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Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology 
University of Warsaw

Żurawia 4, 00-503 Warsaw
tel. +48 22 55 316 11/ fax. 22 55 316 12

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Course description

The course aims to introduce students to the critical debate on the issue of postsocialism in social sciences, as well as to discuss several relevant questions connected with socio-cultural changes in Central and Eastern Europe.

The debate on postsocialism in CEE will be presented in a global context. We will discuss the relationships and possible links between theories of post-socialism and post-colonial theory as well as theories of globalization and global governance. The goal is to acquire an enhanced view of how postsocialist lives are defined, experienced and understood by those living them. In so doing, we will focus on the contradictions, paradoxes and ambiguities of postsocialism by looking closely at gender, religious practice and its transformations, politics, economy, heritage and food politics. Each topic will be presented by lecturers from various V4 countries. Most examples and texts will focus on V4 countries. The juxtaposition of these topics will allow us to think comparatively of different forms of postsocialism, as well as read more carefully and critically more general descriptions of postsocialism.

In 2014/2015 the course was held for the first time. The 2nd enrollment took place in the winter semester 2016/17. In 2018/19 the course will be held 3rd time. more.

Debates on postsocialism in V4 countries in the global context (course supported by the International Visegrad Fund, grant no. 61300009).
Project Coordinator: Karolina Bielenin-Lenczowska
Course Supervisor: Agnieszka Kościańska

Syllabus for 2018/19

9 October: Introduction and class rules

16 October: A brief history of the region under socialism. General debate on socialism, post-socialism and post-communism in anthropological perspective. The first session aims to introduce students to the recent works of post-socialism in social sciences, to assess the state of the field, as well as critically examine methodological, analytical and theoretical issues offered by this concept. Postsocialism and postcolonialism.

Lecturer: Dr. Agnieszka Kościańska, University of Warsaw


Buchowski, M. (2006) The specter of orientalism in Europe: from exotic other to stigmatized brother. Anthropological Quarterly, Vol 79, no 3, pp. 463-482.

Cervinkova, H. (2012) Postcolonialism, postsocialism and the anthropology of east-central Europe. Journal of Postcolonial Writing 48:2, pp. 155-163.

Hann, C. Humphrey, C. and Verdery, K. (2002) Introduction. Postsocialism. Ideals, Ideologies and Practice in Eurasia. Hann, C. M. (ed.), London & New York: Routledge, pp. 1-27.

Further references:

Cervinkova H., M. Buchowski, Z. Uherek (2015) Rethinking Ethnography in Central Europe, eds., New York, Palgrave Macmillan.

Stoler A.L. (2016) Duress: Imperial Durabilities in Our Times, Durham: Duke University Press.

30 October: Moralities of postsocialism: the view from religion

This session provides an overview to debates on religion and morality in postsocialist societies. It looks at postsocialist transformations through questions of ethics, individual and collective moralities showing how religion constitutes a privileged space for remaking self and society.

Lecturer: Dr. Vlad Naumescu, Central European University


Naumescu, Vlad. 2016. "The End Times and the Near Future: Old Believers' Ethical Engagements." JRAI (N.S.) 22 (2):314–331. doi: 10.1111/1467-9655.12379

Wanner, Catherine. 2007. Introduction. In Communities of the converted : Ukrainians and global evangelism, Culture and society after socialism. Ithaca, N.Y.: Bristol : Cornell University Press.

Further readings:

Pelkmans, Mathijs, ed. 2009. Conversion after Socialism: Disruptions, Modernisms, and the Technologies of Faith. Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Steinberg, Mark D., and Catherine Wanner. 2008. Religion, morality, and community in post-Soviet societies, pp. 1- 20. Washington, D.C. Bloomington: Woodrow Wilson Center Press ; Indiana University Press.

Zigon, Jarrett. 2010. Making the new post-Soviet person : moral experience in contemporary Moscow. Leiden ; Boston: Brill.

Zigon, Jarrett ed. 2012. Multiple moralities and religions in post-Soviet Russia. New York: Berghahn Books.

