Gyvenimo etnografija ar gyvenimas etnografijoje? : recenzija

Direct Link:
Mokslo publikacijos / Scientific publications
Document Type:
Recenzija / Book review
Lietuvių kalba / Lithuanian
Gyvenimo etnografija ar gyvenimas etnografijoje?: recenzija
Alternative Title:
Ethnography of life or life in ethnography?
In the Journal:
Lietuvos etnologija. 2016, 16 (25), p. 177-195
Summary / Abstract:

ENAuksuolė Cepaitienė's monograph 'The Ethnography of Life: Places, Structures and Time. Changing Lithuania in the Twentieth Century', is comprised of two parts. The first part of the book is introductory and covers the analysis of ethnographic theory, methodology and methods. It also covers the history of ethnographic and ethnological research in Lithuania, as well as other themes. In this way the first part of the book provides the theoretical premises that form the basis for her subsequent attempt, developed in the next twelve chapters of the book, to reveal the ethnography of life in the changing society of twentieth century Lithuania. First of all, the book presents the concept - the ethnography of life. Lithuanian culture is conceptualized as peasant culture. Ten out of total twelve chapters of the second part are dedicated to what is considered anthropologically the most important areas of Lithuanian lifestyle which the author aims to analyze from an anthropological point of view. This point of view raises doubts, at least for this reader, regarding the use of ethnographic and ethnological literature in discussing social and cultural lifestyle forms and changes in Lithuania. Therefore, one of the essential controversial issues of the monograph is the question of why another science field (anthropology) is used as a theoretical background to analyze ethnographic material. We think that the ethnological concept of culture would be more appropriate for the general topic of the book. The efforts to describe the twentieth century panorama of changing Lithuania without relying on an analysis of societal phenomena of change also raises doubts. It is evident from the text of the book that it was common in ethnological writings to map the time period and discuss the changes of phenomena.The second part of the monograph analyzes specific topics in the ethnography of life. However, the larger part of the second part of the book, which aims to reveal the ethnography of life of Lithuania, focuses on pre-Soviet times. The Soviet period, which took up half of the twentieth century - i.e., the time period under discussion of the book - is left with only one chapter in this book. Due to insufficient ethnographic and ethnological research, the author had the least data stemming from this period, therefore this chapter raises most concerns. The analysis in the chapter titled 'Soviet Time Cultural Clashes' follows without a clear historical perspective. Therefore, the readers are likely to be naturally faced with apprehension that a comprehensive ethnographic description is impossible in the absence of such a discourse. A static representation of the fifty year period, i.e. the depiction of the Soviet period circumvents the important historical and political events that were essential in addressing the changes of lifestyle which the author aspires to capture in this book. Such a representation, in itself, implicitly questions the accuracy of the content of the chapter and the chances for success in disclosing the ethnography of life in it. The author seeks to explain the Soviet period as a cultural concept. In reality she proceeds to analyze the period by primarily looking at economic and social clashes. The chapter presents a lot of accurate descriptions of occupational and lifestyle activities and reveals the tendencies of settlement developments. However, these as well as other questions are analyzed inconsistently. Many topics are concluded with the period of the traditional culture. This perspective yields a fragmentary depiction of Soviet cultural, especially festive life, and the landscape of calendar holidays of the time.Therefore, having evaluated the chapter 'Soviet Time Cultural Clashes', the merits and disputable parts of the book, in other words, when looking at the whole text, it is evident that even though the book attempts to describe the ethnography of life of the twentieth century Lithuania, it does not deliver on this promise. First of all, in some cases the text is constructed using ethnological materials - i.e. mostly research studies and other cases - and ethnographic descriptive research. At the same time, the theoretical lens for interpreting these materials remains mostly anthropological. The book does not shed enough light on the landscape of countryside life in the period of independent Lithuania (the period between the two World wars) and many topics are not continued in the Soviet period. The analysis of the Soviet period is sketchy, a lot of themes are not discussed or are discussed only perfunctorily, therefore we conclude that a reader of Čepaitienė's monograph will not discover an ethnography of life but bits and pieces of the reflection on the life in ethnography. [From the publication]

2022-01-06 19:34:53
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