Distinction between doing research at home and among the others is built into the social sciences as a division of labor between sociologists and anthropologists. Anthropology at home runs counter this distinction, historically based on the Great Divide between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ Yet more and more anthropologists work today in their own society and the gap between self and other is maintained less sharply than in the time of empire and nation-building. The decentred comparative perspective that goes with an ethnographic sensibility can be brought to bear on everyday life anywhere, including on the more familiar institutions of mainstream urban life.
At one level, the distinction between doing research at home and among the others is built into the social sciences as a division of labor between sociologists and anthropologists. This is despite their historical unity as ‘comparative sociology’ in the work of Durkheim and Radcliffe-Brown. Thus for Claude Lévi-Strauss (1958), the sociologist observes his own society or one like, while the anthropologist tries to make sense of other cultures. The latter consists of taking a ‘view from afar’ on these societies, a perspective on the Great Divide between ‘us’ and ‘them’ that was intrinsic to colonial empire. Yet more and more anthropologists work today in their own society and some traditions, such as the French, have done so since the beginning, largely as part of its own nation-building project. As a field with the wider discipline, therefore, ‘anthropology at home’ can be complicated. Apart from anything else, working in one’s own country, especially when it is large and diverse, may not count. The term is more likely to be used in countries that once had foreign colonies to denote a gaze turned inward rather than outward.
Ethnography is a method now used widely in the social sciences. Anthropologists have long claimed that their version of it was distinctive in at least three senses: their ‘view from afar’ allowed them to juxtapose the familiar and the unfamiliar in interesting ways; they always tried to fit their concrete observations into a wider social or cultural whole; and they brought to their ethnography a range of highly contrasted comparative examples. ‘Anthropology at home,’ the idea of a native working in their own society, runs counter to most of this, insofar as everything is or ought to be familiar, society as a whole is harder to envisage and the comparative method draws more on books than the fieldworker’s own experience of contrast. The kinds of knowledge accessible to ‘natives’ and ‘outside observers’ are held to be significantly different; and certainly Lévi-Strauss reinforced this separation in contrasting structural anthropology with sociology. Of course, this is all connected to making the universalizing claim to capture the human experience in general, rather than just describe particular instances of it. As a result, anthropologists working at home have several techniques available to reintroduce a comparative perspective – through studying classes other than their own or adopting a historical approach. This was in fact the case with the first folklorists in Europe when they inserted themselves into rural worlds, other with an evolutionary paradigm in mind. Today, long after the collapse of European empires and of the rural/ urban divide, the decentred comparative perspective that goes with an ethnographic sensibility can be brought to bear on everyday life anywhere, however familiar or unfamiliar the circumstances are supposed to be.
The idea of territory – and national territory in particular – is central to anthropology at home. In former imperial countries like France and Britain, metropolitan society was opposed to the colonies abroad which were considered to be the main source for a general social anthropology because they provide simple models of our complex civilization. Later of course, when members of the former colonies migrated in numbers to metropolitan countries, they provided objects of study at home whose cultural difference from the ethnographers introduced further confusion in the inside/outside dialectic of modern anthropology.
At this point, we will have to draw some lines around our topic. There are several very large countries – such as the United States, India, China, Brazil, and Russia – whose anthropologists worked within their own national territory, but mainly with groups considered to be external to mainstream society, perhaps as exotic as Pacific islanders to European colonists. These anthropologists could not be thought of as doing anthropology at home on remote hill tribesmen or Amazonian hunter-gatherers. In societies without external or internal colonies, anthropology at home was linked to the process of nation-building. In recent decades, all these societies have seen a shift to doing anthropology anywhere, including on the more familiar institutions of mainstream urban life. The typology of overseas empire, inland empire, and nation-states is not hard and fast; but in this article, I will focus on anthropology at home in the first and third types, less so in the second, but always with a regard for recent developments which have eroded such distinctions to a large degree. This means that my focus will largely be on Greater Europe (including Russia). We should also note that our subject has appeared under a number of different names: folklore studies, Volkskunde, ethnography, ethnologie, or anthropology at home.
