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Newsletter 60

November 2002

  1. Minutes of the Meeting of the IUAES Executive Committee, 23 and 26 September 2002, Toshi Center Hotel, Tokyo, Japan
    by Peter J.M. Nas
  2. A Plea for an Integrative Science: IUAES Inter-Congress in Tokyo
    by Anita Sujoldzic
  3. Annual Report of the International Commission for the Anthropology of Food (ICAF) 2001-2002
    by Igor de Garine
  4. Double Conference at Moscow, Russia, 7-12 June 2002
    by Vladimir Kudryavtsev
  5. A History of the Double Conference in Moscow
    by Freek Colombijn
  6. IUAES Membership

1. Minutes of the Meeting of the IUAES Executive Committee, 23 and 26 September 2002, Toshi Center Hotel, Tokyo, Japan

by Peter J.M. Nas

Participants: Prof. Eric Sunderland (President), Dr. Peter J.M. Nas (Secretary General), Prof. Tomoko Hamada (Treasurer), Prof. Deepak Kumar Behera, Prof. Keiichi Omoto, Prof. Brunetto Chiarelli, Prof. Luis Vargas, Dr. Anita Sujoldzic, Prof. Paul Nkwi.

Apologies: Prof. Mike Aronoff.

  1. The President, Prof. Sunderland, welcomed all members of the Executive Committee present as well as the Japanese observers and Prof. Eisaku Kanazawa (the secretary general of the committee organizing the Tokyo Inter-Congress 2002).
  2. Both China and Australia are preparing a bid for the 2008 IUAES Congress. Mr. Tie Muer, President of the China Urban Anthropology Association, presented the Beijng situation. The proposal is in preparation and the government at all levels have ratified it. Dr. Helen Johnson from the University of Queensland also reported on the bid from Brisbane, Australia. As these presentations are not conclusive, no discussion took place. Both parties continue their preparations and will also decide whether or not they will host the Inter-Congress in case the Permanent Council in Florence 2003 chooses the other candidate.
  3. Prof. Omoto and Prof. Kanazawa reported on the ongoing Tokyo Inter-Congress, which is proceeding very well as planned. Prof. Kanazawa presented the list of IUAES travel subsidies. The President thanked the Japanese organizers for their work. The Inter-Congress is very well prepared and organized. All the members of the Executive Committee express warm appreciation.
  4. The minutes of the Executive Committee Meeting in Göttingen of 19 July 2001 published in the Newsletter 57 were discussed and ratified as correct.
  5. Prof. Brunetto Chiarelli reported on the coming 2003 Congress in Florence. Preparations are well under way. The second circular letter comprising more than 80 sessions and information on registration and accommodation were discussed. The reports of the sessions will be published. There will be 23 sessions of the IUAS Commissions as well as poster-sessions and pre-sessions. Chiarelli will also plan two Executive Committee meetings followed by a Permanent Council meeting as well. The General Assembly will meet in between these.
  6. Dr. Skalnik has proposed an Inter-Congress in 2005 in Pardubice as published in the Newsletter. The Executive Committee fully supports the proposal, which will be officially ratified by the Permanent Council in Florence 2003. The Secretary General will inform Dr. Skalnik of the approval. Prof. Nkwi reported that South Africa (Mike de Jong) is planning an Inter-Congress for 2004. He will pursue this proposal.
  7. The IUAS has 23 commisions. Four new commissions have been proposed:
    1. Anthropology of reforestation (Chiarelli);
    2. Human rights of indigenous people (Omoto);
    3. Human rights (Chauduri);
    4. Primatology (Tasuku Kimura and Morihika Okada)

      Numbers (2) and (3) are requested to contact each other for cooperation. Full proposals are requested for publication in the Newsletter. They will be discussed in the Florence Executive Commission Meeting.
  8. In Göttingen several Commissions were evaluated. In Tokyo the Commission on Ethnicity was evaluated. All Commissions evaluated proved to be active so that they were informed that they could continue their activities.
  9. The Executive Committee accepted the LIT-Verlag proposal to establish a series of book publications under the auspices of the IUAES. The Executive Committee will serve as the editorial board with Chiarelli and Nas as chief editors. The cooperation of the IUAES with LIT will have no financial implications for IUAES.
  10. The work of the Nomination Committee in preparing proposals for Florence 2003 was discussed. Prof. Nkwi will take over the position of chair from Prof. Vargas. Prof. Tomoko Hamada will join the Committee then consisting of Nkwi, Aronoff and Tomoko Hamada
  11. Prof. Tomoko Hamada reported on IUAES finances. She presented income and expenditure and concluded that the Union’s situation is positive but minimal. She proposed to increase membership by personal contact with potential members during congresses and at other occasions.
  12. A committee was installed to investigate the possibility of the IUAES becoming linked with Current Anthropology or another Journal of Anthropology for publishing the newsletter and other possible cooperation in this field. The Committee consists of Prof. Brunetto Chiarelli, Prof. Paul Nkwi, Prof. Deepak Kumar Behera and Dr. Anita Sujoldzic.
  13. - The limited membership of the IUAES was discussed. Prof. Tomoko Hamada in cooperation with Prof. Brunetto Chiarelli will arrange a desk during the Florence Congress for participants to become members.

