Society for the Anthropology of Europe
Kathleen Costello * Posted May 1999
Focus and Goals: As stated in the society’s bylaws, the purpose of the Society is to advance the anthropological study of European societies and cultures and to encourage the communication of the results of these studies.
Organization Web site: http://www.h-net.org/~sae/sae/index.html
Total Membership in 1998: 629 professional, 197 student
Type of Organization: International, and academic
Date founded: 1986 at the AAA meetings
Newsletter or Journal: SAE bulletin, published three times yearly.
Annual Membership fees: $20.00
Affiliation with other groups: Holds joint panels with other sections at AAA meetings- upcoming with the Society for Visual Anthropology. Attempts to establish networks between individual anthropologists. Recent programs like book drive to provide texts for colleagues working in Eastern Europe
Listserve or other internet resources:
H-Net Bulletin: subscribe at
Society for the Anthropology of Europe
American Anthropological Association
4350 N.Fairfax Dr. Suite 640
Arlington, VA 22203
Prizes, Projects, or other Special Programs
Pre-dissertation Fellowship travel grant offered to students intending to work in Europe. Competitive, offered once yearly. Graduate Paper Prize, given to the best graduate paper on a topic related to the Anthropology of Europe.
A Brief History of the SAE
The SAE was founded at the AAA meetings in Philadelphia in 1986. The primary purpose at that time was to provide Europeanist anthropologists with a network keeping them in touch with researchers with similar interests. Since then, the direction and focus have changed considerably.
About the SAE
Perhaps the most interesting point to keep in mind when reading a discussion of the SAE is that it was originally begun to help Europeanist anthropologists from North America find and network with one another. This seems like a straightforward thing to do. However, in the mid-1980’s, as Susan Carol Rogers writes, when there were relatively few people working on the Anthropology of Europe, it was in fact especially difficult. These few were scattered across departments, and so did not have a sense of themselves as a community within the field itself. Because Europe is not one of the culture areas traditionally studied by anthropologists, these same Europeanists felt peripheral within their own departments. For these reasons, the first years after the SAE was created were devoted to establishing a place for the subfield of the Anthropology of Europe within the larger field of American Anthropology itself.
The sense of professional isolation led directly to of the first SAE projects, putting together a directory of anthropologists working in Europe. This was of sufficient necessity that Rogers and Gilmore acquired funding from the Council of European Studies, and devoted a term to its compilation. The SAE also was concerned with reaching graduate students who were in departments with no Europeanists on the faculty, and were therefore likely to feel themselves marginal to their colleagues. Rogers also writes that it was essential for the SAE to organize events that reached anthropologists outside of the sub discipline, citing a session at the 1988 AAA meetings featuring Carlo Ginzberg, Lawrence Stone, and Emmanuel Leroy Laudrie (who canceled at the last minute) in a discussion on Anthropology and History.
There are other factors that shaped both the direction the Society took, and the shaping of the field of European Anthropology itself. Rogers, in her retrospective account of the SAE’s foundation notes that the collapse of the Soviet Union was one event, or series of events, that contributed the growth of the subfield. The increasingly strong critique of the Self and Other dichotomy in Anthropology by post modernist, and feminist researchers, as well as an increased interest in looking at post-colonial academics has led to changes in the way fieldwork is done in “traditional” areas of anthropological interest. More importantly for the SAE, it led to a reconsideration of why anthropology was not done at “home”. These discussions within the broader field are relevant to problems Europeanists have posed for a long time. This recent convergence of interests has resulted in an increase in the number of ethnographies written about Europe.
While the legitimacy and contributions of Europeanist Anthropology within the larger discipline are still a concern, the current focus of the Society has shifted somewhat. Establishing connections outside the American academy is one of these foci. For example, the January 1999 web site of the SAE has links to other on-line networks of academics working on Europe. These links include European Studies generally, list-servs based in Europe, and cross disciplinary organizations. One of these, the Highland Network, is typical of many of the links. It lists professionals and students who are working in any field having to do with Highland and Western Island Scotland. Along with several Social Anthropologists listed are historians, economists, archaeologists, sociologists, and Celtic Studies students from Scotland, England, and the US. A second current project devoted to expanding the contacts of the SAE outside American Anthropology is a book drive for Anthropologists in Eastern Europe. The idea is to ask for contributions of money and texts to send to Anthropologists in Eastern Europe because the current economic situation for many of them makes it impossible to purchase current texts.
According to Peter Allen, president of the SAE, recent topics of interest, which seem to correspond with what we see on the news, are: identity and regionalism, the EU, European Integration, and “what to do about the Eastern Bloc”. The currency of these discussions is best illustrated in the recently awarded SAE Pre-Dissertation travel grant. The student with the winning abstract for 1998 plans to study the ways that national identity, and relationships to the European Union in Scotland are both shored up and undermined by the revival of the Scottish Gaelic language.
The concerns of Europeanists that they are marginalized as a group within the broader field of Anthropology had firm foundations. However, the accomplishments of individual involved in the SAE show that members have also achieved considerable success in their academic endeavors. For a table showing some of the publications of articles in major journals by past and current members of the SAE board, click here. The number and scope of graduate students planning to work in Europe is also not as sparse as first may be anticipated. Click here for a table on graduate dissertation projects in Europe.