Transformation of Ethnology and Anthropology in Belgrade, Serbia

Bjoertvedt, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Bogdan Dražeta Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Ethnology and Anthropoloy, University of Belgrade

Teaching at the Department of Ethnology and Anthropology, which is a part of the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, Serbia, has deep historical roots. Since 1881, the course named “Comparative Geography and Ethnography” was taught at the Belgrade Great School (predecessor of the Belgrade University). The next and key step of the disciplinary development was the institutionalization of ethnology within the so called “Ethnological Seminar” founded in 1906. Since then, the academic program was always changing according to the specific needs of the examined culture and society, so it had practical notions from the very beginning. The period between two world wars (1918-1941) and the majority of the socialist period was based on teaching ethnology as a national science capable of explaining all the aspects of social and cultural life of Serbian and other Yugoslav ethnic communities.

Photochrom Print Collection, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons,_Belgrade,_Servia-LCCN2001698829.jpg

During 1980s a significant theoretical and methodological shift occurred, so the Department of Ethnology changed its name into the Department of Ethnology and Anthropology in 1990. The mentioned transformation involved way from a discipline traditionally oriented to the study of national culture, to the one devoted to modern socio-cultural analysis of social reality and cultural diversity at national, regional, and global levels. Because of the unique interdisciplinary openness and unifying qualities of different fields of anthropology, teachers, staff, and researchers at the Department work jointly on topics such as cultural identities, political, economic and cultural transition, tangible and intangible cultural heritage, multiculturalism, globalization, politics, visual media, gender, music, literature, popular culture, new religious movements, etc.

In that sense, students who graduate in ethnology and anthropology at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade nowadays have wide scope of anthropological and general knowledge they can apply in their everyday “non-anthropological” jobs. The structure of the teaching program (bachelor, master, doctoral) is based on courses that belong to sociocultural anthropology in the strict sense, not to the biological or linguistic one. By that manner, people are specialized in variety of anthropological theories and concepts, such as religion, identity, ethnicity, politics, methodology, each being taught in several courses. The Belgrade anthropological department is an example of anthropological specialization. Former students work in all sorts of industries, from media (TV and radio, newspapers, social network), human resources, marketing and public relations agencies, to state institutions, but also as freelancers, advisors, analysts. All of them have one thing in common – they are capable of expressing both in writing and orally, they can easily analyze concepts and processes in their social and cultural environment, and they can notice deeper meanings of everyday life symbolics. Although four-year teaching program of anthropology exists only in Belgrade, various departments across Serbia offer courses in different anthropological subdisciplines. Hence, ethnology and anthropology is not only popular among students from Serbia, but also attractive among students from the neighboring countries such as Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Lastly, it should be stressed out that the Department of Ethnology and Anthropology at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade with its strong academic program produces knowledgeable individuals who are able to adjust to different work places, different people and explain their needs, beliefs and values. In other words, they can understand and explain a variety of cultures in the contemporary period which often forgets basic principles of humanness – the quality of being human in a dehumanized world.

Bogdan Dražeta Ph.D. Assistant Professor

Department of Ethnology and Anthropology

Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade

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