Category Archives: Anthropology

Sajudis and the Lithuanian Catholic Church

Miranda R. Zapor (Baylor University)

In the late 1980s, waves of popular nationalism swept across the Socialist Republics. In this context of nascent revolution, the Lithuanian Popular Front, Sajudis, was born.

The relationship between Sajudis and the Lithuanian Catholic Church (LCC) is worthy of particular scrutiny.  In contrast to Church-nationalist unities in other Socialist Republics, Sajudis had to actively incorporate the Lithuanian Catholic Church into its agenda, rather than simply assuming that an established foundation of religio-nationalist sentiment would result in a tacit alliance.  This task was made more complex by the well-established alternative sources of Lithuanian national identity that powerfully defined the national consciousness of Sajudis members; folk culture and religion, language, and history were all strong loci of national pride.  These sources proved sufficient to motivate the elite minority, but the majority of Lithuanians identified more readily with Catholic religious culture.  Moreover, the Lithuanian Catholic Church lacked a conscientiously nationalist agenda that would organically provide the nationalist movement with popular majority support.  Thus Sajudis had to work towards incorporating the Church into its political platform.  Sajudis, recognizing the potential for nationalist influence by the Church, encouraged clergy participation and espoused Catholic concerns in an effort to gain its support and constituency.

Lithuanians Outside Lithuania: Practices and Emotional Resources of Lithuanian-ness

Jolanta Kuznecovienė (Vytautas Magnus University)

The presentation examines the practices, resources and contexts used by Lithuanian immigrants for their Lithuanian identity construction.  It focuses on the analyses of social, economic and emotional linkages which Lithuanian immigrants accumulate or retain in the new societies.

Research data from 2007-2009 revealed that the majority of Lithuanian  immigrants in England, Ireland, Norway and Spain draw on certain  pathways of incorporation  to their new societies by choosing particular  linkages and use  diverse  motivations of  considering  themselves  as  part of it. Based on the analyses of pathways of immigrants’ incorporation three prevailing ways of construction of Lithuanian-ness were revealed. The first way could be defined as a process of identity work based on the construction of de-territorialized cultural space. The way of immigrants’ cultural openness is based on the undermining of ethnic identity in public arenas and reducing Lithuanian-ness to occasional practicing of Lithuanian language and customs in private spaces. In case of the third way the emotional and symbolic  linkages with the country  of their origin (sending country) and imaginable returning home are used by immigrants as a main resource of  their Lithuanian-ness.

Keyword: Kuznecoviene

Development Strategies and Embeddedness of Rural Life in Latvia

Agnese Cimdiņa (University of Latvia)

This article challenges the understanding of economic activity as based on economic efficiency by indicating that economic development guidelines set out to modernize rural areas, enhance productivity and introduce common standards for agricultural production more often than not encounter complex relationships embedded in local cultural context and social environment.  The article examines the concept of embeddedness and argues that relations in which rural economic practices and decisions are embedded have culturally constructed meanings.  Several agro-activities (such as, for instance, bath-house services, home beer-brewing and organic farming) are not primarily guided by economic efficiency, but rather by culturally construed awareness of one’s own identity and that of others, of certain values, of social and natural environment (including one’s home place), of continuity, all amounting to a certain vision of a good life . Thus a study of rural economic practices and agro-activities should be based on the analysis of culturally constructed values, social ties, as well as human relations with nature and meanings attached to them. The present theoretical reflection on the embeddedness of agro-activities is substantiated by empirical examples from farms in Vidzeme (one of the regions of Latvia). These practices were studied during a long-term field research in 2010 and 2011.

Keyword: Cimdina

The Discipline of Sociocultural Anthropology vis-à-vis Politics of Identity in Lithuania

Vytis Čiubrinskas (Vytautas Magnus University)

The presentation identifies the factors of development of the discipline of sociocultural anthropology in Lithuania by defining its field and scope of research and instruction.  The author pays specific attention to actual disciplinary developments of anthropology, how it is rooted and/or shaped by the institutional and methodological policies as well as influenced by the dominant discourses and identity politics.