In the four main schools which formed modern anthropology – Britain, France, Germany, and the United States – a variety of approaches to anthropology at home developed, always keeping in mind George Stocking’s (1982: p. 172) distinction between nationalist (‘nation-building’) and imperialist (‘empire-building’) strands that have shaped the discipline, sometimes separately, sometimes combined, but with different emphasis.
Anthropology at Home in France and United Kingdom
The intellectual and institutional context for the emergence of anthropology at home is very different for Britain and for France. There was, for instance, no classical school of British sociology. The founders of the British school of ethnographers sought to differentiate their discipline, as a kind of comparative sociology, from ethnology or folklore; and while British folklorists focused primarily on their own country, social anthropologists worked in faraway overseas. But folklore never evolved into a modern academic discipline under any name.
In a review of British intellectual life, Perry Anderson (1968) contrasted the British situation with sociology in continental Europe and North America, which took root as a conservative discipline celebrating the achievements of the bourgeoisie. Anderson argued that the British ruling class had no interest in social conditions at home, but instead promoted social anthropology as a means of studying the peoples of the Empire. This presented itself as ‘the sociology of primitive societies,’ basing its claim for universality on the presumption that social order everywhere was revealed most clearly in ‘simple’ societies (a notion shared by Durkheim and Mauss).
So British social anthropology in its prime did not have to distinguish itself from sociology and folklore was a weak competitor. As late as the 1960s, anthropologists took up posts that might otherwise have been filled by sociologists. Despite the relatively open field, British anthropology at home was slow to take root in the main centers. It was encouraged only by Max Gluckman’s department at Manchester, which combined social anthropology with sociology. As a result, the leading figures of British anthropology at home, such as Ronald Frankenberg and Anthony Cohen, started out there.
In France, however, anthropology did not benefit from the expansion of the universities in the 1960s, in striking contrast to sociology. Whereas exotic anthropology in Britain long enjoyed an unchallenged monopoly, ethnologists working at home in France had to compete with both exotic anthropologists and sociologists. Sociology has long been the strongest social science discipline in France and ethnology was always on the defensive there, as it is today. ‘The ethnology of France’ has long been hidden away in corners of the universities, a marginal field that never had distinguished chairs similar to those held by professors of Volkskunde in Germany. Whereas the latter played a major part, with history, in nation-building, in France, history and geography dominated studies of the national question. Ethnographic descriptions of France and folklore museums were rare at the end of the nineteenth century; and anthropology at home slowly built a reputation as a legitimate discipline and source of collective memory in the interwar period.
In both Britain and France exotic anthropology led the way; the Institute of Ethnology in Paris catered exclusively for ethnography in the colonies and the ethnology of France struggled to establish itself. Both colonial empire and nation-building posed problems of reconciling political imperatives with scientific practice. This was particularly acute when the idea of citizenship and the national territory itself were at stake. In both countries, the scientific and political projects of exotic anthropology found a measure of convergence, but in France this convergence also took place at home.
The study of French history and society was placed in the service of the Republic. National feeling was always modified by attachment to one’s ‘little homeland’ or local identity. Regionalism, starting out as a literary movement, remained loyal to the republic, even if tensions between the regions surfaced here and there. Indeed after the war regional chauvinism was a way of showing pride in being French which has generally managed the tension between centralization (jacobinism) and regionalism. Only during the Second World War did the Vichy regime require social scientists to separate their science from the republican ideal. The period immediately after the war saw an acceleration of the transition from folklore (the term vanished after 1945) to an ethnology of France influenced by social anthropology.
Arnold Van Gennep played a particularly significant role in the development of the anthropology at home in France, acting as a bridge between folklore and ethnology and, with ‘rites of passage’ was the first to coin a concept for the study of Europe that was taken up by the exotic anthropologists. But he never had a real job and remained marginal to the Durkheimian establishment all his life. In Britain, history and political geography always constrained anthropologists to express themselves with caution when addressing the national question and regional attachments were never part of nation-building.
