Volume 13

Acta Historica Universitatis Klaipedensis, Vol. 13Defining Region: Socio-cultural Anthropology and Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Part 2

Acta Historica Universitatis Klaipedensis, Vol. XIII
Studia Anthropologica, II

Editors: Vytis Čiubrinskas, Rimantas Sliužinskas

Klaipėda, 2006



Consumption and Cultural Difference in Post-Socialist Lithuania from Anthropological Perspective

Abstract and Full Text
In the course of transition to market economy, political and economical structures of Lithuanian society changed generally. Many people lost financial capital, social positions and even cultural categories necessary for the orientation in society. In the course of this fundamental transformation the necessity to negotiate new cultural categories became obvious. In the context of these redefinition processes, consumption and consumer goods constituted important means for the creation of new social differences and their symbolic representations. What visions and images of a ‘good life’, of ‘wealth’ and ‘success’ exist in to-day’s Lithuania? How are consumption-oriented patterns of behaviour provided with symbolic meaning? How are identities constructed and represented through ways and objects of consumption as well as particular lifestyles? Research on these questions may contribute to an understanding about processes of cultural redefinition and differentiation in a specific Lithuanian social context and, starting out from this understanding, it allows making plausible interferences about broader social relations and local visions related to global change.
Key Words: socio-cultural anthropology, consumption, cultural differences, free market, political structures, economical structures, cultural categories, global changes.


Ida Harboe KNUDSEN
Trade and Exchange among Farmers in a Post-Soviet Lithuanian Village

Abstract and Full Text
With the breakdown of the USSR the daily life in the rural areas of Lithuania went through radical changes. The entire system of collective farming was replaced by another system, based on the right to private property. Lithuania´s collective farms and land were divided and distributed among the former members and private farms were emerging all over the country. In this article I look at the situation from a farm level. By using material from my fieldwork in a Lithuanian village I shall present how the Small Farmers here cope in spite the lack of resources. In the first place I will offer some background information for the distribution of land which took place in the early 1990s. I argue that the distribution of land left many villagers with so scarce resources that they could only be individual farmers by expanding the resources of the farms through co-operation. In the second place I will look at the co-operative economical system they have employed in order to make ends meet. I will argue that only the people who lack re-sources within their household employed strategies of reciprocity, whereas people who have sufficient re-sources by themselves do not engage in this system. Thereby there is a correlation between property rights and property relations. Bourdieu has classified these two kinds of sale as a ‘village/market dichotomy’. The article is based on my fieldwork in a Southwest Lithuanian village in 2004.
Key Words: socio-cultural anthropology, trade, exchange, farmers, Post-Soviet Lithuania, private farms, cooperation, individual farms, village/market dichotomy.


The Alchemy of Cynicism: Authority, Power, and the Post-Socialist State in Lithuania

Abstract and Full Text
I explore the state’s presence by looking at people’s understanding/experience of authority and power. I argue that ‘cynicism’ is the common structure of feeling embedded in perceptions and experiences of the state. It entails negativity, distance, and irony, rather than resistance towards the state. Cynicism has an effect on the lives people live and the communication they carry out with the ‘state’ whether in everyday conversations or at elections. Cynicism encapsulates criticism of the state officials, seeing them as self-interested, immoral, and unjust. It also manifests distrust of authorities and difference between the people and the power elites. Cynicism derives from various contexts: the experience of power as omnipresent, immutable, and threatening prevalent in the socialist period, beliefs in equality and loyalty to a collective which no longer inform social relations, mysterious post-socialist circulations of wealth from which people feel completely or partly excluded, experience of destatization and subalternity. This article rests on the research conducted in three village communities and the cities of Vilnius and Kaunas in 2003–2004.
Key Words: socio-cultural anthropology, authority, power, cynicism, state, Post-Soviet Lithuania.


Lithuanian Paganism: a ‘Native’ Critique

Abstract and Full Text
In this article I will use my experience with Native American cultures and religions to offer an alternative perspective on Lithuanian paganism. I will compare the definitions, methodology, and politics in the studies of indigenous Baltic and Native American religions, or spirituality and belief systems. In order to understand the situation of Lithuanian paganism, I employ two perspectives: a viewpoint of a “native” Lithuanian combined with the anthropology of “Native” North America. I also argued for the need of interdisciplinary perspectives on a cultural phenomenon. Collaboration of cultural anthropologists, ethno-musicologists, social scientists, historians, and archaeologists would provide the richness of sources, methodologies, and theoretical perspectives on Lithuanian paganism. I also emphasized the need for more fieldwork, especially qualitative, in order to include the indigenous views, stories and contexts. It is also paramount that the scholars of Baltic Studies as a new anthropological school remain open to their re-search outcome and experiment with various methodologies and perspectives, learn from other ethno-graphic examples and apply that experience to the unique local Baltic situation.
Key Words: socio-cultural anthropology, Lithuanian paganism, Native American Indians, spirituality, belief systems, cultural phenomenon, Baltic cultures.


