Social anthropology à la russe: fragmented field of a discipline and contemporary battles for the curriculum
This chapter focuses on contradictions in the development of social anthropology curriculum in contemporary Russia. Ethnography as a predecessor to social anthropology has been developing in Russia for several centuries as an academic discipline and occupation with a strong focus on folk culture, ethnicity. In Soviet times, professional training of ethnographers was offered within the Departments of History at several universities. The Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology (previously The Institute of Enthography) is the oldest institution in Russia for studies of humanities, which sprang from the Kunstkamera (Cabinet of Curiosities) founded by Peter the Great. This long tradition of ethnography as a scholarly discipline is based on field research with emphasis on ethnic peculiarities and inter-ethnic conflicts. In the beginning of 1990s, the oldest academic institution, the Institute of Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) acquired a new name: the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of RAS, which signified a shift in self-identification of traditional ethnographers towards international recognition. A number of university-based and independent research centres were established in various Russian regions. The thematic scope of their research interests is wide and includes not only focus on past and present folk cultures, but also on issues of society, culture and diversity as seen in the programs of conferences and content of publications. The institutional resource for disciplinary and professional identity is a new Association of anthropologists and ethnographers that includes now more than a thousand members. The transformation of social anthropology curricula is explored on the national and local levels in relation to implications of the Bologna project and what makes social anthropology a distinctive area of professional training. The analysis shows that the characteristics of social anthropology education and training are defined as well as constrained by such structuring parameters as the conception of professionalism, highly ambivalent relations with contemporary post-socialist governments, the backgrounds of teachers and departments, a philosophy and ideology of diversity, reception of the notion of human rights and international exchange. Based on the results of analysing interviews and relevant documents, we will show contradictory processes in social anthropology curriculum in Russia.