The ethnography of Britain is a fragmented field, for sure, and its visibility was for a long time very weak. But the disciplines were much less closed there. Individuals and the contexts in which they work are more open to interdisciplinary collaboration in Britain, whereas their French counterparts withdrew into relative isolation from the 1970s. Anthropological dialogue with geography, psychology, and sociology was a hallmark of British studies published during the 1950s. Despite intensified policing of disciplinary boundaries since then, cross-fertilization has continued and it clearly adds to the strength and wider influence of British social anthropology. Today, many anthropologists whose primary interest is Britain, work in departments other than anthropology, where they develop successful collaborative relationships.
British ethnographers also became interested in cities long before their French counterparts. Urban and even industrial research was launched in the 1950s: they were looking at urban life, focusing particularly on kinship, which was seen to provide the framework that made the sprawling metropolis manageable. Engagement with novel field situations, compared with the classical village sites, led British anthropologists to be more innovative in their approach and at an earlier stage. French ethnologists, on the other hand, were penned into their rural worlds for much longer and were slow to visit the city. This is surely one another major contrast between the two countries.
In both, the rise of anthropology at home was linked to the end of colonial empire. For a long time doing fieldwork in one’s own society was a way of either getting started before doing the real thing abroad or of making do at home when exotic fieldwork was no longer possible. Only in the last three decades have significant numbers of anthropologists in both countries carried out fieldwork at home, with the result that these domestic efforts are now beginning to have a theoretical impact on the discipline equal to that of exotic ethnography.
British social anthropology’s early emphasis on studying what were presumed to be ‘simple’ societies was reflected in the fact that much of the ethnography of the British Isles started in the Celtic margins – especially Wales and Ireland – which were considered relatively remote and undeveloped. The first fieldwork-based studies of British societies were undertaken by North Americans. But anthropology at home in Britain took off with the publication in 1957 of Frankenberg’s ‘Village on the Border.’ From the 1960s, some British social anthropologists were influenced by more cultural perspectives: studies of ‘community’ brought a discourse of ‘belonging’ into considerations of identity in Britain (Cohen, 1982). Anthropologists discovered that cultural difference easily survives in the face of the homogenizing forces of modernity: this celebration of British cultural heterogeneity also contained more than a hint of nostalgia and salvage ethnography.
French ethnologists too cultivated the social and cultural margins long before they entered the city. If French research at home got going a lot earlier, its institutional framework encouraged collective work and was less reliant on individual initiatives than the British. The National Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions launched a number of large-scale team exercises in the 1930s, such as one in Sologne with Malinowski and Dumont, long-term studies of rural architecture and technology during the war and finally the Aubrac study of 1964–68. Other research centers undertook similar studies, such as the big interdisciplinary project at Plozévet (1960s), exploring a theory of biological anthropologists about a deformed hip common among the women of the region. By contrast to their British counterparts, French ethnologists left reflections on social class to the sociologists, and gender roles were taken up in France only at the end of the 1970s. From the 1980s onward, as a result of government policy, ethnologists were integrated in research programs organized around an interdisciplinary theme such as skills seen in a heritage context. A number of ethnologists today work on heritage and the history of anthropology.
Since the 1970s, there has been a convergence in both countries between the exotic and home branches of anthropology. In Britain, the earlier emphasis on comparative sociology has given way to a cultural anthropology influenced by French structuralism and American symbolic anthropology. Kinship was the focus of French ethnology’s self-renewal in the 1970s, under the influence of Lévi-Strauss’s social anthropology. The outstanding work of this period was carried out by ‘the Ladies of Minot,’ members of the Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Sociale, within the framework of the Châtillonais team project, which brought the basic themes of exotic anthropology – kinship, ritual, identity, and socialization – to the ethnology of France. All of these studies were of rural areas. Only from the early 1980s did French ethnologists begin to take an interest in the city, industrial life, ethnic groups, sport, and complex organizations, in short the whole range of social practices or almost so.