Gintautas MAŽEIKIS
Challenge of Imagined Societies for Political Anthropology in Lithuania

Abstract and Full Text
The aim of the article is to discuss the origins and issues of neo-tribalist and neo-pagan movements and their cultural, political, educational, international effect in Lithuania. The main object of our investigations is activities of modern neo-Semigallians (žiemgaliai) and Samogitians (žemaičiai). The main problem for analysis is the kind of impact Lithuanian ethnology has on supporting new imagined identities and modern consumer demands support for making new cultural, social, and historical identities.
Key Words: socio-cultural anthropology, neo-tribalism, neo-pagans, historical visions, ethnographical visions, new mythologisation, pop cultural identities.


Defining Belonging: Citizenship as a Form of Ethnic Inclusion and Exclusion. The Case from Post-Soviet Lithuania

Abstract and Full Text
The aim of this article is to deconstruct the notions of blood and blood-kinship or Lithuanian descent, as it is understood in state institutions that apply the Lithuanian Law on Citizenship in practice. In particular the article will discuss how the state classifies people, how it fixes or destroys its relations towards different ethnic groups, and what ideas and criteria are employed in fixing this relationship. The starting point of this study is the Law on Citizenship, which creates or destroys the relationship of the state toward individuals and communities. I will not only deal with the textual representations of the Law on Citizenship, but will also take a look at the discussions in the Seimas (Parliament) of Lithuania while the Law of Citizenship has been processed and will present the opinions of politicians who were active in passing it. I will also try to show the instrumentality of the ideas around the notion of descent which in my point is more cultural rather than biological.
Key Words: socio-cultural anthropology, belonging, citizenship, ethnic inclusion, ethnic exclusion, Post-Soviet Lithuania, Law of Citizenship.


Strategies and Tactics: Defining a New Moral Behaviour in the Public Spaces of Vilnius

Abstract and Full Text
This article will explore and explain the effects of the beer law introduced by the Supreme Administrative Court of Republic of Lithuania in July, 2001. I will argue that the new law has been adopted as a result of the strategic calculation and manipulation of the legal system by the municipality of Vilnius. As a result of global finance flows and tourism the law and authoritative voices of the city council seeks to redefine moral, social and physical boundaries within the city space and introduce a new moral public behaviour in the centre of Vilnius. The article suggests that common citizens, unable to participate in the decision-making process, undertake acts of resistance: tactical manoeuvres and creative acts of hidden transcripts of how to subvert and challenge the law. The materials for the article were collected during my three months field works in the community of beer drinkers, as well as 10 partly structuralised interviews with policeman, also 1 interview with high administrative person at Vilnius city municipality.
Key Words: socio-cultural anthropology, strategies, tactics, moral behaviour, beer drinkers, alcohol control, public spaces, Vilnius old-city.



Social / Cultural Anthropology in Lithuania: the Politics and Practice of the Discipline

Abstract and Full Text
Social or Cultural Anthropology, in the Western sense, is little known territory in parts of contemporary East Europe. It is the case in Lithuania where biological anthropology traditionally claims the term anthropology for itself. Lithuanian ethnology and sociology partially fill the void normally covered by anthropology. There were definite political, academic and practical factors that stunted the growth of anthropology in Lithuania. The aim of this article is to identify these factors, and to define the sphere and the field of research and instruction, that should be allocated to anthropology. I seek also to present the case for an urgent need of the discipline to be established in the educational, research and applied frontiers of contemporary Lithuanian society. It has been even more complicated to establish the importance and capability of socio-cultural anthropology as a separate field of endeavour vis-à-vis Lithuanian ethnology. While socio-cultural anthropology in the West examined the other and otherness, there was no political interest for a newly independent nation-state in a discipline with a wrong focus.
Key Words: social anthropology, cultural anthropology, ethnology, humanities, social sciences, soviet times, politization of the discipline, institualization of the discipline.


Victor C. DE MUNCK
A General Theory of Units of Analysis for Cultural Anthropologists

Abstract and Full Text
Scant attention has been paid in the social sciences to the problem of defining units of analysis. The problem of using culture as a unit of analysis is that culture is not a unit of analysis like a jury is a unit of analysis. It is also a more ambiguous unit of analysis than religion, ethnicity or gender, units which are possible to identify and define. It is concluded that the individual is the least problematic unit for analysis. The limitations of using the individual as the unit of analysis are that group characteristics and behaviors can only be measured indirectly and studies are prone to the ‘individual differences fallacy.’ It is dubious that one can generalize from individuals beyond the community. There are no ultimate primitive units of culture and whatever unit for analysis the researcher selects depends on the questions asked. Always however, a unit of analysis must be clearly defined, it cannot be used as a variable rather variables are extracted from the unit of analysis. Most importantly, there should always be a theory of analysis that justifies the choice of the units for analysis.
Key Words: socio-cultural anthropology, units of analysis, culture, individual differences fallacy, religion, ethnicity, gender.