Sociocultural  anthropology in Lithuania is seen as a  “product of Westernization”, which in most cases came to the region through the post-socialist change, as postcolonial and cosmopolitan study of the global human condition in comparative and holistic perspectives. Eventually it is a discipline which has challenged the ‘natural’ order of the established social sciences and humanities. Its strong emphasis on cultural relativism also implied politics of identity beyond nationalism and Occidentalism.

Occasionally noticeable xenophobic and arrogant attitudes towards sociocultural anthropology in Lithuania are rooted in the general perception that ‘culture’ is an intellectual achievement and also in confusion with national ‘ethnic culture’ (Vastokas 2005).   National ‘home bred’ ethnology challenges ‘cosmopolitan’ anthropology by pretending to be an expert on “own culture” thus the latter is supposed to do research on ‘the other’.

So in this case the issue of ‘anthropology at home’ becomes the most challenging phenomenon in the academic fields still governed by the politics of national identity.

Keyword: Ciubrinskas

The Politics of Exception: The Life of Beggar Rose, the Vilnius Queen

Neringa Klumbytė (Miami University, Ohio)

In Everything Was Forever until It Was No More (2006), Alexei Yurchak in his explorations of late Soviet youth culture introduced a concept of “a de-territorialized public.” This public neither supported nor opposed the state, but lived in a de-territorialized milieu that they perceived as “normal.” In this paper I look at politics in exceptional places that fail to capture social scientists’ attention because of their idiosyncrasy. Exploring beggar’s Rose’s life (born in 1940) in socialism and post-socialism, I ask how power regimes are produced in exceptional spaces and by extraordinary individuals, and what they tell us about the nation-state, individual, and the community. Rose, whose life I have been following since 2008, has been called the spirit and the queen of Vilnius. Dressed in colorful fancy clothing purchased at the second hand stores, she strolls everyday through Vilnius downtown asking for money in a graceful manner. Drawing on the works of Agamben and Deleuze and the anthropology of becoming (Biehl and Locke), I argue that because of its idiosyncrasy, the socialist and post-socialist state failed to subject Rose to its power regimes. She has lived both periods in a very similar way as her own masterplans guided by desires to become beautiful and by her everyday attempts to find connections in the deterritorialized milieu of the normal people.

Keyword: Klumbyte

The Situation of the Polish Ethnic Minority in Contemporary Klaipėda: Problems of National Identity Preservation, Acculturation, and Assimilation


Rimantas Sliužinskas (Klaipėda University)

The stereotypes about just two main ethnic groups, such as bilingual (Lithuanian-German) local lietuvininkai people, and žemaičiai, the Lithuanian new-comers after the 2nd World War) in the Klaipėda region are well-known. On the other hand, live representatives of a great number of other nationalities and ethnic groups still live there.  Invited by Soviet administration, they  worked at Klaipėda harbor and other city industries in 1950-70’s, up to the end of the Soviet period, and in the times of the last 20 years of open state borders in Independent Lithuania. The Russian, Belarusian, German, Jewish, Ukrainian, Polish, Latvian, even Armenian, Tartar etc.  national minorities remain here from the Lithuanian State Independent times up to now as well.  Several questions arise: What about their national, language and cultural identity preservation policy vs. acculturation and assimilation with each other or the Lithuanian majority? What about their current possibilities to continue and to propagate their own ethnic roots and traditions? What about the inner- and inter- contacts and attitude of particular national groups in the context of generally changing times during last 60 years? What about national identity orientation of their children, including next generations, faced with the modern global cosmopolitism ideas? What about the most active Non-Government Organizations of national minorities in Klaipėda city and surroundings at present?

All those questions may be named as the main objectives of my scientific research work at Klaipėda University at present. In my paper, I will present the results of my investigations on the base of the Polish case regarding such actualities in the Soviet period and today.

Keyword: Sliuzinskas

The Floral Garden in the Contours of Woman’s Self – Consciousness Expression

Loreta Martynėnaitė (Lithuanian Institute of History)

The paper will focus on a floral garden, as a part of the natural – cultural complex of Lithuania’s rural landscape.  It will discuss the floral garden as a culturally specific and socially meaningful homestead place and a space inseparable from the surrounding natural, environmental and sociocultural context of the living tradition.  Floral garden, as every element of the homestead, interacts with the surrounding ecological system and the surrounding social environment.  The social environment influences the floral garden and the floral garden in turn influences the environment.

