Journey to Points Beyond Utopia

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An introduction to the anthropology of postsocialism
Course description

The postsocialist world is of particular interest for anthropology, because it has undergone rapid, paradigmatic changes, and will still be living with the consequences of these changes for many years. The study of this unstable and uncertain world, where "all is possible, nothing is certain", poses many challenges for anthropologists, who have not yet, in their innermost selves, outlived their Durkheimian origins. But the anthropology of postsocialism is more than the study of change. It has, e.g., forced us to focus with fresh eyes on several classical research themes, most prominently economic anthropology, which has virtually been revitalized by researchers of postsocialism.

This course will give an introduction to the anthropology of postsocialism, by posing the following questions: (a) what was the nature of the socialist systems? (b) how were these systems transformed into their present-day forms? (c) what analytical approaches have proven particularly useful in the anthropological study of postsocialism? (d) what research themes has it stimulated? (e) what methodological and ethical challenges does it pose?

The course will be held while the lecturer is preparing an online introductory module on the anthropology of postsocialism, which will soon be offered free of charge to Scandinavian, Baltic, Polish and North-West Russian students. The course held in Copenhagen will in part preview the future online course in offline (and, in part, online) form, in part offer students the opportunity to influence the structure and content of the online course.

The course will consist of alternating lectures and seminars. At lectures, the course leader will discuss texts from a core curriculum, which all students read. At seminars, the class will be divided into groups, which read different texts and give short presentations of their readings for the whole class - after which the class discusses the texts and their relevance for the future online course.