The Fourth Nordic Conference on the Anthropology of Post-Socialism

Anthropological Perspectives on
New Social and Cultural Divisions in East / Central Europe

Copenhagen, Denmark, April 20-22 2002

Background and Theme

The conference will address the changing patterns of socio-cultural differentiation that have emerged throughout the formerly Soviet-dominated region - from Central Europe to the Pacific - since the collapse of the Communist regimes.

In this period, a centralized economic and political system has been supplanted by social forms inspired by Western capitalism and democracy. With the breakdown of the semi-feudal institutional order of the Socialist era (Humphrey, Verdery), we have seen a marked increase in income disparities, and in some parts of the region, strong tendencies towards social fragmentation and decentralization. Time-honored institutions of the Communist period – from the secret police to the cultural opposition – have disappeared or metamorphosed into new forms. New institutions – from Western-style firms and religious groupings, to new media and NGO’s – have expanded to form what is often refered to as a "Civil Society".

The region has seen dramatic changes not only in political and economic relations, but in gender, generational and family relations, relations between urban and rural society, between new subcultures and elites, ideologies and pressure groups, old and new informal networks. The changes are unequally distributed throughout the region, with some of its Westernmost parts being successfully modernized and entering organizatons such as NATO and the EU, while other parts lag behind, because of civil war, insufficient infrastructure or inflexible political leadership. But everywhere, the changes have in part erased the old socio-cultural divisions, in part transformed them, and in part introduced divisions of new and unprecedented kinds. It is on the development of these divisions that the present conference will focus.

Place and Time

The conference will take place on April 20th – April 22 nd 2002, in intimate surroundings, at a small youth hostel in the coastal town of Kalundborg in Denmark. Each day of the conference will include a morning session, at which one or two lectures will be given by the guest speakers, followed by an afternoon session, when participants will present papers at one of 2-3 thematic workshops.


During the 1990's, students in Norway and Denmark formed a Nordic network of post-Socialist anthropologists. An important initiative of this network has been the organization of a series of Nordic conferences on the anthropology of post-Socialism – in Tromsø (1994), Copenhagen (1996) and Bergen (1997). Lecturers at these conferences have included prominent researchers from Eastern and Western universities (Ladislav Holy, Julian Konstantinov, Lazslo Kurti, Steven Sampson, Jonathan Schwartz, Piers Vitebsky, Katherine Verdery), who have contributed significantly to the internationalization of Nordic research in the field. (Click here for details).

The conference planned for 2002 is organized on the initiative of the East / Central Europe Group (ECEG) in Copenhagen. The ECEG, which was started in the mid-1990's by Steven Sampson (presently at the University of Lund), has recently become an officially sponsored research group of the Copenhagen Institute of Anthropology (IA).

The conference is simultaneously a Nordic event and an event open to East / Central Europeans, and one of its most important aims is to promote cooperation between Nordic and East / Central European anthropologists, and to stimulate the growth of a modern anthropological discipline in East / Central Europe.

We have planned the conference with this in mind. We hope to include as many MA- and Ph.D.-students as possible, along with established researchers. The conference will thus bring students and junior academics together with prominent international authorities in the field, allowing them to live together and socialize informally for three full days, with lecturers participating in workshops and discussing student work.

Follow-up: Future Cooperation

After the academic part of the conference is over, we plan a half-day seminar at the Institute of Anthropology in Copenhagen, that will include selected participants from the conference as well as teachers from the Institute in Copenhagen and other Nordic universities. Here we hope to lay the groundwork for formalized institutional cooperation between Nordic institutes and institutes in East / Central Europe. The IA has, as mentioned above, already established a trilateral program of student and teacher exchange with the universities of Lund and Vilnius, which we hope may serve as a model for 2-3 other agreements with anthropological institutions in other parts of the region.


All papers from the conference will be published online in a single, edited volume on