In both France and Britain today, anthropology at home is now flourishing, drawing on each other and on their fellow branches in the rest of Europe. One can identify two trends in the dominant anthropological approaches of both countries. One, the majority, is still concerned with trying to understand the properties of social and cultural groups through the articulation of individual actions with collective structures. The other, identified with a branch of French sociology and some anthropologists in Britain, has abandoned entirely the ambition of locating its findings within any notion of social structure, being concerned with specific practices that individuals have in common, sometimes without even locating these in time or space, never mind in society.
‘Anthropology at Home’ in the Rest of Europe
The majority of schools in the rest of Europe may be summed up as ‘nationalist anthropology’ in that they were strongly influenced by the contingencies of national political history. The details of each case lie beyond the scope of this essay; but it is possible to identify some common strands by highlighting the formative example of Germany, followed by Russia’s influence after the formation of the Soviet bloc.
According to Gingrich (2005), the German Enlightenment tradition of anthropology turned to introspection in the nineteenth century, first by giving priority to German rather than non-German topics and then to spirit and soul rather than the facts of what people really do. This trend combined with the concept of Kultur developed by Herder – a key figure in the history of German anthropology – in which he emphasized languages, customs, and mentalities to arrive at an ethnocentric division between German and nearby European Kulturvölker and most of the others (Naturvölker). Early anthropological writing there had little to do with colonialism (Germany acquired some colonies in Africa only after 1884). The preeminent tendency was to look inward, promoting historicist folklore studies with a nationalist flavor. Eventually, this led to a separation between folklore studies at home (Volkskunde) and ethnology aboard (Völkerkunde). Ethnography as such was more common in the latter.
As Arendt (1958) shows, the Romantic imaginary of nationalism in the German-speaking countries – and in most of the Central and Northern European countries – was perceived as a return to the nation’s alleged rural roots. Rural folklore studies were thus linked to a mass movement whose inspiration was literary as much as anything else, the great fairy tale collections of the Grimm brothers being the prime example. Folklore studies were a form of historicism and even today, Volkskunde has remained strongly attached to historical methods and to the academic field of history. At the margins of the German-speaking world, popular and academic folklore studies were less nationalist and more interculturally oriented: Switzerland and Austria stand out in this respect, one as a multicultural democracy and the other as the center of a multinational empire. In Poland, Hungary, and Czechy, ethnography was linked to a movement for national independence. This is why, from a methodological perspective, Gellner (1959) locates the intellectual roots of ethnographic fieldwork in Central Europe at the turn of the century.
Anthropology at home in Central Europe, with its core in folklore studies, was separated intellectually and institutionally from anthropology abroad, but it also had no relations with sociology or with the long debate over the future of the peasantry (‘the agrarian question’ launched by Lenin, Kautsky, and Chayanov) before the 1970s. In the twentieth century, the two branches of German anthropology were likewise detached from mainstream developments in international sociocultural anthropology until the same period. From the 1930s, anthropology and folklore studies were smoothly integrated into the Nazi project. They became inseparable from physical anthropology, which was now the main scientific arm of this racist ideology. Folklore studies were also integrated into a pangermanic project, including the study of German minorities in Central Europe: ethno-cartography and folkloric atlases were their principal tools. Empirical studies were also carried out in several countries aimed at establishing a ‘New European order’ with Germans at the top.
The new intellectual environment after the war saw Volkskunde persisting separately in Germany until the late 1970s, but now influenced by new concepts and methods in history such as ‘history from below.’ The leading figure here was Hermann Bausinger in Tübingen who transformed folklore studies from a nationalist approach into a fieldwork-based ethnography of sociocultural process at home. The name changed too from Volkskunde to Europaïsche Ethnologie which made it a serious partner for sociocultural anthropology until now. The objects and methods of these anthropologists scarcely differ from those of their colleagues who work outside Europe, except perhaps for their emphasis on history.
