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Course, academic year 2023/2024
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Anthropology of East - Central Europe - JSB539
Title: Anthropology of East - Central Europe
Guaranteed by: Department of Sociology (23-KS)
Faculty: Faculty of Social Sciences
Actual: from 2023
Semester: summer
E-Credits: 6
Examination process: summer s.:
Hours per week, examination: summer s.:1/1, Ex [HT]
Capacity: unlimited / unlimited (15)
Min. number of students: unlimited
4EU+: no
Virtual mobility / capacity: no
State of the course: taught
Language: English
Teaching methods: full-time
Teaching methods: full-time
Additional information:
Note: course can be enrolled in outside the study plan
enabled for web enrollment
Guarantor: Mgr. Barbora Spalová, Ph.D.
Teacher(s): Mgr. Barbora Spalová, Ph.D.
Class: Courses for incoming students
Interchangeability : JSB052
Is interchangeable with: JSB052
Course Description
This course provides a survey of topics underlying debates on nature of geography, culture, identity, and the societies of Eastern and Central European countries. During the course, we will examine the processes and particulars of what has become known as the “transitions from socialism to capitalism”.

We will address the field of postsocialist studies and Europeanization studies from an anthropological perspective: that is, exploring the daily lives of people, and how they have struggled and managed to redefine their experiences in light of the new institutions and logic of economic and social activities since the 1990s. Such perspective takes as its goal an enhanced comprehension of how lives in this part of Europe are defined, experienced and understood by those living them and what is the role of postsocialist transformation and Europeanization in these processes. In so doing, we will focus on the contradictions, paradoxes and ambiguities of post-socialism and Europeanization by looking closely at emerging forms of nationalism, kinship ties, gender relations, language use, production and consumption, identification with place, and new assumptions about identity, memory, personhood and nation.
Last update: Skácel Petr, Mgr., DiS. (27.04.2022)
Aim of the course

Course Objectives
In this class, students will gain a broadened perspective on the Centra and Eastern European states and an awareness of the ways how identity politics are enacted locally as well as internationally. In particular, the students will:

understand the culture and social identity as a social construction, shaped by historical, political, social and cultural contexts;
understand structural conditions that push people to live their lives in particular ways;
understand the unique experiences and perspectives of life in the area of Eastern and Central Europe; and
gain basic knowledge and understanding of the relationship between changing political regimes and identities in Europe.


Cíle předmětu
V kurzu studenti získají širší pohled na státy střední a východní Evropy a budou si vědomi způsobů, jak se politika identity provádí na místní i mezinárodní úrovni. Studenti se zejména zejména naučí:

chápat kulturu a sociální identitu jako sociální strukturu utvářenou historickým, politickým, sociálním a kulturním kontextem;
porozumět strukturálním podmínkám, které nutí lidi žít svůj život konkrétním způsobem;
porozumět jedinečným zážitkům a perspektivám života v oblasti východní a střední Evropy; a
získat základní znalosti a porozumění vztahu mezi měnícími se politickými režimy a identitami v Evropě.

Last update: Uherek Zdeněk, doc. PhDr., CSc. (26.10.2019)
Course completion requirements -

Course Requirements

Class participation.
Term paper (2,000-2,500 words). The paper is due at the end of the semester. The topics of the papers could be identical with any of the weekly topics of the course or their ramifications. The paper can take the form of reaction paper to the main readings to the weekly lecture, a mini literature review which goes beyond the assigned readings, a theoretical discussion paper, an empirical case study, etc. It is encouraged, though not expected, that students connect the term paper exercise to their critocal book review in some fashion. The reaction papers should sort out the main arguments of the key reading(s), compare the positions of different authors on an issue, or debate the overall conclusions of the readings, etc. In any selected genre of term paper, students are encouraged to be reflexive on clearly stated grounds (e.g. methodological, theoretical, ideological, empirical etc.). Please avoid sweeping generalizations and strong judgments without reasoning. Personal voice is welcome but the tone and level of the discussion should be scholarly.
Critical book review based on knowledge of obligatory and required reading (2,000 - 2,500 words). For instructions how to write a critical book review please look here and here. List of recomended books for critical book review is here.
Course Policies
Class begins on time; students are expected to be present at every session from the start to the end. (Lecturers in this course are in their majority guests of the Department of Sociology incoming to an academic exchange for a short visit. Due to the fact we are not able guarantee that their classes will allways fit to the time schedule of the course as is stated in the Student Information System. In cases of lectures and seminars given in other time than is stated in the official course schedule the students are not obliged to be present at the lecture.)
Students are encouraged to participate regularly in class discussions and bring the relevant readings and notes to the classes.
Students are expected to come to class every day having read texts indicated in the syllabus and ready to discuss them.
Students are expected to engage in academic honesty in all forms of work for this course.
Collaborating with other students is encouraged in cases of exchanging rough drafts for constructive criticism or brainstorming ideas for homework assignments, etc.; however, it is NOT allowed to take ideas from other students or from their works and call them your own, or to write homework assignments or take-home exams together.
It is NOT allowed to take ideas from any source without putting them in quotations and citing them, or by paraphrasing them.
Any student who misses more than two seminars without a valid medical excuse or due to other serious reasons will automatically be excluded from the course.
No late work is accepted unless the student asks for deadline extension in advance. Extensions are provided only in cases of emergency (such as medical or serious family reasons).

The final grade for the class will be determined by:

  • class attendance and participation: max. 10%;
  • term paper: max. 30% (15% at the minimum);
  • critical book review: max. 60% (30% at the minimum).



