International Conference: Ethnology in the 3rd Millenium

By Věra Štofaníková

From 19th to 21st October an international conference at Smolenice castle, in the conference centre of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, was organized by the Institute of Ethnology in order to celebrate its 70th anniversary. Slovak ethnologists and guests from the Visegrad countries, Germany, Belgium, Norway, Croatia and France have spent three fruitful days around topics, methods and challenges coming up in the 3rd millennium.

The conference has been divided into thematic categories reflecting the main points of interest in nowadays ethnological research. Among the thematic and methodological challenges presented during the plenary session, competing temporalities, the concept of ethnicity without groups, approaches of urban anthropology, and migration questions have especially been highlighted. Young researchers introduced their PhD projects during a poster presentation and discussed their topics, concepts or methods with more senior scientists. Round tables enabled to discuss such topics as communication and memory, focusing on inter-generational transfers; networking in Visegrad countries were explored through presenting the profiles of national journals on ethnology.

Panels themselves focused on different fields of the ethnological research. Studies on rituals in European culture touched upon 1st of May parades, the catholic feast of Corpus Christi and how current holidays can be seen as a mirror of society in the 21st century, as a way of building up personal or collective identities. Applied anthropology concentrated on such questions as “How to cope with current social and societal challenges?”—enquiring into the phenomena of migration, poverty, unemployment, the ageing of Europe’s population, marginalized communities and intercultural communication. A panel on cultural heritage dealt with tourism, urban landscape, grassroot activism and intangible cultural heritage. Functions of rumours and conspiracy theories as a typical group-relation building have also been approached. This latter panel was opened by a key-note lecture of French political scientist Julien GIRY, co-invited by the Institute of Ethnology SAS and by CEFRES. Julien Giry addressed the issue of the social function of rumours and conspiracy theories and led a multiscale analysis on the “strengthening communities ties in trouble times”.

The conference unfolded in a very friendly atmosphere and the beautiful surrounding of the Smolenice castle. Major topics and societal problems could be discussed in their relation with the methodological challenged awaiting ethnology and other humanities and social sciences.