The first edition of the “Anthropology Field School” series takes on the topic of inheritance as a key locus for understanding emerging forms of intimacy, mobility, hierarchization, and racialization, among other things. Over seven days in the Transylvanian village of Criț, Brașov county, Romania, MA students from Basel and Bucharest and anthropologists from Bosnia, Switzerland, Romania, and Ukraine will explore inheriting as not only the process of passing down property, rights, and status, but also a key mode of subject formation that involves class, gender, ethnicity, and race as key modalities of belonging.

** Public lectures and film screenings will take place in the Barn (symposium space) of the medieval church burg in Criț. (Entrance through the yard of Casa Kraus)


Tuesday, June 25, 2024

16:00-17:30: Public Lecture

The Unconscious of Inheritance: Intimacy, Memory, Materiality

George Paul Meiu (University of Basel)

Inheritance is more than the transmission of property, strictly speaking. As people pass down land, houses, heirlooms, and other objects, what circulates are not merely material entities as such, nor merely the rights and attachments constituted through them. Central in such intergenerational transmissions are also absences, silences, secrets, and other things we might not know we know, things that constitute us as subjects of particular genealogies and communities of descent. Dissident sexuality and intimacy, for example, are often key elements of the disavowed aspects of inheritance, the things that need to be left behind—forgotten—for the continuity of a genealogical line to be sustained. Yet that which is repressed never fully stays away, driving new efforts for respectability and rejection. An unconscious of inheritance can thus be located at the intersection of two paradoxes: (i) inheritance as, at once, property transmission and cultural transmission; and (ii) intimacy as, at once, familial proximity and public familiarity (e.g., intimacy as a subject of gossip and collective inquisitiveness). Drawing comparatively on ethnography from Kenya and Romania, this paper reflects how the unconscious of inheritance may shed new light on the conversion of (sexual) intimacy into genealogical continuity.  


Wednesday, June 26, 2024

10:00-11:30: Public Lecture

Berzakh 2040: Ethnographic Fiction, Future Inheritance

Larisa Jasarevic(Independent Scholar, Bosnia & Herzegovina)

What future are we inheriting, at present? What can anthropology contribute to popular visions of future? In a word: ethnographically true evidence of wreckage and its non-western interpretations. Part ethnography, part fiction, Berzakh 2040 is a book draft that draws on Islamic metaphysics and on honey ecologies to imagine a climate future. Its story begins on the eve of 2040 when Zakir, a son of beekeeper, stopped dreaming. Responding to the genre of climate fiction, pushing against science fiction and against IPCC future scenarios, this work in progress invites participants to rethink the strange grounds we have in common: dreams. 


15:00-18:00: Film Screening & Discussion

The Letter  (2020, 82 min), Produced by Christopher King and Maja Lekow

Discussion with Serena O. Dankwa (University of Basel)

Filmed with a gentle pace and closeness, The Letter is a Kenyan docu-drama focusing on a 95-year-old widow who must overcome dangerous accusations of witchcraft that are coming from within her own family. Her grandson Karisa, travels home from the city to investigate, and it gradually emerges who sent the threatening letter and why. Karisa’s grandmother is not the only elder accused. A toxic mix of charismatic Christianity, colonial legacies and late capitalist consumerism, is turning hundreds of families against their elders, branding them as witches as a means to steal their ancestral land.

Departing from the universal theme of how land is divided when an elder dies, our discussion will consider how inheritance is gendered and shaped by postcolonial configurations of power and how anti-witchcraft ties in with a “gender backlash” observed throughout the world, including Southern and Eastern Europe. 


Thursday, June 27, 2024

16:00-17:30: Public Lecture

Ethnic Relations in Transforming Societies. Inheriting and Changing Ethnic Hierarchies in Southern Transylvania

Remus Gabriel Anghel(National University of Political Studies and Public Administration, Bucharest, Romania)

Past decades have witnessed a rapid growth in studies on ethnicity and ethnic relations in immigration societies. Driven by the quick growth of immigration and arrival of new and large “migratory waves,” studies in Europe point towards the ways in which immigrants had to adapt to and sometimes reproduce ethnic categories and hierarchies of receiving societies. This study looked into the ways in which ethnicity and ethnic categories are maintained or change in southern Transylvania, a context marked by strong emigration and a rigid ethnic hierarchy. This study looks at how Germans and Roma, two significant local minorities, try to maintain or change that existing ethnic order.  While decades of migration changed the ethnic composition of villages and cities, strikingly, such hierarchies tend to reproduce themselves in spite of the almost disappearance of Saxons and prevailing demographics of the Roma in many villages. At the same time, in spite of Roma mobility and socio-economic improvement, their position remains often contested. Thus, looking at dynamics of ethnicity at the “top” and at the “bottom” of social hierarchy opens up new ways to understand the intersection between processes of migration, return migration and social change in countries of emigration. 


Friday, June 28, 2024

10:00-11:30: Public Lecture

Imagining the Lost Home: Material Losses and Displacement in Modern Crimean Tatar Identity

Olena Sobolieva (Institute of Ukrainian Studies, Kyiv, & University of Basel)

During the Second World War, Crimean Tatars became victims of the Soviet Union's policy of ethnic cleansing. They were deported en masse from Crimea to other remote republics of the Soviet Union. Together with their homeland, the Crimean Tatars lost almost all the material components of their culture and everyday life: houses, tools, art objects, books, and museum collections. During the return process and the first decades of repatriation, Crimean Tatars were rebuilding their imaginary lost home. А separate niche in this process of reconstruction of the past life was occupied by artistic practices: the revival of old crafts, exhibition activities, the construction of new architectural objects.


15:00-18:00: Film Screening & Discussion

The Chalice. Of Sons and Daughters (2022, 84 min) Produced by Cǎtǎlina Tesǎr and Dana Bunescu).

Discussion with Cǎtǎlina Tesǎr (New Europe College)

This documentary, shot in an observational style, delves into the dynamics of a son-preferred patriarchal Roma community in South Transylvania, renowned for its aristocratic marriage rituals. It follows a young couple struggling to conceive a male heir who should inherit the family’s badge, the chalice, passed down through generations of Cortorari males. The couple's inability to produce a male offspring threatens their arranged marriage, potentially leading to its dissolution or the consideration of sex-selective abortion. Tensions escalate between their respective parental families as they vie for control over the chalice, which was pledged by the groom's parents to the bride's family. 


Saturday, June 29, 2024

16:00-17:30: Public Lecture

Nostalgia and the Ethnicisation of Cultural Landscapes in Southern Transylvania

Monica Stroe (National University of Political Studies and Public Administration, Bucharest, Romania)

In the past years, rural Southern Transylvania has been the site of a revivalist movement centered on the reconstruction and heritagisation of vanishing material and immaterial traces of Saxon ethnicity. The process is mobilised by a complex and cosmopolitan network of social actors engaged in gastronomy, small-scale food production, ecotourism and environmental conservation, informed by a sense of exonostalgia (Berliner 2014) for an ‘unspoiled’, pristine agri-food Arcadia irreversibly lost in Western Europe. Drawing on ethnographic research, the lecture focuses on the role of the (mainly) foreign as well as local cosmopolitan elites in shaping and localising a distinct regional eco-gastronomic space centered on frugality and ecological embeddedness. I propose an analysis of how the local food space is co-created, discursively and materially, and how it is engaged with sensorially. I suggest that the practices and discourses of the surveyed range of actors, including food artisans, entrepreneurs, activists, neo-rurals, consumers, and tourists, extract cultural and economic value from representations of past ecology and gastronomy to connect Southern Transylvania to a global economy of sustainability, where remoteness and dispossession can be converted into added-value and symbolic prestige (see Weiss 2022, Meneley 2021, Bordi 2008). 


Sunday, June 30, 2024

10:00-11:30: Public Lecture

Knowledge, Transmission, Inheritance. How Local Knowledge Meets Artificial Intelligence, and What Does This Tell Us About Thinking?

Alexandru Bǎlǎşescu (Royal Roads University)

This talk will approach the question of knowledge production and transmission within the context of today’s technoscapes. Throughout our history, knowledge is transmitted, lost, recovered, layered, transformed, and transferred to different regimes of truth. Technologies also migrate and change their use, get adapted to different goals and ultimately engender new ways of being and doing. They also speak volumes about the societies that use them, only by looking at the logic within which they are used. This talk will raise questions about the relationship between knowledge deemed to be traditional, ancient, and local and the current technological push. What is the role of the latter in preserving the former? How does “other than modern” forms of knowledge influence current automation technologies, and what does this tell us about the meaning of both “thinking” and “doing”? And ultimately, how does this rework categories of thought structured in binomial oppositions such as “traditional vs. modern”, “objective vs. subjective”, “male vs. female” or “colonizer vs. colonized”?