Scandinavian anthropology went through a similar transformation. The division between anthropology at home and abroad continues there, with local variations, but always with a national, even nationalist dimension. Moreover, there was little or no indigenous tradition of sociology there. The Nordic countries – Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland – were influenced at first by German intellectual life and so anthropology found its inspiration there; but after 1945 it developed in different directions in each country. Anthropology at home, however, increasingly took its concepts and methods from the general international discipline from the 1960s. Thus in Sweden before that time, ‘studying the life of the people’ (Folkslivsforskning) was a department attached to a section of the Nordic Museum. Borrowing the concept of ‘community’ from the Anglo-Saxons facilitated this transition. Although the institutional separation between departments of ethnology and anthropology may persist, working on one’s own society is no longer restricted to the ethnologists.
The countries of Central and Eastern Europe came under a double influence: German before the Second World War and Soviet after it. We might speak of a third influence today, the global hegemony of American anthropology. Poland is a case in point. Folklore studies were an instrument of national survival after the country was carved up between foreign powers, being essential to an ethnic nationalism whose object was to raise national consciousness through a revival of peasant traditions. After the First World War, Polish anthropology was renamed as ethnology and it combined the science of peoples with the science of the people (Völkerkunde and Volkskunde). But after the Second World War, Polish anthropologists, along with other countries of the Soviet bloc, adopted the term ethnography for their discipline. This was intended to highlight the dialectical unity of fact (-graphy) and theory (-logy) in research. Ethnology made a comeback in the 1970s. Then after 1989, departments were renamed as ‘ethnology and cultural anthropology,’ indicating an openness to both the European and Anglo-American traditions.
In Hungary, the term néprajz (description of the people) denoted an ethnography aimed at documenting the phenomena of Hungarian popular culture that was based on fieldwork, analysis, and comparison of these phenomena. Egyetemes néprajz (universal ethnography) included studies undertaken outside Europe. As in Poland, the origins and development of ethnography were linked to the politics of external domination, with the objective of establishing the authentic character of Hungarian culture linked to its origins in the history of the Magyars. Ethnography was devoted to studying Hungarian popular traditions in the countryside, but also took in other peoples who lived in the same political space. Fascination with peasant culture carried over into music through the great twentieth century Hungarian composers, Bela Bartok and Zoltán Kodaly. Peasant studies during the socialist period allowed Hungarians to highlight national identity while observing the restrictions placed on their discipline by the regime; they were even able to study religion under the guise of ‘survivals.’
Similarly in Bulgaria, for example, from the 1960s, folklore studies allowed anthropologists to study national roots without exciting the suspicions of the ruling party. These studies included religious icons, material culture, music, and popular literature. The school of descriptive ethnography which flourished in Czechoslovakia still exists, but research there tends to be focused on oral literature. Gradually, methods developed for the study of popular literature were extended to other subjects.
In Russia, then in the Soviet Union, anthropology at home has been through ups and downs, which at times came close to its being banned. Of course we are dealing here less with a national tradition, more with several waves of inland empire. Expansion toward the East led the Russian tsars of the nineteenth century to establish museums and similar institutions to organize ethnographic studies. Peter the Great founded a museum of foreign cultures in the Russian empire in 1714; another, also in St Petersburg, was founded in 1895 to exhibit collections from the various peoples integrated into Russia. A strong institutional distinction, which exists today, developed between those who studied Slavs – anthropology at home – and those who worked on other peoples incorporated into the Soviet Union. The revolution itself did not disturb this work, but things became serious by the end of the 1920s. Researchers could continue their work on peasant traditions as long as they were far from the center. This led to the publication of major works by Zelenin (1927) on the eastern Slavs (a book banned in 1929 and republished in 1991) and above all by Propp (1928) on the morphology of folktales which was very influential. Eventually ethnography came to be seen as a bourgeois science and some anthropologists were forced to give up their work or to go into exile. Those who remained were discouraged from drawing attention to ‘retrograde’ elements of popular culture. They tended to show that peasants remained strongly attached to their traditional culture and were largely immune to modernization and to socialism. Obviously, drawing attention to religious ‘superstitions’ was out. As a survival strategy, ethnographers had to keep their heads down, for example, by working in institutes not ostensibly concerned with ethnography or by taking refuge in provincial universities. Sometimes these strategies succeeded, as in the case of the Tartu School in Estonia whose work on the semiotics of culture had a significant influence in the countries of the Soviet bloc. It was recognized and approved in 1970 and gave rise to a new subject, ‘culturology’ that links semiotics to a broader definition of culture.
