGB). As 'member of this organization', he was accused of counter-revolutionary propaganda among the native population of Chukotka for secession of the Far East, as well as of counter-revolutionary work among students and faculty of the Institute of the Northern Peoples against Marxist theory in science. He was sentenced to 10 years of labor camps, spent the years in Magadan area, was released in June 1947 and went to live in a small village in Kursk district; later he moved to the Caucasus and worked as head administrator at a power plant there. He was rehabilitated in 1956. He never returned to his scholarly research. In late 1960s a Norwegian linguist Knut Bergsland tried to find him and establish contact with him, but Forstein abruptly refused all contacts – he has had enough of this, he said.
12 This phrase – "national in its form and socialist in its content" – is another famous inventions of Stalin, well known to everybody born in the Soviet Union before mid-1980s.
13 "People often take pride in their national history, contending that ancient people are "their" ancestors and some elements of ancient culture are "their" cultural "heritage". Competition for ancestors [compare the title of Victor Shnirelman's paper: "Competition for ancestors…" (Shnirelman 1996 – N.V.] and heritages are often connected with political disputes between neighboring nations. Because nations and ethnic groups can be solid communities only synchronically and are diachronically challengeable, it is scientifically not very meaningful to determine which ancient or medieval communities are their ancestors. This should be better understood as a creation of myth than academic research" (Tomohiko 2002: 163).
14 In this section of the paper, I am drawing from materials of a symposium on methods of ethnological studies in Siberia held by Max Planck Institute in Halle (Saale) in Germany on March 6–9, 2002, and using the text of a review of that symposium written jointly with Anna Sirina; see: (Vakhtin, Sirina 2003); see also: (Grey, Vakhtin, Schweitzer, forthcoming).
15 I list here only some of them – those who worked in Siberia in the 1990s and have already completed their research. David Andersen (ethnic processes and ethnic identities of the Taimyr Evenki and Dolgan, 1992–97); Alexia Bloch (Evenki residential schools and indigenous education, 1996–98); Atsusi Esida (social and cultural situation among the Nenets, 1995–98); Bruce Grant (Sovietisation processes among the Nivkhi of Sakhalin, 1993–95); Patricia Gray (current social processes and power relations in Chukotka, 1995–96); Anna Kerttula (Chukotkan Newcomers, Yupik Eskimos and Chukchi identity, 1989–92); David Koester (socialisation of young generation of the Itel'mens in Kamchatka, 1994–96); Hiroki Takakura (social landscape and reindeer herding among Evens and Yakuts in Yakutia, 1996–99); Gail Fondahl (the impact of industrialisation on Evenki reindeer herding, 1996–98); Peter Schweitzer (social organisation of indigenous peoples of Chukotka, 1990–98). These 'veterans' are followed by a new and strong wave of young social anthropologists who already work, or are planning to work, in Siberia.
16 The following books based on first-hand research in Siberia have already been published: Grant B. In the Soviet House of Culture: A Century of Perestroika. Perspective. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ. 1995; Golovnev Andrei and Gail Osherenko. Siberian Survivals: The Nenets and their Story. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 1999; Mandelstam Balzer M. The Tenacity of Ethnicity: A Siberian Saga in Global Perspective. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ. 1999; Anderson D. Identity and Ecology in Arctic Siberia. Oxford University Press. 2000; Kerttula, Anna. Antler on the Sea: The Yup'ik and Chukchi of the Russian Far East. Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 2000; Rethman, Petra. Tundra Passages: History and Gender in the Russian Far East. 2001; Kasten, Erich, ed. People and the Land: Pathways to Reform in Post-Soviet Siberia. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 2002. Close to these, although based on archival research, is: Slezkine, Yur. Arctic Mirrors. Russia and the Small Peoples of the North. Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 1994.
17 It looks like this decline in numbers of Russian Siberianists has now stopped: an opposite tendency seems to be under way. Scholars from other disciplines tend to turn to Siberian research; new centers are opening, and the old ones are slowly recovering from the shock of the economic crisis of the 1990s.
18 Compare excellent discussion of the difference between 'rapid cultural change' and 'deterioration of culture' in (Arctic 1993). The book has as an appendix a document called Arctic Social Science: An Agenda for Action written in 1989. Much of what is said in this document about the American Arctic applies also to Siberia.
19"Siberia and Circumpolar North: A Contribution of Ethnology and NGOs". Organized by Peter Scwheitzer.
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