Module Catalogue 2023/24

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

  • Inactive for Year: 2023/24
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Anselma Gallinat
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



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 forty 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, the meeting of academics from 'East' and 'West', and asks whether the notion of postsocialism still makes sense forty years on.

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 have been unfolding during the past decades. 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 noted in aims.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

At the end of the module students should be able to:
know the key attributes of socialism and communism in theory and practice;
recognise key-concepts underpinning the anthropological study of rapid social and cultural change;
comprehend anthropological concepts including social structure, culture, ritual, time, identity, the nation, memory, history and nostalgia;
have an understanding of current trends in the anthropology of postsocialism.

Intended Skill Outcomes

"At the end of the module students should be able to:
differentiate between different sources of information, synthesize and
critically evaluate texts, in particular ethnographies;
apply anthropological and sociological concepts to situations of social and cultural change;
be practiced in formulating and communicating scholarly arguments verbally and in writing;
be practiced in time-management and interpersonal communication."

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00in person lectures
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials240:3012:00pre-recorded lecture material to support in person lectures
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion1108:00108:00Reading around lectures plus preparation and completion of assignment 1 and 2.
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading154:0054:00preparation for each seminar and for lectures
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching81:008:00pip small-group seminar
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops32:006:00Film showing -in person
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.

The number of hours exceeds to 2022-23 GPS model. This is due to the film showings (6hrs) which include two feature films and one documentary. These films are useful for illustration but cannot replace lecture content. The time needed is not exactly 6 hrs as one film is only around 1 hour in length, but this showing is at times followed by discussion - this is to say that the allocated 6 hrs are sued flexibly depending on student need.

Reading Lists

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
Written exercise1M40Book review 1,500 words
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise1MPlan for the book review; optional
Written exercise1MEssay 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.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2023/24 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2024/25 entry will be published here in early-April 2024. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.