Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
No Cover Image

Anthropology and Nostalgia

Olivia Angé
David Berliner
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 248
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Anthropology and Nostalgia
    Book Description:

    Nostalgia is intimately connected to the history of the social sciences in general and anthropology in particular, though finely grained ethnographies of nostalgia and loss are still scarce. Today, anthropologists have realized that nostalgia constitutes a fascinating object of study for exploring contemporary issues of the formation of identity in politics and history. Contributors to this volume consider the fabric of nostalgia in the fields of heritage and tourism, exile and diasporas, postcolonialism and postsocialism, business and economic exchange, social, ecological and religious movements, and nation building. They contribute to a better understanding of how individuals and groups commemorate their pasts, and how nostalgia plays a role in the process of remembering.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-454-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Introduction: Anthropology of Nostalgia – Anthropology as Nostalgia
    (pp. 1-16)
    Olivia Angé and David Berliner

    This book explores how nostalgic discourses and practices work concretely in different social and cultural environments. Since the rediscovery of memory by social scientists (Berliner 2005), and in particular its emotionality (White 2006), nostalgia has increasingly attracted anthropologists’ attention. Terms including ‘structural’ (Herzfeld 2004), ‘synthetic’ (Strathern 1995), ‘armchair’ (Appadurai 1996), ‘colonial’ (Bissel 2005), ‘imperialist’ (Rosaldo 1989), ‘practical’ (Battaglia 1995), ‘resistant’ (Stewart 1988) and ‘for the future’ (Piot 2010) have been applied to it in order to deal with its complexity, at the intersection of the individual, the social and the political. Scholars have realized that nostalgia constitutes a fascinating site...

  6. Chapter 1 Are Anthropologists Nostalgist?
    (pp. 17-34)
    David Berliner

    Diagnoses of cultural loss are everywhere today. Losing culture, identity, traditions and roots and its corollary – the need to pass down – are tropes mobilized by individuals and groups throughout the world, although differently within diverse social and cultural contexts. This phenomenon is what I call the contemporarytout-perdre(losing everything), a specific posture vis-à-vis the past seen as irreversible. Suffice it to think of the heated debates on the Christian roots of Europe, the success ofRootsby Alex Haley in the United States, the craze of heritage tourism and the genealogical obsession, but also the claims addressed...

  7. Chapter 2 Missing Socialism Again? The Malaise of Nostalgia in Post-Soviet Lithuania
    (pp. 35-60)
    Gediminas Lankauskas

    ‘1984: The Survival Drama’

    1 During the show ‘1984: The Survival Drama’ taking place in the territory of and inside the Soviet bunker ... [later in this document referred to as the Show], Visitors, participants ... become citizens of the USSR.

    2 Participants will receive instructions and orders which must be carried out without objection.

    3 In case of disobedience participants may receive psychological or/and physical punishments and may be excluded from the Show.

    Verbatim from the English translation ofConfirmation(Terms of Engagement) provided to participants before entering the Bunker.

    ‘Come on, come on! ... Move!’, a burly guard,...

  8. Chapter 3 The Politics of Nostalgia in the Aftermath of Socialism’s Collapse: A Case for Comparative Analysis
    (pp. 61-95)
    Maya Nadkarni and Olga Shevchenko

    Just months after the political transformations of 1989 and 1991, when nothing seemed more impossible than the return of state socialism to the former Soviet bloc, communist symbols and iconography suddenly acquired new visibility, rather than fading into obsolescence. Over the next decades, communism would enjoy a healthy afterlife as a cultural and political commodity, from hammer-and-sickle tee-shirts in Bulgaria, to popular collections of socialist-era songs in Russia, to trendy ‘workers’ canteen’-themed restaurants in Budapest – all falling under label ‘nostalgia’.

    It is thus no surprise that the spectre of communism would also re-emerge to haunt the former Soviet-bloc states,...

  9. Chapter 4 Why Post-imperial Trumps Post-socialist: Crying Back the National Past in Hungary
    (pp. 96-122)
    Chris Hann

    Jostling alongside such ubiquitous phenomena as heritagization and roots seeking, nostalgia for the recent socialist past is a well-documented feature of the politics of the past in most countries of the former Soviet bloc. Thanks to popular films such asGood Bye Leninas well as numerous academic studies, the best-known case is that of the former German Democratic Republic. According to the late Daphne Berdahl (2010),Ostalgienever reflected a wish that socialists had remained in power, but rather gathered momentum as a means for East Germans to protest against the domination of their society by West Germans after...