Several new research themes have emerged since 1989: religion, in particular the role of orthodoxy in Russian identity; Soviet ‘traditions’ and the political manipulation of traditional culture in the socialist period; and the social transformations brought about by recent political and economic change.
American anthropology was late to arrive on the international academic scene and a lot of foreign-born or trained scholars played a critical role in the discipline’s development there. Although the early American anthropologists tended to work within their national territory, their focus was mainly on the Amerindians who certainly did not share the notion of belonging to the same nation (many of them were employed in the Indian service). Some worked on immigrant groups and small towns in a process that might be likened to nation-building; others on neighboring countries, Mexico in particular. Rather than stress anthropology and home and abroad, American anthropologists, with their four-field approach, preferred to make a distinction between simple and complex societies of the kind that sustained ethnography in the British and French colonies. Venturing abroad or studying ‘complex’ societies was a big step for American anthropologists. The urban sociology of the Chicago ecological school was part of a joint department with anthropology, so that the city’s neighborhoods were studied side by side with Mexican peasants.
The main impetus for work inside the United States came from Melville Herskovits’ pioneering studies of race relations and communities studies such as Robert Lynd’s in Middletown which was itself modeled on Robert Redfield’s study of the rural–urban continuum in Mexico during the 1920s. From the early 1930s, urban communities were studied by anthropologists, such as William F. Whyte’s (1943) innovative study of an Italian slum in New York city. Many of these small-scale ethnographic studies addressed problems of contemporary American life, such as class, race, and sometimes the power structures and economic organization of these communities. During the 1960s, two trends dominated research carried out in the United States: urban anthropology and studies of ethnicity studies, each stressing the multiplicity of cultural groups coexisting within national society. An exception to this was David Schneider’s more traditional study of kinship in Chicago which was intended to be part of a comparative project with Raymond Firth in London.
Whatever the relevance of the distinction between doing anthropology at home and abroad, it has vanished since the 1980s when anthropologists everywhere, but especially in the United States, discovered that we are all living in one world unified by neoliberal globalization. So they studied that.
For anthropological practice to take root in a national territory, as opposed to abroad, requires institutions able to support specialized researchers and to communicate their results to a public. This means museums, universities, research centers and journals, as well as umbrella organizations. In regions like the former Soviet bloc, specialized institutions would be part of an overarching Academy of Sciences. There is a section of the French Ministry of Culture called the Mission du patrimoine ethnologique (Mission for the ethnological heritage) which was created in the 1980s to promote and fund research on France.
Museums have played a crucial role in sustaining anthropology at home everywhere, usually focusing on the material culture of the people studied. Museums of this kind had their origin in competition between European nations. In countries which distinguish between anthropology at home and abroad, there are usually two distinct types of museums corresponding to this division.
Museums in France and Britain illustrate the general point and the contrast between the two countries. Both countries developed local and regional museums – the Welsh Museum near Cardiff was an early pioneer in Britain, in contrast to the British Museum and other imperial collections in London, and the Museon Arlaten in Arles was founded in 1899. The National Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions (MNATP) eventually broke away from the Trocadero museum in Paris (later the Musée de l’Homme and now the Musée du Quai Branly) which specialized in exotic anthropology, but had a ‘French hall’ since 1884. The MNATP was formed as an independent institution in 1938 to encourage and shape ethnology in France; it finally had its own building in 1969. It was at first modeled after the Scandinavian example and later the Soviet Union and Germany (Heimatmuseen). It aimed to provide a national synthesis of ‘rural material civilization’ and it took charge of all regional and local museums. The museum was closed down in 2005 and its collections moved in 2010 to Marseille, where it is now being transformed into the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations. The idea of a national museum of ethnology never took off in Britain.
