Twilight Zone Anthropology: Voices from Poland

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Twilight Zone Anthropology. Voices from Poland Edited by Michal Buchowski. 2019. RAI/Sean Kingston Publishing. Vol. 2 of the RAI Country Series (Series editor David Shankland). Hardback, ISBN 978-1-912385-06-5, £60.00 (GBP), $35.00 (USD).

Paperback offer for RAI Fellows £20 (including P&P) obtainable directly from admin@therai.org.uk.

We are very pleased to announce the publication of Twilight Zone Anthropology: Voices from Poland (RAI/Sean Kingston Publishing 2019), edited by Michał Buchowski. This is the second volume resulting from the RAI’s Country Series, whereby we invite colleagues to describe the development and comparative breadth of anthropology in their country. So far, we have held celebrations of anthropology in France, Poland, Norway, Austria and – the most recent – Brazil. We hope that Norway and Austria will be published soon, whilst Brazil is in preparation.

About the editor: Michal Buchowski is professor of sociocultural anthropology at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, and at European University Viadrina in Frankfurt/Oder. He is a President of the Polish Ethnological Society, and past President of the European Association of Social Anthropologists, as well as a past Chair of the World Council of Anthropological Association. He is an Honorary Fellow of the RAI.

In his trenchant introduction, Buchowski outlines the reason for choosing the title Twilight Zone: ‘Central Europe has long existed as a grey zone, non-existent as far as global scholarship is concerned….This has been displayed in a lack of interest in the region’s academic output, and even in feelings of superiority towards local producers of knowledge that extended well past 1989’..(page 6). We hope that the work as a whole will go some way to filling this void.

Buchowski himself then covers anthropology’s formation within a nation that was frequently part of someone else’s empire, and then its experience under socialism. He notes in particular that anthropologists in Poland resisted successfully the forcible imposition of Marxism as a dominant intellectual framework, and then the way they became strongly integrated into world anthropology after 1989. Then Lubaś describes the ‘subversive brilliance’ of Obrębski, who was one of Malinowski’s students in the LSE between 1932-4, and anticipated many of Barth’s theories concerning ethnic boundaries. The role of women in anthropology (Kubica) follows. Kubica is well-known for her studies of Czaplicka, who studied under Marett at Oxford, and eventually committed suicide whilst teaching at Bristol University. Here, she sets the question of gender and anthropology in Poland in a very useful wider perspective. The historical section ends with a discussion of ideas of memory within ethnological research (Kaniowska), which anticipates many later arguments to do with ‘reception’ in social theory.

The second section looks at engaged anthropology, and the way that anthropologists in Poland have contributed toward debates concerning issues such as xenophobia, racism and homophobia (Červinková). Brocki – who expresses some scepticism – asks why do we do public anthropology, and how successful is it? Pobłocki presents a case study involvement in action-research and local activism. The next two examine queer studies (Baer) and feminist anthropologists and sexuality (Kościańska and Radkowska-Walkowicz). A final section examines two contemporary approaches; political anthropology (Malewska-Szałygin), and medical anthropology, this last concentrating on the refusal of blood transfusions among Jehova’s Witnesses in Germany (Rajtar).

We congratulate the editor and authors on such a magnificent volume, one that is full of interest for all those interested in the history, and contemporary situation of anthropology. Further countries are in discussion, and we would welcome suggestions from Fellows as to which we could learn the most from. In the meantime, the volume is available from the RAI in a limited, soft-back edition for Fellows at £20 (including post and package). Institutional inquiries for the hardback should be addressed please to the publisher (www.seankingston.co.uk). Orders from Fellows may come directly to the RAI, to admin@therai.org.uk please.