Journey to Points Beyond Utopia

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An introduction to the anthropology of postsocialism
Suggested themes for course essays

The following essay themes are suggestions, which are meant to inspire you in your work. You may freely modify these or invent new themes altogether. First, however, here is some general information, which I ask you to read carefully:

  • Essays should be submitted via email to:
  • If you submit an essay in Wiki format, you should merely send me an email informing me that the essay is ready and telling me where it is to be found on the course site.
  • The final deadline for essay submission is: January 15, 2007
  • Individual essays should be ca. 5 pages long, with approx. 4000 characters (incl. spaces and punctuation) per page. If a group submits an essay together, you should add 4 pages for each additional group member (e.g. 9 pages for 2 people, 13 for 3, etc.). Together with the essay, each of you should submit a full curriculum list, which includes the core curriculum texts, plus (from the supplementary curriculum) ca. 190 pages (BA students) or 390 pages (MA students).
  • If you have specific wishes in connection with the essay - i.e. if you need to have it corrected within a certain deadline or if you need to have it graded - please write this CLEARLY in the email with which you send the essay AND on the front page of the essay itself.
  • Please click here for some general guidelines for essay writing.

Suggested themes:

1. In her article on "Fuzzy property", Verdery emphasizes the importance of labor as a standard and generator of value in Romanian peasant consciousness. The importance of labor is also emphasized in several other articles we have read. Discuss the role played by labor in 2-3 of the articles you have read, and - on this basis - draw some general conclusions about the postsocialist region.

2. In his essay on socialist monuments Yampolsky argues that the socialist regimes successfully negated a linear conception of time and supplanted it with a conception of time as static, timeless and cyclical. After briefly introducing Yampolsky's argument you may do one of two things: (a) View it as an argument about collective memory and compare it to the discussion of collective memory in Skultans's text; or: (b) Take Yampolsky's idea about time as a symptom of prevalent types of social organization under socialism, and - on that basis - discuss the relationship between Yampolsky's argument and the general description of socialist society proposed by Verdery in her 1991 article.

3. In discourse on the postsocialist world it is often emphasized that civil society did not exist under socialism and that it therefore has to be created - in part by means of foreign aid - as part of the postsocialist transition to capitalism and democracy. Discuss this statement in the light of literature we have read during the course.

4. Why is gender of particular importance to studies of the postsocialist world?