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Chapter 1: What's in a Name? (DD)

Welcome to Cracow

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, welcome to the social anthropology programme at this year's summer school. My name is Danuta Dylagowa and in this opening lecture I want to introduce you to some basic issues in modern social anthropology. I shall assume that you have no previous familiarity with the subject. Some of you perhaps are not comfortable with the very name anthropology. In dictionaries and some of the older textbooks you will be told that it means 'the study of man'. As a woman I disapprove of this definition. The great Cracow-born anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski is said to have joked that 'Anthropology is the study of man embracing women.' But even if we substitute 'humanity' or 'humankind' for 'man', the formula reveals very little. It is better if you try to suspend your natural inclination to have a concise definition of the subject at this point. We can try to formulate something more satisfactory at the end of the course. By then you will know much more about how this field of study has developed and what animates its contemporary practitioners.

The question of names is actually rather complicated. Here in Cracow we teach and research in social anthropology. Thanks to the impact of Malinowski, whose name you will hear regularly throughout the course, we have particularly close links to the tradition that bears this name in Britain. In America, however, one speaks normally of cultural anthropology. The two are not quite identical. American cultural anthropology has been traditionally taught as one of 'four fields', the other three being archaeology, physical (or biological) anthropology, and linguistics. In most other countries these are classified as separate disciplines. In Germany the equivalent tradition to social or cultural anthropology is known as Völkerkunde or Ethnologie. However, the Germans have a separate tradition of Volkskunde to describe research into the customs of their own people (Volk). Poland and many other European countries maintain a similar distinction. Here, the equivalent of Volkskunde is known as Etnologia. As a social anthropologist, I am in an Institute together with sociologists, and feel myself closer to them than to other colleagues in our University's Institute for Etnologia. Yet I have to concede that, particularly when we social anthropologists carry out research in our own country, there is sometimes little to distinguish us from Etnologia colleagues. We are all members of the same Faculty, and for good historical reasons this is called the Faculty of Philosophy! In other countries similar research projects might be organised by Departments of Sociology, or of Cultural Studies. In other words, the academic packaging of our field is muddled. Actually it always has been. This is a field that has always been open to influences from other subjects on almost all sides, and you cannot expect to find much international consistency. Sometimes the same name is used when there are big differences in substantive research agendas. Equally, different names may conceal a basic similarity of interests and approaches.

Figure 4: Dr. Dylagowa's visiting card

This summer school is concerned with social and cultural anthropology, which for most purposes can be treated as one and the same subject. In this first lecture I want to outline how this branch of anthropology is related to other branches and to the three standard groupings of academic disciplines: the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities. A more detailed account of anthropology's history will be given tomorrow by my colleague Prof. Dylag. You will learn that anthropologists place great emphasis on field studies or ethnography. The descriptive account they typically publish when their fieldwork is completed is often called an ethnography. We do not expect you to produce an ethnography this summer, but we shall suggest practical exercises for you to undertake after each of our lectures. After four weeks we shall all take part in a field trip across southern Poland as far as the state border. We would like you to use this trip as an opportunity to apply some of the knowledge you have learned on the course. Finally, when we return to Cracow Professor Dylag and I will assess the subject's prospects now that humanity has entered the Third MillenniumÍ.

Figure 5: Florianska Street, part of the Via Regia (Royal Road). McDonalds can be seen on the right, just in front of the ancient city gate.


At the end of most lectures we shall suggest some form of Assignment, which you should carry out before the following lecture. The details should be written up in your Anthropological Summer School Journal. Please take one of these folders and look after it carefully. I would like you to open this journal with a short autobiography in which you should explain, in a paragraph or so, the cultural group or groups with which you yourself identify most strongly.

Secondly, you should start fieldwork in Cracow. Kindly walk around the city centre for at least one hour before you return to the dormitory. See how many details of life on the street or the market, inside shops or churches, strike you as different from the streets, markets, shops and churches that you know from your home countries. Make a list of these differences, but list also any similarities that seem to you surprising. For example, you may notice both similarities and differences if you choose to visit our branch of McDonalds. Pay attention not only to the details of material objects but also to people's behaviour and how they seem to interact with each other. If you fall into conversation with local people, or with other visitors to Cracow, that's fine; but please do not accost people on the street and do not  try to conduct a formal interview with them; that is not the best way to begin an anthropological study.

Be prepared to spend at least an hour writing up your notes this evening: at the end of the course we shall collect your journals, and the Malinowski prize will be awarded to the student who gives your teachers, both natives of Cracow, the most satisfying new insights into their city and the wider Polish society to which it belongs.

Neither Tom nor Ania had ever kept a diary before and the thought of an hour's writing at the end of each day was unwelcome. They decided against McDonalds. Instead, Tom proposed a visit to his cousin Maria, who was renting a small apartment in a block on one of the large housing estates to the east of the city. This was certainly  different from Cracow's picturesque centre, though Tom and Ania were familiar with similar looking blocks in Slough and Chicago.

Figure 6: Maria's  district: the street is named after Pope John Paul II.

Maria was studying economics at the Jagiellonian University. She had just finished her first year. In the previous year she had found work as a tour guide in the summer vacation, but so far, she said, this summer had been difficult. The sector had become more professional and fewer students were being recruited. If things continued like this, she said, she would have to move back to her parents, away over in the east near the Ukrainian border. She didn't want to live in the parental home at the age of 19, but at least she would save money.

Maria asked Tom and Ania about the lecture they had heard. Tom said he liked the lady's style and asked Maria what she could tell him about a Polish anthropologist called Malinowski. 'Never heard of him', said Maria. Ania was still puzzled about how cultural anthropologists differed from social anthropologists. 'Forget it,' said Tom, 'she said that it was effectively the same tradition.'

Ania struggled to follow the conversation when the cousins switched to Polish and caught up on a year's personal news. They cooked some soup and just as it was ready Maria's boyfriend showed up, grimy in worker's overalls. Tom had to promise not to let her parents know that Wlodek was currently sharing her single room. They had been close since schooldays, she explained, while Wlodek showered. He had applied unsuccessfully to study Etnologia at the Jagiellonian University. Now he was working as a labourer in Cracow for the summer, hoping to raise enough money to enroll at one of the new private universities. Unfortunately the subject that really interested him, the mythology of the Slavic peoples, was not available at any of these new institutions.

It was late when Ania and Tom returned to the dormitory and pulled out their empty journals. Tom had no hesitation in describing his culture as Polish-American. Ania had more trouble. First she wrote Polish-English; then she crossed out Polish; then she crossed out English and substituted British. Eventually she erased this too.

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