HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article, in English, on the anthropological career of Józef Obrębski.

Engelking, Anna, 2022. “From Archaic to Colonial Peasantries: An Intellectual Biography of Józef Obrębski, the (Forgotten) Polish Disciple of Malinowski,” in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.

Polish social anthropologist Józef Obrębski (1905–1967) was a disciple of Malinowski at the London School of Economics, and the first anthropologist who applied Malinowski’s method and theory to a European village. In the 1930s, he conducted his fieldwork in Macedonia and the Belarusian-Ukrainian borderland. In those studies, Obrębski applied Malinowski’s fundamental methodological directive: long-term participant observation. The belief in the comparability of cultures underlaid Obrębski’s anthropology, which was sensitive to “the native’s point of view,” while identifying Slavic peasant communities in various stages of modernization before World War II. From 1948 onwards he lived in the US and was an expert at the United Nations. In the late 1940s, his ethnographic research covered post-slavery communities in Jamaica. He responded to the call for human equality with an emancipatory, anti-nationalist and anti-colonial attitude. While one can speak of Obrębski’s focus on the mechanisms of domination and discrimination, his anthropology was also an attempt to deconstruct them. He formulated innovative theoretical propositions concerning ethnicity and nation-building, but his works remained mostly unpublished and have only recently been rediscovered. In this pathbreaking article, Engelking presents the trajectory of a man who is ignored in the anthropological mainstream but can be seen as a precursor of ethnic, gender and
postcolonial studies.

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