In the first half of the 20th century, the floral garden in the culture of rural people reflected woman’s (girl’s) self-expression.  The floral garden was a woman’s (girl’s) image-maker revealing her moral qualities. In the second half of the 20th century, changes in modern life gradually changed woman’s expression of selfhood in relation to floral garden.  From one generation to the next, the link between cherished floral garden and woman’s expression was lost and gained new dimensions.

Keyword: Martynenaite

On the “Survival Drama” at the Bunker and Non-Nostalgic Memory of Socialism in Lithuania

Gediminas Lankauskas (University of Regina, Canada)

My paper is about the “survival drama” in the Bunker, an experiential theme park-museum located underground near the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. Guided by professional actors, visitors participate in and “survive” a string of interactive performances of mock KGB interrogations, medical examinations, civil defence training, Soviet-era shopping, to mention a few.

I explore these enactments of socialist experience as commemorative events where the period of Communist rule is represented using memorial media ranging from visual imagery and discourse to acoustic and gustatory effects. While I pay close attention to ways in which the Bunker “drama” works to externalize memories of the Soviet era, my principal concern is with participants’ response to this subterranean side-show of socialism. These reminiscing subjects interest me as social actors who, provoked by the “drama”, engage with the socialist era as a biographical and historical past—a past to be remembered and forgotten.

The paper begins with a discussion of conceptual trends prevalent in anthropological memory studies recently undertaken in post socialist contexts. Then it moves on to critique the dominant paradigm of “nostalgification” which governs much of the research concerned with social remembrance in contemporary Eastern Europe. Combining ethnographic description and theoretical commentary, the second part of the paper offers several vignettes from the Bunker “survival drama”, and argues that after socialism there is more to individual and collective memory than nostalgia.

The Mission of Lithuanian Transmigrants in New York: to Preserve or to Create Lithuanian Identity?

Ieva Kripienė (Vytautas Magnus University)

In the processes of Europenization and globalization, the analyses of Lithuanian identity are the subject of scientific and popular discourse. Debates over the definition of Lithuanian identity question the need for its preservation and one wonders what might be its significance in the contemporary world, with its shifting borders and new forms of various identities.

This presentation is based on the anthropological field work in New York, conducted in the 2008. The author collected data using social qualitative methods, such as open ended interviews, observations and participant observations. Theoretical paradigms of the concepts of transmigrants, identity, organizations and social relations open the way for further empirical data analysis that would focus on such questions as: what is Lithuanian identity? Are Lithuanian transmigrants trying to preserve their ethnic identity? In what ways they do that? Maybe there are new forms of Lithuanian identity?

To answer these questions we will analyze the participation in the various Lithuanian organizations in New York of the Lithuanian transmigrants and their social relations with the locals and relatives and friends in Lithuania. That will lead to the conclusions about the contemporary Lithuanian transmigrant manipulation of the forms of their Lithuanian identity.

Keyword: Kripiene

On Emptiness and the Importance of Maintaining Life

Dace Dzenovska (University of Latvia)

Upon arriving in Riga in January 2010, I found myself in the midst of a lively debate about lielā aizbraukšana (the great departure). Most people had friends, colleagues, or family members who had left to work in Ireland or England, some following the recent economic crisis, while others left long before that. While in public life people were talking about the great departure, in policy and research circles scholars were articulating this phenomenon through a discourse on the problem of emigration. They recognize that emigration, combined with low-birth rates, could have dire effects for the life of the nation.

In this paper, I will ethnographically explore ways in which Latvia’s rural residents live with the emptying of the countryside – the great departure. I will also consider how and with what effects policy makers, scholars, and intellectuals constitute the phenomenon of rural emptiness as a problem of demography. In oscillating between these different registers of living, thinking, and talking about the emptiness, my aim is to trace what Kathleen Stewart has called “a contact zone for analysis” without definitively enclosing it in particular interpretive frames. I wish to see whether and how dwelling in this “contact zone” can generate insights that are overlooked by the prevalent scholarly and political discourses about migration and demography.