Introduction: Soviet Anthropology at the Empire's Edge

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In March 2009, the Chicago-based sociologist and fervent advocate of world systems theory Giorgi Derluguian gave a talk at the Georgian State University on 'How not to Stay Provincial'. Although Derluguian referred to the 'state of advanced social science' in general, we consider it no pure coincidence that he chose this title in a place like Tbilisi and in a country like Georgia. It is hard to disagree that, whatever we do as social scientists, we should not be provincial but rather cosmopolitan, addressing the important, timely issues and conversing with dominant theoretical discourses in our works. This seems to be all the more true in the field of regional sciences, which, according to some, are in decline or even in crisis, not least because of their inherent demand for specialization. So here we have the claim that if we want to know something about a region like the Caucasus or Central Asia, we should be guided by the dominant concerns of contemporary social science. This claim is put forward not only by social scientists like Derlugiuan but also by local students. At Tbilisi State University, for example, social anthropology students are eager to become acquainted with the main paradigms of social and cultural anthropology , and many of these students advocate their potential as explanatory tools for their own societies. They are thirsty for theory and hungry for methodology. This appetite for theory and method is often accompanied by a striking disinterest in, and occasionally even distaste for, knowledge generated locally and more than twenty years ago. In the case of Western scholars studying the Caucasus and Central Asia, this disinterest seems to be based on the following assumptions: reading texts by locals is time-consuming, demands a great deal of language proficiency, and the content of these works is oftentimes completely out of fashion. In the case of local students and some younger scholars, Soviet academic traditions are often dismissed in toto. Soviet anthropology in particular is often regarded as being of no value.

SOKOLOVSKIY, S. V., & Muelfried, F. (2017, February 26). Muelfried F., Sokolovskiy S. Introduction: Soviet Anthropology at the Empire's Edge // Exploring the Edge of Empire. Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2011. P.1-18. https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/2saqs


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