    - Individual membership from now on, will either be for 2 or 5 years (which eases payment procedures).

    - The membership of organization associations remains at one year. They will be acknowledged in the IUAES Handbook as having special status.

    - Prof. Brunetto Chiarelli will schedule during the Florence Congress a meeting for officials of various anthropological associations, which will be encouraged to become members of the IUAES.

    - The membership of the Japan Science Association is still pending. Prof. Keiichi Omoto will keep the IUAES informed.
  14. Prof. Deepak Kumar Behera reported that the e-mail directory is well under way. Seven Commissions have reacted. Another call, including a deadline, for the rest of the Commissions will be sent out by the Secretary General.
  15. The Executive Committee fully supported Prof. Lourdes Arizpe’s candidacy for the Presidency of the ISSC.
  16. The Chairman thanked Prof. Omoto and the other Japanese hosts for their excellent organization of the 2002 Inter-Congress that is very successfully approaching an end. Tomorrow will be the closing session. He also thanked the members of the Executive Committee for their contribution and closed the meeting.

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2. A Plea for an Integrative Science: IUAES Inter-Congress in Tokyo

by Anita Sujoldzic

The IUAES Inter-Congress that took place in Tokyo, 22-27 September 2002, was sponsored by the Science Council of Japan, the Anthropological Society of Nippon and the Japanese Society of Ethnology. Thanks to the great efforts of the Organizing Committee, particularly the President Keiichi Omoto, the Vice-Presidents Tasuku Kimura and Kazuo Ohtsuka and the Secretary General Eisaku Kanazawa as well as their colleagues and students who assisted, more than 300 participants from around 35 countries of the world were hosted in an exemplary manner and experienced a highly successful academic and social event.

The congress owed its success to many factors. It consisted of 32 thematic symposia and one poster session. It was also part of a joint conference with the 56th Meeting of the Anthropological Society of Nippon, preceded by a satellite symposium on the concept of race organized by the Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University and followed by a satellite holistic debate on children and youth organized by the IUAES Commission of Children and Youth.

The main theme was ‘The Human body in anthropological perspectives’, for the reasons given in his opening speech by Professor Omoto. Participants were invited to present their work within an integrative framework to contribute to better understanding of human behavior at any time or place. The need for a holistic view of humankind and society in trying to solve the growing problems of modern life was further elaborated in the plenary lecture given by Professor Hiroko Sue Hara on the illustrative interrelationships of biological and socio-cultural concepts of sex and gender.

In response to these appeals, an extraordinary breadth of topics dealing with both human biology and culture across time and space was addressed during 32 thematic symposia, ranging from prehistory, including archeology, osteology, DNA reconstruction, and paleo-demography, over genetics, molecular anthropology and morphology, to medical anthropology, sexuality and reproduction, growth and maturation of children and their conditions of risk, indigenous people and their knowledge and various aspects of symbolic functions of the human body. In the course of the congress, it became evident that the guiding notions of a holistic approach given by the opening speeches were not futile, but proved to be a useful conceptual framework to discuss complex issues such as the interaction between genes and culture in the evolution and adaptation of various populations, modernization effects on nutrition and other aspects of human existence or interrelationships between genes, psychosocial well-being and health. As already observed during the previous IUAES Inter-Congress in Beijing in 2000, topics in specialized, reductionist frameworks, which have tended to dominate some of the previous conferences, are gradually but steadily receiving heavy competition from a marked and very welcome trend, embedded in a long but frequently neglected tradition in anthropology, which crosscuts disciplinary boundaries in the effort to grasp the complexity of human existence.

The Tokyo congress has certainly made another important step forward into this direction mapped out as desirable long-term strategy by the IUAES President Eric Sunderland already in his presidential speech during the XIV ICAES in Williamsburg, 1998 who called for collaborative interaction of different approaches to cope with the unique biological and cultural duality of Homo sapiens, the very subject matter of our disciplines.