  10. Chapter 5 Consuming Communism: Material Cultures of Nostalgia in Former East Germany
    (pp. 123-138)
    Jonathan Bach

    Ostalgieis perhaps the most high profile case regarding the phenomena of sympathetic sentiments for the vanished socialist republics of Central and Eastern Europe. Many years after the filmGood Bye LeninmadeOstalgie– the German neologism for nostalgia for the former socialist German Democratic Republic (GDR), also known as East Germany – into a household word, the phenomenon has not faded but rather become a stable part of the tourist and commercial landscape. Today, Berlin’s tourist office promotes the GDR Museum, where ‘the kitchen still has the cooking smells of way back when’, and the Trabi Safari where...

  11. Chapter 6 The Key from (to) Sefarad: Nostalgia for a Lost Country
    (pp. 139-154)
    Joseph Josy Lévy and Inaki Olazabal

    One of the earliest references to nostalgia can be found in Book V of theOdyssey. In it, Homer describes a discussion between Calypso and Ulysses, prisoner of the nymph, which underscores the impact of homesickness as a psychological phenomenon: returning home weighs heavier than reaching the immortality offered by the goddess. Ulysses refuses this opportunity, so desperate is he to return home to his wife Penelope:

    Calypso, the beautiful goddess, was the first to speak, and said: ... Son of Laertes, sprung from Zeus, Odysseus of many devices. Yet, even so fare thee well. Howbeit if in thy heart...

  12. Chapter 7 Nostalgia and the Discovery of Loss: Essentializing the Turkish Cypriot Past
    (pp. 155-177)
    Rebecca Bryant

    While we usually associate nostalgia with memory, this chapter explores the relationship between nostalgia and forgetting. Indeed, I propose here that contrary to what we usually think, the object of nostalgia has the status of the forgotten – the lost, the irretrievable, the impossible object of memory. Nostalgia emerges from the impossibility of return, representing a lost home, lost community, lost innocence. Moreover, it appears to emerge with the break represented by a lost dream – a dream that has beguiled us away from our former selves while making us into something new from which we cannot return. Whether this...

  13. Chapter 8 Social and Economic Performativity of Nostalgic Narratives in Andean Barter Fairs
    (pp. 178-197)
    Olivia Angé

    This chapter explores nostalgic narratives’ performativity in the ethnographic context of barter fairs in the Argentinean Andes. These encounters gather valley cultivators and highland shepherds for exchanging part of their agricultural production viacambios(exchange). During their negotiation, the protagonists regularly allude to the equity that would have featured in their elders’ transactions, whom they refer to with the Spanish termlos abuelos. More broadly, they regret the decline of the reciprocal exchanges materializing the solidarity between shepherds and cultivators; thereby lamenting the current erosion of the ideal complementarity that would have formerly tied highland and lowland peasants. Some of...

  14. Chapter 9 The Withering of Left-Wing Nostalgia?
    (pp. 198-212)
    Petra Rethmann

    In June 2010 at the People’s Theatre (Volksbühne) in Berlin, I participated in a conference with the provocative titleKommunismus(Communism). Co-organized by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and one of Germany’s new political parties, die Linke (the Left), the workshop had been envisioned as a follow-up to a conference that took place in 2009 in London under the very same name, in an attempt to explore the lost grounds and possibilities of communism (Douzinas and Žižek 2010). As invited speakers – including Antonio Negri, Slavoj Žižek and Alain Badiou – battled over terms such as communism, social welfare and social...

  15. Afterword: On Anthropology’s Nostalgia – Looking Back/Seeing Ahead
    (pp. 213-224)
    William Cunningham Bissell

    A little more than a decade ago, around the turn of the millennium, I found myself struggling to make sense of what struck me as an ethnographic puzzle. While conducting research on sociospatial transformations in a rapidly changing East African city, I encountered many local interlocutors who spoke of the colonial urban past in explicitly nostalgic terms. To a US-trained African studies and anthropology scholar immersed in post-colonial critiques, these were not exactly the sort of sentiments I expected to hear – indeed, quite the reverse. Nor, at the time, did I know quite what to do with these discourses,...

  16. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 225-228)
  17. Index
    (pp. 229-240)