100 - 91: A (Excellent. The student has shown excellent performance, originality and displayed an exceptional grasp of the subject.)
81 - 90: B (Very Good. The student understands the subject well and has shown some originality of thought. Above the average performance, but with some errors.)
71 - 80: C (Good. Generally sound work with a number of notable errors.)
61 - 70: D (Satisfactory. The student has shown some understanding of the subject matter, but has not succeeded in translating this understanding into consistently original work. Overall good performance with a number of significant errors.)
51 - 60: E (Sufficient. Acceptable performance with significant drawbacks. Performance meets the minimum requirements.)
50 - 0: F (Fail. The student has not succeeded in mastering the subject matter of the course.)



May 31: Research paper (resit deadlines: June 15, June 28)
May 31: Book review (resit deadlines: June 15, June 28)

Last update: Grygar Jakub, doc. Mgr., Ph.D. (28.01.2019)
Literature -

Requred reading

BUZALKA, Juraj. 2007. Nation and Religion. The Politics of Commemorations in South-east Poland. Munster: LIT Verlag. Pp. 133-158.

GUPTA, AKHIL – FERGUSON, JAMES. 1992. Beyond „Culture“: Space, Identity, and the Politics of Difference. Cultural Anthropology, 7(1): 6 – 23. 

HOLY, Ladislav. 1996. The Little Czech and The Great Czech Nation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 282 - 313.

MACDONALD, Sharon. 2013. Memorylands: Heritage and Identity in Europe Today, London and New York, Routledge,: chapters on post-socialist Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania.

MIHAI, D. 2013. Migration Patterns in Central and Eastern Europe. Study Case on Romania. Proceedings WSEAS II.

MOLZ, Jennie Germann. 2004. Tasting Imagined Thailand: Authenticity and Culinary Tourism in Thai Restaurants. In: Lucy M. Long (ed.), Culinary Tourism. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, pp. 53-75.

ROGERS, D. 2005. The Anthropology of Religion after Socialism, «Religion, State & Society», XXXIII (1). Pp. 5-18.

VÁCLAVÍK, David, HAMPLOVÁ, and Zdeněk NEŠPOR, “Religious Situation in Contemporary Czech Society.“ Central European Journal for Contemporary Religion 2 (2): 99-122.

VERDERY, Katherine. 1994. Beyond the Nation in Eastern Europe. Social Text, No. 38 (Spring, 1994), pp. 1-19.

VERDERY, Katherin. 1999. Fuzzy Property: Rights, Power, and Identity in Transylvania’s Decollectivization In: Burawoy, Michael and Katherine Verdery (eds.), Uncertain Transition: Ethnographies of Change in the Postsocialist World. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield. Pp. 53-81. 


Reccomended reading

BERDAHL, Daphne. 1999. Where the World Ended: Re-Unification and Identity in the German Borderland. Berkeley: University of California Press.

BROWN, Kate. 2005. A Biography of No Place. From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland. Cambridge: Harvard Iniversity Press.

BÚRIKOVÁ,  Zuzana & Daniel MILLER. Au Pair. London: Polity.

BUZALKA, Juraj. 2006. Nation and Religion. The Politics of Commemoration in South-East Poland. Münster: LIT Verlag.

CREED, Gerald W. 2012. Masquerade and Postsocialism. Ritual and Cultural Dispossession in Bulgaria. Indiana University Press.

ČERVINKOVÁ, Hana.  Playing Soldiers in BohemiaAn Ethnography of NATO Membership. Praha: SetOut.

DUNN, Elizabeth. 2004. Privatizing Poland. Baby Food, Big Business, and the Remaking of Labor. Cornell University Press.

FOLLIS, Karolina S. 2012. Building Fortress Europe. The Polish- Ukrainian Frontier. University of Pennsylvania Press.

GHODSEE, Kristen. 2009. Muslim Lives in Eastern Europe: Gender, Ethnicity, and the Transformation of Islam in Postsocialist Bulgaria. Princeton Unoversity Press: NJ.

GORDY, Eric. 1999. The Culture of Power in Serbia: Nationalism and the Destruction of Alternatives. Pennsylvania State University Press.

HANN, Chris. 2006. "Not the horse we wanted!" Postsocialism, Neoliberalism, and Eurasia. Münster: LIT Verlag.

HOLY, Ladislav. 1996. The Little Czech and the Great Czech Nation: National Identity and the Post-Communist Social Transformation. Cambridge University Press.

KIDECKEL, David A. 2008. Getting By in Postsocialist Romania. Labor, the Body, and Working-Class. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 

LEDENEVA, Alena V. 2013. Can Russia Modernise? Sistema, Power Networks, and Informal Governance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

STEWART, Michael. 1997. The Time of the Gypsies. Westview Press.

TORSELLO, Davide. 2003. Trust, Property and Social Change in a Postsocialist Slovakian Village. Münster: LIT Verlag.

TORSELLO, Davide. 2012. The New Environmentalism? Corruption and Civil Society in the Enlarged EU. Routledge.

VERDERY, Katherine. 1997. What Was Socialism and What Comes Next? Princeton University Press.

VERDERY, Katherine. 1999. The Political Lives of Dead Bodies: Reburial and Political Change. NY: Columbia University Press.

Last update: Grygar Jakub, doc. Mgr., Ph.D. (23.01.2022)
Teaching methods

Lectures, seminars, fieldtrips.

Last update: Grygar Jakub, doc. Mgr., Ph.D. (28.01.2019)
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