13 November: Moral Economies of Consumption in Post-Socialism.

Lecturer: dr. Renata E. Hryciuk, University of Warsaw


Marisa Wilson (2009), „Food as a good versus food as commodity: contradictions between state and market in Tuta, Cuba”, Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford, 1, pp. 25-51.

Penny Van Esterick (2006), From Hunger Foods to Heritage Foods: Challenges in Food Localization in Lao PDR [in:] Fast Food/Slow Food. The Cultural Economy of the Global Food System, (ed.) Richard Wilk, Altamira Press.

Renata Blumberg (2014), Placing Alternative Food Networks: Farmers’ Markets in Post-Soviet Vilnius, Lithuania [w:] Ethical Eating in the Postsocialist and Socialist World, (eds.) Yuson Jung, Jacob A. Klein, Melissa L. Caldwell, University of California Press.

27 November CHANGE! Sexuality, gender and (post)socialism

Lecturer: Dr. Agnieszka Kościańska (University of Warsaw)


Ghodsee Kristen R.2017. Why Women Had Better Sex Under Socialism. "New York Times", Aug. 12, 2017: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/12/opinion/why-women-had-bet....

Kościańska, Agnieszka. 2014. „Beyond Viagra: Sex Therapy in Poland.“ Sociologický časopis / Czech Sociological Review 50 (6): 919-938.

Lišková Kateřina. 2018. Sexual Liberation, Socialist Style: Communist Czechoslovakia and the Science of Desire, 1945–1989. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018, chapter 3 (The Female Orgasm), pp. 122-156.

Sharp, Ingrid 2004. The Sexual Unification of Germany. Journal of the History of Sexuality, 13(3), 348-365.

11 December: Postsocialist mobilities and refugee crisis in Central-Eastern Europe

The first part of the session explores migration and mobilities from and to V4 countries as sites for studying social change in post-socialist societies. In the second part, we will discuss refugee crisis in Europe and its responses in V4 countries.

Lecturer: Dr. Karolina Bielenin-Lenczowska, University of Warsaw


Patzer H., Góralska M., Winkowska M. (2015) The Stadium as a Witness. A Story of a Changing Monument, "View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture" no. 9: http://pismowidok.org/index.php/one/article/view/271/542

Cave, M. E. and Roberts, B. M., (2017) A ‘Moral’ Crusade: Central-Eastern European Nationalism, Xenophobia, and Far-Right Extremism in Response to the ‘Refugee Crisis’. „Honors Theses AY” 16/17. 78: http://repository.uwyo.edu/honors_theses_16-17/78.

8 January The Post-Socialist Peoples´ Economy

The session aims to discuss what matters for people with regard to economy, livelihood strategies as well as ideas about the material world after socialism and how peoples´ model of socialist economy - i. e. the model different from official socialist planning and redistribution -- finds the way to and is re-made up by contemporary political mobilisation. The discussion shall cover people´s everyday economic practices and ideas under communism, their transmission, and/or re-invention by contemporary politics and gain fuller understanding of ambivalent role that communist modernization had in developing of specific model of livelihood strategies, ideas, and practices under post-socialist capitalism.

Lecturer: Dr. Juraj Buzalka, Comenius University in Bratislava


Juraj Buzalka (forthcoming) Post-Peasant Memories: Populist or Communist Nostalgia in East European Politics, Societies, and Cultures.

Further readings:

Buzalka, Juraj and Michaela Ferencová (2017) ‘Workers and Populism in Slovakia’, in Victoria Goddard and Susana Narotzky, eds, Work and Livelihood in Times of Crisis: History, Ethnography, Models, Routledge (with Michaela Ferencová), pp. 157-71.

Neringa Klumbyté (2010) The Soviet Sausage Renaissance. American Anthropologist 112/1.Nadkarni, Maya and Olga Shevchenko, ‘The Politics of Nostalgia in the Aftermath of Socialism’s Collapse: A Case for Comparative Analysis’ in .” In Anthropology and Nostalgia, edited by Olivia Angé and David Berliner, 61-95. Berghahn: New York and Oxford, 2015.

22 January Presentations of students’ projects. General discussion.

Lecturers: Dr. Karolina Bielenin-Lenczowska, University of Warsaw, Dr. Agnieszka Kościańska, University of Warsaw


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