Most of the other European countries have some kind of National Museum of popular arts or ethnography, for example, Bucarest’s Museum of the Peasantry, the Museum of Ethnography in Kiev and Budapest, and numerous local museums or Heimatmuseen. All of these museums share the objective of integrating popular traditions in all their variety into the national culture. Since the nineteenth century, these have been complemented by open air constructions exhibiting the diversity of national architecture in one synthetic site, the leading example being Skansen in Sweden (1885). A development of this idea later was the ‘ecomuseum’ which sought to present a particular territory through everything it contained. Museums, more than anything else, entrenched the deep split between ‘exotic’ and ‘popular’ material culture that has characterized anthropology in Europe ever since, in the process undermining anthropology’s pretension to being a universal discipline.
In a few countries, especially the United States, one can also find community museums, which allow these places to portray their own role in national history.
Associations and Journals
Anthropologists are organized in professional associations at different levels: regional (European Association of Social Anthropologists-EASA); national (American Anthropological Association, Association of Brazilian Anthropologists, etc.); and topical (medical anthropology, anthropology of religion). Inside these big associations, there are sometimes sections concerned with ‘anthropology at home’ like the ‘Europeanist network’ of the EASA whose members usually work in their own country. Some associations are explicitly specialized on anthropology at home like the Société d’Ethnologie Française. But more and more, these kinds of associations take a wider geographical area. The American Folklore Society, for example, defined itself as an association of folklorists whose members study and communicate knowledge about folklore throughout the world, and not only in America. But this association’s publications have retained a strong historical approach.
Most associations publish journals which are rarely today restricted to ‘anthropology at home,’ despite their titles, Ethnologie Française being a case in point. This journal now publishes European ethnology and sometimes papers based on research carried out outside Europe; but in general, the majority of issues have a regional focus, such as ‘Ethnologia Europaea’ or ‘Ethnologia Balkanica.’ All of this points to the growing difficulty today of maintaining a clear-cut distinction between anthropology at home and abroad. One might indeed ask if there is indeed a future for ‘anthropology at home.’
The Future of Anthropology at Home
In the twenty-first century, most ethnographers work in their own country and the gap between self and other is maintained less sharply than in the time of empire and nation-building. The dominance of European and American anthropology is now challenged by the rise of emerging societies, such as Brazil, India, Mexico, and Nigeria, as well as by the residue of British Empire in Canada, Australia, and South Africa. Anthropology might be said to be more dynamic in these places than in the old imperialist centers. In some cases, such as India and Nigeria, anthropologists cultivate a traditional niche, studying remote tribal groups that are still perceived as requiring integration into national society. In China, anthropology is concerned with the 7% of the population that is not Han. The rest is the domain of sociology. Brazil now has the second largest anthropology association in the world. Until recently, the bulk of research there was carried out in Amazonia – and this is still the case for the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro. But Brazilian anthropologists have taken advantage of the rigidity of neighboring social science disciplines, sociology, and political science in particular, to enter the field of contemporary urban society and culture, with impressive results for their national visibility. Of course, such incursions into home society are no longer separated institutionally or theoretically from a world anthropology that studies people everywhere; and in this respect, the anthropology of emerging countries resembles Europe at the present time.
We should never forget that relations between ethnographers, their subjects, and their readers have changed profoundly in recent decades, all of which has altered the status of anthropology at home as opposed to anywhere else. Anthropologists study here and there. The anthropologists themselves come from here and there. Maybe we will soon discover that everyone needs to feel at home in the world.
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