Anita Bagus

Forced internationality of a national discipline

‘Cold Wars’ in the transformation process of Volkskunde after 1945


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The article discusses internationalization processes of Volkskunde1 after 1945, focusing primarily on the interdependent tensions of political constellations, agencies promoting science and developments of the discipline. The complex desideratum of international historiography of the discipline is approached here with a specific German-German perspective in the context of the Cold War. Using the term ‘forced internationality’ as the basis for research allows one to capture a double bind: the self-mobilization of the national specialists and external contacts with the international scientific community. The search for a transnational disciplinary identity with a standardized nomenclature as well as methodological and theoretical standards is less affected by the competition between two rival political systems during the Cold War than by inner-disciplinary discrepancies between the various traditions of Volkskunde, ethnology or cultural anthropology. Consequently, the level of engagement in the common struggle for an international epistemic community differed substantially. Factors supporting this observation range from the respective national presence or non-presence on international stages, the participation or nonparticipation in internationalization processes through to the active non-perception of transnational and interdisciplinary communication spaces.

scientific history of cultural anthropology, international scientific history, promotion of science, disciplinary identities during the Cold War, internationalization processes