Japanese culture permeated by a deeply rooted value for harmony and complementarity, coupled with the immense enthusiasm and cordiality of our hosts provided perhaps a perfect setting for such endeavours.

It remains to be seen if this invigorating trend will continue at the next XV IUAES Congress in Florence in 2003

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3. Annual Report of the International Commission for the Anthropology of Food (ICAF) 2001-2002

by Igor de Garine

The European section of the International Commission on the Anthropology of Food continues to be very active. The long-planned structure of members associating formally by nation is at last functioning. There are now formal committees or representatives in Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway (for all Scandinavia), Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. These liaise with ICAF (Europe), Chair: H. Macbeth (U.K.), Secretary: R. Kutalek (Austria) and Treasurer: M. Demoissier (France and U.K.). Constant efforts are made to make links and set up groups in other European countries. Several non-European countries without an active Continental association also have informal links with ICAF (Europe). In all cases communication is greatly facilitated by electronic mail.

- Training and research are taking place in the University of Bordeaux.

- Participation of ‘The Marmite’ group, ICAF France, in the international congress on ‘Ageing’, Genoa, March 2001.

- Monthly seminars are held in the Maison des Sciences de l’ Homme, Paris.

- The French ICAF team has created a Web journal. Two issues are out and a third in preparation. The ICAF website access is through www.icafood.org.

- The book out of the XV° symposium of ICAF held in Bordeaux in May 2000 on ‘Meat’ has been accepted by Berghahn Publications and is being edited by A. Hubert and I. de Garine.

- The book on ‘Drinking, Anthropological Approaches’, (eds I. and V. de Garine) published by Berghahn Books, New York, Oxford, 2001, is now available.

- The meeting of the MegaTchad scientific network that will take place in November 2002 in Paris (University of Nanterre) is centred on the Anthropology of Food.

- The XIX° symposium of ICAF to be held in the framework of the XV° ICAES in Florence in July 2003 is to be centred on ‘Anthropology, Nutrition and Wildlife Conservation’ and organised by I. de Garine.

- Contacts have been made with the Scandinavian countries in order to develop national ICAF committees in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark through CIFO, the agency organising the promotion of local food products in Europe.

- The University of Aix Marseille is considering organising in 2004 a meeting on Food and Nutrition in Mountain Areas (organisation: G. Boetsch)

- The XVI° ICAF conference on ‘Fluid Bread: Images and Usages of Beer in Cross-Cultural Perspectives’ was organised by the German committee in May 2001 in the Max Planck Institut, Seewiesen (organisation: Wulf Schiefenhoevel) (40 papers). A book is in preparation and should be available in 2002.

- Contacts have been made by this group to develop national committees in Indonesia.

- Training and research activities are carried out in the Universities of Seville, Barcelona and Saragossa.

- The Spanish ICAF national committee has published an issue on the Anthropology of Food in the Revista d’Etnologia de Catalunya, no. 17, November 2000: ‘Transculturacio, Consum i Alimentacio’.

- The Spanish group (EIMAH - Equipo Multidisciplinar en Alimentacion Humana, Universidad de Zaragoza) organised in Borja, November 2001 the XVII° ICAF symposium on ‘Alimentacion y Arbitrario Cultural’ in honour of I. de Garine (50 papers). A book from the proceedings is to be published in 2002 (eds A. Millan, X. Medina, L. Cantarero).

- A meeting on Methodology and Pluridisciplinary Approaches in the Veterinarian and Medical Field is planned for 2003, organised by Amado Millan.

- The Spanish group in Seville under the leadership of Isabel Gonzalez Turmo (vice chair for Europe) has completed a study on comparing cooking in Andalucia and in Morocco.

- The same team has made contacts to develop ICAF committees in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

- The Austrian national committee will organise a meeting on Hunting Food, Drinking Wine, in Poysdorf, November 2003, organisation: Armin Prinz.

- The autumn issue of the Viennese ethnomedicine journal, Ven, will be centred on obesity.

- The contacts made by this group to create an ICAF committee in Israel have not succeeded yet, for obvious reasons.

The U.K. national committee has been very active this year.

- Several meetings on the administrative and documentation aspects of ICAF have taken place in Oxford (Brookes University and Bordeaux II University).

- The ICAF website, enlarged and enriched, has been transferred from Bordeaux to Brookes University, Oxford.

- A meeting on Methodology took place in Kirtlington.

