ANTHRCUL 306 - Anthropology and Film: East Central Europe
Section: 001
Term: FA 2008
Subject: Anthropology, Cultural (ANTHRCUL)
Department: LSA Anthropology
Requirements & Distribution:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

An anthropology of East Central Europe, using feature films from the region as cultural artifacts, as well as scholarly texts and journalistic accounts. We cover the four decades of state socialism after WWII and the post-1989 capitalist era. Weekly film screenings are paired with lecture and discussion sessions.

Description: Anthropology and Film of East Central Europe will introduce students to the region of East Central Europe through the medium of feature film. They will gain an anthropological perspective of the Cold War, and compare and contrast the struggles of everyday life under state socialist and capitalist regimes. This course will bring anthropological paradigms, principles, and modes of analysis to bear on the study of East Central Europe. By using themes centered around feature films from the region, it will also be educating students in critically reflecting on how the conditions of production of all media, including funding, marketing, political censorship or market censorship, and so forth, shape the outcome. At the same time, they will be encouraged to understand these films as the products of general cultural and political histories, as well as the particular viewpoints of screenwriters and directors.

We will see 12 films from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and the former Germany Democratic Republic (East Germany). Rather than employ a semiotic approach, we will pair films with academic and ethnographic articles, journalistic accounts, and literary vignettes in order to capture something of the experience of state socialism, its fall, and the emergence of post-socialist, market-based economies (the period between 1945 and the present). We will approach these films in a number of ways: as cultural artifacts, as expressive culture, and, in a limited sense, a form of ethnographic documentation. We will also think about the films as profoundly shaped by the conditions of their production: as first constrained by the "censorship" of the state but nurtured by a rich cinematic heritage and tradition of social critique; and later released from state control but constrained by market forces and the need to appeal to popular taste. Thus, we will examine how films are the cultural products of their time and place even if the time and place they depict is long past. The course will cover a number of themes, including: the ever-present specter of an imaginary "West" in the subjective experience of everyday life in East Central Europe; the ethics of collaboration and compromise during socialism; the constitution and erasure of historic memory; the shifting identities and moral codes demanded by a post-socialist market society; and the gendered differences in experience of both the socialist and postsocialist states. Throughout, we will reexamine the Cold War opposition-so mutually defining-between state-socialist/Communist and capitalist-democratic systems.

Intended audience: There are no prerequisites for this course, though it will be geared towards intermediate and advanced undergraduates.  Sophomores to senior undergraduate students with interests in sociocultural anthropology, history, sociology, international affairs and film. The course will be of general educational value to students who do not intend to take any additional courses in anthropology. It will require them to consider such topics as politics and economics though anthropological paradigms, and see how political and economic ideologies impact daily life.

Class Format: Meets 3 times per week in lecture/discussion format. Separate required film showings.

Texts (available at Textbook Store at Shaman Drum Bookstore)

  • Katherine Verdery. 1995. What was Socialism and What Comes Next?
  • Dina Iordanova. 2003. Cinema of the Other Europe
  • Slavenka Drakulic. 1997. Cafe Europa
  • Bohumil Hrabal. Too Loud a Solitude

Recommended (available on Shapiro Library reserve)

  • Susan Gal and Gail Kligman. Gender and Politics in Eastern Europe
  • Martha Lampland. The Object of Labor.
  • Daphne Berdahl. Where the World Ended.
  • John Borneman. After the Wall.
  • Slavenka Drakulic. How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed

Course Requirements and Grading:

  • Attend weekly screening of film.
  • Careful reading and considered engagement with assigned texts.
  • Weekly memos on films and readings
  • Preparing questions for discussion several times during the semester.
  • Three essays on 3 films each, due Monday at 6 pm before next week's film.
  • 3 in-class pop quizzes on readings
  • Recommended second viewing of each film, at Askwith Media reserves.

Since the course places great emphasis on the collective screening of films, attendance at Monday night screenings is a must. If you miss more than 2 of these screenings, you cannot expect to receive an A, despite your performance on the assignments. Attendance will be taken in class; more than 2 un-excused absences will lower your course grade.

  • In-class participation and weekly memos
  • Two Quizzes
  • 3 essays with rewrites

  1. Good-bye Lenin!
    PART I: Stalinist Modernization
  2. Witness. Lilly DVD 6549 -- to show
  3. The Joke (1968) Lilly DVD 1467,
  4. Man of Marble, Lilly DVD 3238,

    PART II: Everyday Life during the Socialist Period.
  5. Time Stands Still, VC 5309,
  6. Intimate Lighting (VC 10885) AND
    The Nice Neighbor - VC 12239,
  7. Adoption, DVD 3892,
  8. The Architects, DVD 4695,

    PART III: 1989-1990 Fall of Socialism, and what comes next?
  9. Bolshe Vita, VC 8366,
  10. Sweet Emma, Dear Bobe. 1992. Dir. Istvan Szabo.

    PART IV: Post Socialist Everyday Life
  11. Up and Down, DVD 6485
  12. Louder than Bombs, 2001.
  13. Good-bye Lenin!

ANTHRCUL 306 - Anthropology and Film: East Central Europe
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
WF 12:00PM - 1:00PM
M 7:00PM - 9:30PM
Note: A weekly film screening is required Mondays 7-9:30pm, location TBA.
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