The “Islands” of the Theory of Etnos

Sergei M. Shirokogoroff and the Transnational History of Anthropology

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

This paper deals with a transnational life history of the theory of etnos developed by a group of Russian anthropologists. One of the prominent figures in this story was Sergei M. Shirokogoroff (1887 – 1939) who studied anthropology in Paris, conducted his field research in Siberia and China and spent most of his life in China as a professor of anthropology in a number of Universities. His writings still play a key role amongst both Russian academics and political activists. The main contradiction in the intellectual biography of the theory lies in that in the early years of Soviet ethnography this theory was violently attacked as bourgeois and metaphysical but during the Cold War it was turned into the main theory of Soviet ethnography being also part of nationality policy. Ironically by that time the theory had already existed in different variants and in many anthropologies across Eurasia. Given that we will focus on the early stage of the development of this theory in its highly international context, namely how one of the protagonists of our story, Sergei Shirokogoroff developed this theory through the correspondence with overseas anthropologists. Thus Arthur Keith published his book “Ethnos” as a result of their correspondence with Shirokogoroff. The student of Shirokogoroff in China Fei Xiaotong being later a student of Bronisław Malinowski remembered that he had been under the influence of Shirokogoroff and etnos concept was important for theorization the Chinese concept minzu (nation). Apart from Chinese and British links Shirokogoroff turned out an important person in German and South African anthropologies due to his contacts with local anthropologists kept etnos as a main concept in Völkerkunde. For their part, they encouraged a generation of South African anthropologists who conduced etnos theory to the etnieё in Afrikaans and mentioned Shirokogoroff as a progenitor of this concept. In our paper we will analyze materials collected in more than 20 archives in different Europe, America, and Asia, including the documents from the RAI.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventRAI Conference on the History of Anthropology: 1918-1945: the rise of university departments - RAI, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 13 Dec 201614 Dec 2016

Conference

ConferenceRAI Conference on the History of Anthropology: 1918-1945: the rise of university departments
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityLondon
Period13/12/1614/12/16

Fingerprint

Transnational History
History of Anthropology
Anthropologists
Anthropology
China
Ethnography
Africa
Afrikaans Language
Person
Field Research
Eurasia
Asia
Nationality
Material Analyses
Ethnos
Protagonist
Metaphysical
Cold War
Siberia
Life History

Cite this

Anderson, D. G., & Arzyutov, D. (2016). The “Islands” of the Theory of Etnos: Sergei M. Shirokogoroff and the Transnational History of Anthropology. Paper presented at RAI Conference on the History of Anthropology: 1918-1945: the rise of university departments, London, United Kingdom.

The “Islands” of the Theory of Etnos : Sergei M. Shirokogoroff and the Transnational History of Anthropology. / Anderson, David George; Arzyutov, Dmitry.

2016. Paper presented at RAI Conference on the History of Anthropology: 1918-1945: the rise of university departments, London, United Kingdom.

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Anderson, DG & Arzyutov, D 2016, 'The “Islands” of the Theory of Etnos: Sergei M. Shirokogoroff and the Transnational History of Anthropology' Paper presented at RAI Conference on the History of Anthropology: 1918-1945: the rise of university departments, London, United Kingdom, 13/12/16 - 14/12/16, .
Anderson DG, Arzyutov D. The “Islands” of the Theory of Etnos: Sergei M. Shirokogoroff and the Transnational History of Anthropology. 2016. Paper presented at RAI Conference on the History of Anthropology: 1918-1945: the rise of university departments, London, United Kingdom.
Anderson, David George ; Arzyutov, Dmitry. / The “Islands” of the Theory of Etnos : Sergei M. Shirokogoroff and the Transnational History of Anthropology. Paper presented at RAI Conference on the History of Anthropology: 1918-1945: the rise of university departments, London, United Kingdom.
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