Post-socialism and Cultural Subject: Hybrid Practices of Cultural Mediation

Principal researcher: Ines Prica
Researchers and associatesNives Rittig BeljakOzren Biti, Lada Čale FeldmanRenata Jambrešić Kirin, Orlanda Obad, Mojca PiškorReana Senjković, Tea Škokić

By its basic orientation, the project is part of the thirty-year long scholarly tradition of the Croatian ethnology of the everyday life, which shares its informedness about contemporary cultural reality with the modern European trend towards ethnology as cultural criticism. The epistemological and ethical location of this humanist science as local knowledge – autoreflexive and equipped for cultural translation and communication – also corresponds with the contemporary derivations of anthropology at home and the methodological about-turns towards the ethnographies of the present, undertaken by intercultural anthropology. Their common objective is to find a supplement and corrective for that part of the anthropological output of knowledge in whose universalistic achievements – from 19th century paradigms to contemporary forms of scholarly globalisation – one can identify a hegemonic backdrop.

The basic interest of the proposed research is to find a pertinent humanistic discourse and ethno-anthropologic mode of researching the Croatian modernity within a general definition of its «transitional character». Today’s eastern European national ethnologies, in the sensitive period of simultaneous transformations of inherited models of professional knowledge and the cultures within which they are active, share their anthropological field with proponents of the most diverse interpretative starting-points, particularly with the anthropology of transition and the influential postsocialist studies. The pre-supposition of the research is that local ethnoanthropological analysis can correspond with general globalistic references, only when it carries out a methodologically successful internal insight, and presents the Croatian culture in transition as a legitimate variant of postsocialist cultures, with all their cultural differences and developmental «deviations». Without losing sight of the continuity of hybridising processes, re-codification of content, and the adaptation of the form, structure and meaning of the phenomena of the period that directly precedes (historically, culturally and analytically) the state of transition, we are persevering in the analytical field of vision set by the concept of “secular transition”, by which further research is a direct extension of the assumptions of the foregoing project, «The Ethnography of Secular Transition: Matrices and Deviations». Comprehended through the cultural mechanism of hybridisation (in the complex sense as attributed to it by H. Bhabha and B. Latour), contemporary «transitional» Croatian culture is exposed to systematic ethnographic description, and interpretation of and commentary on identifiable cultural phenomena formed within the period which, over the last decade and a half, are seen in the light of epoch-making political and social transformations, both in domestic social sciences but also, particularly, in western anthropology. With the emphasis on insider research, the position of the cultural subject who, through direct existential experience, necessarily overarches strict academic periodisation (oriented to the division of SE European cultural heritage as that prior to and after socialism), the planned research is directed both at different historical starting-points and methodological insights. Shifting the interpretative and causal point of departure away from the very «postsocialist moment» makes it possible for an analysis of the ways in which new cultural realities retain continuity with their own heritage, even when this is explicitly formulated as cultural resistance, and when interim outcomes betray general expectations and putative national and European values. Research into socialist cultural heritage will continue on the path of seeking out the continuity/innovativeness of the existential and expressive practices that define the subject of «human transition» as a mediator of dichotomous models of the perceptions of culture of two social systems. The empathetic anthropological approach will reveal the inherited patterns and the new strategies of everyday resistance to the experience of deprivation, exclusive worldviews, cognitive innovations and inversions of social values. Such representation of the cultural subject lies outside the range of the social patheticisation and fatalism of the generally very pessimistic insights of western anthropologists, and is equally removed from the inclination to separate the transitional “winner” and “loser” subjects within the neo-evolutionist discourses labelled as «internalised orientalism». Authentic presentation of this neglected form of cultural identity is possible only with the inclusion of diverse experiences and individual destinies through personal narratives, examination of value systems, and other forms of establishing a dialogue between a scientifically and an existentially authorised cultural subject.