Study Abroad and Exchanges



SOC3089 : Memory, identity and nation-building in eastern Europe: The view from anthropology

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


"The states in eastern Europe have faced fundamental changes with the fall of socialism. These changes were political and economic but affected, in unprecedented ways on people's everyday lives: changing notions of the person, senses of identity, values, experiences of time. They continue to cause considerable reflection on memory, history and the identity of the nation. Almost thirty years after the ‘fall of socialism’ these processes allow us insights into the very dynamics of social and cultural change – as well as insights into what it means to be eastern European and, in reflection, western European, if those categories really do exist. The module seeks to explore the experience of this monumental transformation and of ways of life in ‘postsocialism’ anthropologically by focusing on aspects of social structure, culture, identity, personhood, and nation-building and memory. Simultaneously, the module casts a critical eye on developments in the discipline itself that arose from the fall of socialism and the meeting of academics from 'East' and 'West'.

The main objectives are:

To develop students' knowledge and awareness of current anthropology through an exploration of the literature that focuses on eastern Europe.
To develop students' understanding of the study of rapid social and cultural change.
To explore, through case studies, anthropological concepts of memory, history, nation-building and identity in particular.
To develop students' abilities in reading ethnographic texts critically, to apply knowledge from different sources to inform their reading, and to develop skills to argue logically and analytically, both orally and in writing."

Outline Of Syllabus

"The module begins with introductions to anthropology and ethnography, and some fundamentals on socialism and communism as economic, political and social systems in eastern Europe; seminars introduce students to the critical reading of ethnographic texts.

The second part of the module explores the question of change and continuity during the transformation in the early 1990s using examples of the ‘fast-track transition' of East Germany, of changing notions of self and society, and of consumption and political ritual in lectures and seminars. This content will be exemplified with the film of Good Bye Lenin. The seminars focus on critical reading which serve as preparation for assignment one.

In the third part the module focuses on questions of memory and history after fundamental regime-change. Lectures will explore the question of nation-building and memory through considering the development of museums and memorials, policy responses to the 'dark legacies' of oppression during state-socialism, nostalgia, life-stories of ordinary citizens and victims of socialist regimes. We will therefore explore the ‘politics of memory’ that are now unfolding. The documentary The Kingdom of Forgetting and the movie The Lives of Others will exemplify some of the issues and seminars will enable in-depth discussion of examples. Finally, we will critically explore developments in the discipline of anthropology itself as eastern and western ethnographers met."

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion1114:00114:00Reading around lectures plus preparation and completion of assignment 1 and 2.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture122:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading148:0048:006hrs preparation for each seminar
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching81:008:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops32:006:00Film showing
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery20:000:00Drop-in feedback sessions after each assignment, students come individually for 15-20min.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The module is structured in three parts. The first two lectures and first seminar introduce students to the study of the postsocialist transformation in eastern-central Europe. The following four lectures, three seminars and one film explore particular aspects of this change through examples from a range of countries. The film exemplifies the taught content, the seminars also exemplify the content but furthermore allow the development and practice of critical reading skills and of the synthesis of learned content with the literature. The third part of the module is the longest and in four lectures, two seminars and two films it explores questions of nation-building, memory and identity. The seminars again serve to practice the critical reading of ethnographic texts and critical viewing of films through discussion; they help clarify concepts in discussion, and practice analytical skills with regard to different materials especially in seminar seven. Student presentations during one seminar in preparation of assignment one will be used to ensure that learning outcomes are met as well as to consolidate learning and skills outcomes.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M602,500 words
Essay1M40Book review 1,500 words
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise1MPlan for the book review; optional
Essay1MEssay plan; optional.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The book review asks students to critically review an ethnography and to situate it within the context of a field of wider literature. This assignment tests and enhances critical and analytical reading skills as well as literacy (synthesis of texts), it requires students to become acquainted with one case-example and thus one country in depth, practicing cultural and global awareness.

The essay allows for in-depth exploration of themes covered by the module thus testing learning outcomes with regard to both knowledge and skills.

Both assignments are preceded by formative assessment plans which are optional for students.

Reading Lists