An Empire of Others: Creating Ethnographic Knowledge in Imperial Russia and the USSR

An Empire of Others: Creating Ethnographic Knowledge in Imperial Russia and the USSR

An Empire of Others: Creating Ethnographic Knowledge in Imperial Russia and the USSR

An Empire of Others: Creating Ethnographic Knowledge in Imperial Russia and the USSR

Synopsis

Ethnographers helped to perceive, understand and to also to Russia's remarkable cultural diversity. This book focuses on the specific contexts as ethnographic knowledge was created in modern Russia, showing readers how tsarist and Soviet ethnographers simultaneously defined both their subjects and their own expertise over a roughly three-hundred year period.

The essays address fields into which ethnographic knowledge poured military, mission, history, anthropology, literature etc. as well as broadening the understanding of knowledge formats pictures, maps, atlases, plays, tape recordings, lectures, films, posters, museums, exhibitions etc. noticeably exerting an influence on imperial identities

Excerpt

Roland Cvetkovski

‘Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone,
All just supply, and all relation.

John Donne

As globalization has started crossing common boundaries and has given priority to traffic, transfer, and communication, discontent has also arisen. the rapid circulation of ideas, goods, and values seemed to counteract the need for differentiation, since the previous emphasis on national entities had apparently made it easier to draw clear-cut lines between different cultures. So the distrust of the current processes gave rise to a growing feeling of cultural uncertainty that was partly accompanied even by skepticism towards the state and its agencies. in particular, their responsibility to create well-defined categories and to provide stabilizing guidance for society has been called into question. Recently the German folklorist Konrad Köstlin thus campaigned for alternatives to bring back these seemingly waning possibilities of differentiation. He suggested activating ethnographic knowledge in particular as a “grounding in humanity,” providing a specific “cultural technique” and offering “materials for a new cultural framework.” He is definitely right when he points to the increasing significance that notions like “culture” and “ethnicity” have gained in recent decades in both academic and everyday milieus. Yet it is quite remarkable that in dividing politics and culture, Köstlin’s proposed solution obviously implies a separation between state affairs and ethnographic matters. Köstlin’s argument has obscured European colonial and imperial experiences, which were, at least in the eyes of a folklorist, so long ago

Konrad Köstlin, “Ethnographisches Wissen als Kulturtechnik” [Ethnographic knowledge as cultural technique], in Ethnographisches Wissen. Zu einer Kulturtechnik der Moderne [Ethnographic knowledge. On a cultural technique of modernity], eds. Konrad Köstlin and Herbert Nikitsch (Vienna: Selbstverlag des Instituts für Volkskunde, 1999), 9–30, here 10, 13–14.

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