To a large degree, sociocultural anthropology was born out of European encounters with unfamiliar peoples whom they sought to understand and explain through the lens of Enlightenment philosophy and empiricism, all precipitated by the Continent’s “Age of Discovery” (and later, colonialism). As such, anthropological traditions across the world have roots that lead back to Europe, cultivated by such foundational scholars as E. B. Tylor, James George Frazer, Bronislaw Malinowski, and A. R. Radcliffe Brown in Britain; Marcel Mauss, Pierre Clastres, Émile Durkheim, and Claude Lévi-Strauss in France; Jan Petrus Benjamin de Josselin de Jong in the Netherlands; and Ludwig Feuerbach and Oscar Peschel in Germany. Yet while anthropology took seed in Europe and has bloomed into a number of established European national traditions (especially in the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Scandinavia) it is important to distinguish anthropologies in Europe from anthropologies of Europe. European anthropologists have been interested in European peoples, of course, but European and American anthropology, until the later 20th century, was decidedly more preoccupied with the study of “primitive” or “exotic” cultures—both in the margins of Europe and across the world—than they were with “modern” beliefs and ways of life. Though there are early examples of anthropologists studying Europe, an anthropology of Europe—the study of how people in Europe live and how they make sense of the world—did not really emerge as a subfield until the second half of the 20th century. It was not until the last decades of the 20th century that the subfield began to grow and coalesce, in part due to developing anthropological interest in village and peasant communities and in the wake of a critical turn in the late 1960s toward rethinking anthropology’s complicities with Western colonialism, imperialism, and exoticization of (non-Western) Others considered “simple.” Also, processes of modernization and globalization diminished distinctions between rural and urban, and the Global North from the Global South. Despite its somewhat late arrival, interest in the anthropology of Europe has grown quickly, and Europeanists have seen steady growth in their professional membership, publication venues, and attendance at Europeanist panels and conferences. Today, there is a large community of scholars, both in Europe and the United States, whose research interests in Europe range from “traditional” topics and sites of anthropological inquiry—kinship among the Roma peoples, or Islamic religious practice in the Balkans—to areas and sites that challenge and expand anthropology’s long-standing interest in peripheral and marginalized communities. What follows is a review of the historical development of an anthropology of Europe, as well as an overview of its main areas of ethnographic inquiry and theoretical development. While this article includes several non-English sources, it focuses on English-language scholarship, not only because of space limitations but also because few scholars have broad familiarity with non-English anthropological scholarship (published in German, French, Spanish, Russian, etc.) that would permit a critically informed multilingual review.
Article. 10974 words.
Subjects: Anthropology ; Human Evolution ; Medical Anthropology ; Physical Anthropology ; Social and Cultural Anthropology
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