Boundaries of Europe: towards a Political Anthropology of the Baltic States

Abstract and Full Text
Anthropology as a discipline is largely concerned with understanding human beings on a local and inter-national scale. As the subject has evolved, a number of sub-disciplines have come to the fore, the most prominent being biological, archaeological, linguistic, social and cultural. Political anthropology is generally placed as a sub-specialism within the context of social and cultural anthropology. This essay argues for greater significance for political anthropology as a sub-discipline of anthropology generally and especially within the Baltic States. Following an initial review of political anthropology in and of Europe, the essay outlines some of the key issues to which the Baltic States can make particularly unique contributions. The Baltic States already have a well-developed tradition of European Ethnology. This essay emphasises that they are also in a unique position to contribute to the development of political anthropology as an important sub-discipline which has acquired a new relevance in the context of an ever-changing EU. In a Europe that has witnessed many political changes over the past half-century and the emergence of new borders is going, insights into the political process can hardly be acquired through the disciplines of politics or sociology alone. The Eastern enlargement of the EU gives an urgency to our thinking about Europe.
Key Words: socio-cultural anthropology, political anthropology, Baltic States, European ethnology, politology, sociology.


Jeanette EDWARDS
Reflecting on the ‘Euro’ in ‘Euro-American’ Kinship: Lithuania and the United Kingdom

Abstract and Full Text
The epithet Euro-American is ubiquitous in contemporary social science research. There is a tendency, however, for the concept to suffer from a ‘misplaced concreteness’: it is variously used to refer to a population, a place, or even a culture. The collaborative study on which I report here was entitled ‘Public Understanding of Genetics (PUG): a cross-cultural and ethnographic study of the ‘new genetics’ and social identity’. The aim was include, within the same framework, a range of publics, including lay and expert, as well as the media and legislation, and to investigate whether developments in genetic science and the use of genetic and reproductive technologies were impinging (or not) on people’s understandings of kin-ship. We were able to focus, to some extent, on the interface between normative and popular understandings of genetics. In juxtaposing policy and popular discourse our aim was to discern the points at which they converge and diverge. In PUG we were interested, then, in the similarities and differences in kinship thinking across the European sites in which we worked. We attempted to apprehend cultural understandings of kinship through the prism of genetics, and we were using new reproductive and genetic technologies as an ethnographic window through which to explore kinship across Europe.
Key Words: socio-cultural anthropology, anthropological interest in kinship, Euro-American kinship, Lithuania, United Kingdom.


The Issues of ‘Ethnicity’, ‘Identity’, ‘Multiculturalism’ and Contemporary Social Sciences

Abstract and Full Text
The human beings use to ascribe themselves and others to certain groups and dividing world for ‘them’ and ‘us’. We should rethink the role played by ethnicity concept in social sciences, common sense knowledge and practice in contemporary world. But the turn from ethnic or national identities to other ones is just the first step in my opinion. The second step in the same direction is to try to answer the question: does it really make sense for sociologists and anthropologists to investigate identities or we rather have to investigate people’s action and their behaviour? Moreover, if only we agree on these points we have to re-think the role that scholars play in the process of interpretation of the world by modern people, because the interpretations that we produce as ‘experts’ do not exist only in an ‘academic world’. They are in use by ordinary people as well as by politicians, and that is why those interpretations have visible practical consequences. Hereby I would like to discuss possible alternatives to ethnically based understandings of the issues of the ‘ethnicity’, ‘identity’ and ‘multiculturalism’. I’ll start with the description of the research experience that made me concerned about the issues pointed out.
Key Words: socio-cultural anthropology, ethnicity, identity, multiculturalism, social groups, imagined communities, social sciences.


Torsten BACH
Cultural Mapping versus Thick Description: Recent Folkloristic Practices in Estonia through the Eyes of an Anthropologist

Abstract and Full Text
During my anthropological fieldwork in Estonia in 1996-97 I approached various folkloristic traditions and practices at several occasions. My meeting with folklorists and their practices can be described as a ‘clash’ between academic disciplines. As an anthropology student I obviously reacted to how folklorists related to their research material. It is probably often so when people from different disciplines meet, that disagreements will arise about how research is done and fieldwork material is interpreted. Somehow we have to accept these differences, but sometimes it is also inspiring to get to know what people from other disciplines think about your own discipline. I want to give an account of folkloristic practices as seen through the eyes of an anthropologist. And it is related to a particular time and place: Estonia in the 1990ties at the time of my fieldwork. I guess, and I know, that changes have occurred since then, but I still hope that these reflections can be of interest.
Key Words: socio-cultural anthropology, cultural mapping, Finno-Ugric, ancient traditions, ethno-graphic fieldworks, definition of region, anthropological interest in kinship, definition of kinship.



A Review of: Lietuvos etnologija: socialinės antropologijos ir etnologijos studijos, 2003, t. 3; 2004, t. 4.


Robert Gary MINNICH
International Conference ‘Defining Region: Baltic Area Studies from Socio-cultural Anthropology and Interdisciplinary Perspectives’

The Baltic Anthropology Conference at Klaipėda University