Anthropology of Gender in the Balkans: Focusing on Historical Transformations and Analytical Strategies
Georg-August University, Goettingen, 09-10 September 2019
The workshop “Anthropology of Gender in the Balkans” has two goals. First, it aims to bring together anthropologists who explore gender in the Balkans ethnographically to present their work and to connect. Second, it aims to invite its participants to discuss how they research and write about gender dynamics, hierarchies, oppressions, and inequalities in the Balkan countries, without reiterating the problematic discourse about the backwardness of the region and the need for the Balkans to catch up with Europe.
There is a vibrant anthropological scholarship that explores gender practices in the Balkans both ethnographically and critically. However, a focused discussion on strategies that anthropologists use to critically research gender in this region is missing. Therefore, the key question of the workshop is: what analytical, epistemological, and narrative strategies do we as anthropologists use to articulate ethnographically grounded criticism of gender asymmetries and inequalities in the Balkans beyond the usual balkanizing tropes and frozen concepts?
This is an important question because the anthropological analysis is thoroughly comparative: anthropologists learn by making the strange more familiar, or by making the familiar seem strange. Translating human behaviour across different degrees of familiarity and difference may involve a critical perspective, but it does not have to. Our workshop asks – when anthropologists do write critically about gender in the Balkans, how do we do it? What analytical, epistemological, and narrative strategies do we use?
We invite the participants to take a part in this workshop and to present papers on the critical anthropological writing about the Balkans within two thematic strands: 1) historical transformations 2) analytical strategies.
One productive strategy to offer critical analysis, yet avoid the danger of balkanism, has been to conduct feminist / gender / women-centred research focusing on past and historical transformations. There is a growing body of literature that focuses on the emancipation of women during socialist modernity and takes this as a reference point for a criticism of contemporary gender policies and relevant legislature both in the Balkans and in the rest of Europe. There are also anthropologists who look at the historical changes in kinship and property regimes in the Balkans in order to critically explore contemporary logic and organization of gender practices and relations. We invite the participants in this strand to present their research and include a brief reflection on their analytical, epistemological, and narrative choices in writing critically about gender in the Balkans. Can we explain the collapse of socialist (second) world by deficiencies and aberrations of its “state feminism” as the core of the socialist egalitarian politics? Do we look to the (socialist) past, or at contemporary processes as an inspiration for comparative thinking?
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