The Fourth Nordic Conference on the Anthropology of Post-Socialism

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

20-22 April 2002

Final report

The Fourth Nordic Conference on the Anthropology of Post-Socialism was held on April 20-22 2002, in Denmark. It had 36 regular participants giving papers at eight workshops, and plenary lectures by three keynote speakers. Thirteen of the participants and two of the speakers were from East / Central Europe. Participants ranged from full professors to MA students, and included representatives of some of the most dynamic and innovative research milieus in the region.

We were able to fund travel expenses for all participants from East / Central Europe, as well as for all Nordic participants from outside Denmark who did not receive funding from their home institutions.

The papers from the conference are being published on:

Here one will at present find one keynote lecture and 21 workshop papers. In addition, we expect to publish about 5 workshop papers, one keynote lecture, an article covering the substance of the third lecture, and an additional article, written as a response to one of the lectures by a teacher at the Institute in Copenhagen.

The conference was a success, not only in the sense that many interesting papers were given and discussions carried out, but in that it has become the basis of a more long-term academic network among Scandinavian and East / Central European social scientists, which is already starting its first activities (see below).

Throughout much of the planning phase, the conference was plagued by problems. We received generous grants from the Danish Humanistic and Social Science Research Councils, which, together with a smaller grant from the Institute of Anthropology, Copenhagen University, covered well over half our anticipated expenses. We did not, however, succeed in getting funding from either the Soros Foundation (which has recently curtailed its projects in most of Eastern Europe significantly), or the Danish Øststøttesekretariat (whose budget was cut severely after the recent Danish parliamentary elections). After some 60 useless applications for support to private firms and foundations, we were afraid that we would have to cancel the conference. However, after receiving some additional funding from the Danish Social Science Research Foundation, and promises of further assistance if necessary from the Institute of Anthropology, we decided to go through with it.

This could only be done, however, by cutting our expenses as far as possible. The conference was moved from Kalundborg Vandrerhjem to Copenhagen, where the Institute of Anthropology kindly supplied conference rooms and office facilities for three full days free of charge. Nearly all participants were lodged privately with students or teachers at the Institute. Meals were either prepared by students or eaten at the cheapest restaurants in town. Several of the Nordic participants found additional support from their home institutions. As a result, and after receiving an unexpected, generous grant from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs just after the conference was over, we managed to complete the conference with a small surplus, without drawing on the "security fund" placed at our disposal by the Institute. We have received permission to use the surplus from the conference to partially finance the first meeting of the steering group of the Nordic-East/Central European Network (see below).

In addition to these economic problems, two of the four keynote lecturers we had invited to speak at the conference were forced to cancel their lectures at the last minute for health reasons. Daria Khubova’s cancellation was so late that her ticket could not be refunded. However, the two remaining lecturers, Vintila Mihailescu (Bucharest) and Irmina Matonyte (Kaunas), spoke as planned. In addition, Steven Sampson (Copenhagen, Lund) gave a third keynote lecture on short notice; and Mihailescu gave a final, public lecture, which effectively summed up many of the central discussions at the conference.

After the conference was over, selected participants were invited to an informal meeting with the head of the Institute of Anthropology in Copenhagen, to discuss the prospects for future cooperation. It was decided to form a Nordic / East European network of "qualitative social researchers" (a term that seemed to cover the interests of the group more adequately than "anthropologists"). The network already has a name (NECEN – Nordic and East / Central Europe Network for Qualitative Social Research), a homepage (under construction), and a number of activities being planned. As a direct result of the conference, it has been decided that the existing NORFA and Socrates-supported cooperation between the Universities of Lund, Copenhagen and Vilnius be expanded to include Riga, and Socrates agreements be signed between Copenhagen, Riga and Bucharest. In addition, Copenhagen has agreed to sponsor a tenure track position (assistant professor, adjunkt) focusing on East / Central Europe (will be filled in Februray 2003). A steering group for the network has been formed, whose responsibilities will include the regular organization of Nordic conferences on Post-Socialist Anthropology every second or third year. Plans for summer field schools in East Europe and for an inter-Baltic MA program in anthropology / qualitative sociology, are also being discussed, and we have agreed to look into the possibilities for supplying translation services to East European colleagues writing for an English-speaking audience. We plan to hold a first meeting in the steering group in the beginning of 2003.

Among the more interesting and unexpected academic consequences of the conferences were the many animated discussions among the East / Central European participants, comparing impressions from such diverse localities as Beograd, Minsk, Petrovavodsk, Halle, St. Petersburg, Altai and Tallinn. It became abundantly clear that "the transition" is a highly differentiated process, and perhaps a long-term academic spin-off of the conference might fittingly be a comparative study of academic development in the various parts of the region since 1989.

In short, the conference was an undoubted success, and we would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to our sponsors for the grants that made it possible.


Finn Sivert Nielsen
Associate Professor
Institute of Anthropology, Copenhagen University

phone: +45 35323482
address: Frederiksholms kanal 4, DK-1220 Copenhagen C

For more details on the conference, see the conference home page at:

The NECEN network homepage is located at:

Conference papers are being published at: