European Anthropology does not really exist.1 Or, rather, it doesn’t exist as a specific discipline with a single, agreed upon name. Instead, since the 1970s, a plethora of names marking subtle distinctions in focus and approach entered the continental academic landscape. Some examples: “European Ethnology,” found at a variety of European universities; “Empirische Kulturwissenschaften” (empirical cultural studies), especially prominent in German-speaking countries; in France, Ethnologie de France or Ethnologie et Patrimoine; at the University of Zurich, “Populäre Kulturen” (popular cultures); and at some universities, for example in Frankfurt, you’ll find amalgamations such as “Kulturanthropologie und Europäische Ethnologie” (cultural anthropology and European ethnology).2

What these fields of inquiry all have in common is their origin in what was called, until the 1970s, “Volkskunde” (literally translated, the “study of the people”) in German-speaking countries, and “folklore” and “arts et traditions populaires” (popular arts and traditions) in France. Investigations in popular culture had increased especially in the nineteenth century, as an epiphenomenon of bourgeois anxiety over intensifying industrialization, most of the time attached to either associations (“Vereine”) or museums (The Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires in Paris was, for example, founded in 1937 as a – much smaller – sibling to the famous Musée de l’Homme). There were few professorships or teaching positions at universities specifically dedicated to it. Rather than the “high culture” of art, literature, and music, Volkskunde was concerned with “low culture” found predominantly in rural and peasant villages and landscapes; only a small minority of researchers was concerned with the culture of the working classes. Exhibitions, village monographs, atlases, as well as collections of artefacts, photographs, legends and fairy tales accumulated over the decades.3

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