- In the series on the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition edited by H. Macbeth, following Food for Health, Food for Wealth: Ethnic and Gender Identities in British Iranian Communities (ed. L. Harbottle), a manual on Research Methods in the Anthropology of Food: Cross-Disciplinary Approaches (ed. H. Macbeth and J. Mac Clancy) should be out in 2002.

- A manual on Socio-cultural Clues on Food for Nutritional and Biological Scientists is foreseen for 2004.

- Training in the anthropology of food is taking place in the University of Roma (La Sapienza) and in the University of Cosenza.

- The Italian national committee held the XVIII° ICAF symposium on Water: Le Culture dell’Acqua: Materi e Simboli, in Crotone, Calabria (organisers Vito Teti, Sergio Iritale) (30 papers). A book from the proceedings will be published in 2002.

- A meeting in the same place, on Bread, is planned for 2003.

- ICAF Italy (M. Cresta) is organising, with the collaboration of the ICAF committees of France, Spain and Portugal and the assistance of FAO, UNESCO and EEC, the Euro-Mediterranean Forum: Feeding Minds, Fighting Hunger - Dialogues among Mediterranean Civilisations. An international initiative in education and training on food security will take place in Lamezia, Calabria, November 2002.

South America
The Grupo Mexicano de Antropología Alimentaria (GMAA) was established in June 2000, co-ordinated by Paris Aguilar-Pińa. It has the support of the Coordinación de Antropología of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia and Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. It holds meetings once a month.

Its main purposes are to:
a) Establish general background and guidelines in order to prepare an exhibit of Food and culture in Mexico.

b) Promote the diffusion of research on the Anthropology of Food being carried out in Mexico through sessions devoted to the presentation of research in progress.

A special issue of the journal Cuiculco is being prepared by Paris Aguilar and Frédéric Duhart (of ICAF in Europe). The group presented a round table on the Anthropology of Food in the Jornadas de Etnohistoria of the Mexican School of Anthropology in September 2000.

c) Carry out projects that promote the knowledge and appreciation by the general public of the field of the Anthropology of Food and of the rich cultural heritage that Mexico has in its food and beverages.

d) Support the publication of research results in the field of Anthropology of Food and related areas and the preparation of a data base with the published results of research in Mexico and the territories of former Mesoamerica and Aridamerica.

The Mexican group has been successful in promoting the interest of the general public in the field of the anthropology of food. Among its activities:

1. Two taste workshops have been held in Universum, the Science Museum of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

2. The regional ICAF commissioner for Latin American (L.A. Vargas) has taken steps to establish national committees in various countries of Latin America; they should materialise in the near future.

The Mexican national committee was able to send two of its members to the Borja meeting in Spain. Following the meeting in Borja, two national Mexican committees are being organised.

- There are prospects of organising an international meeting in the University of Guadalajara in 2004. The topic is being discussed (organisation: Ricardo Avila).

A meeting on Maize, to be organised in Lima by the University St Martin de Porres, Lima, is planned for 2003 (organisation: H. Urbano). A national ICAF committee is being created.

- The Brazilian Association of Anthropologists is organising a national committee. They held the XXIII° symposium on Food and Symbolism, and are planning to participate in the Forum Social Mondial in January in Porto Alegre.

- The revue Horizontes Antropologicos is planning shortly to publish an article on ICAF.

There are good prospects of creating an Argentinian national committee (organisation: Instituto de Altos Estudios Sociales de la Universidad Nacional del General San Martin) when the economic situation improves.

The regional commissioner for Oceania (Nancy Pollock) is planning to organise a session on Healthy Foods in the Tokyo Inter-Congress, September 2002, and to create national committees in various countries.

Her paper at the 11th Symposium of Australian Gastronomy held in Wellington 2001 is out, and the one from the meeting on Vege culture in the Pacific and South-East Asia (Osaka 2000) will be published shortly.

ICAF has had a satisfying year between 2001 and 2002:

- Ten new ICAF national committees have been created or are in the process of being organised.

- Training in the Anthropology of Food has developed in Austria, France, England, Germany, Italy, Mexico and Spain.

- Four international meetings have been organised, three are in preparation.

- Three books have been published, three more have been accepted for publication and should be out shortly.

- Contacts have been maintained with the Food Choice network (D. Booth) and the journal Appetite.

We are planning to expand our activities to other countries of the world. We will take the opportunity of a field trip to Africa this autumn to try to create a national committee in Cameroon, and – if funds are available – in India.

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4. Double Conference at Moscow, Russia, 7-12 June 2002

by Vladimir Kudryavtsev

On June 7-12, 2002 a double conference was organized in Moscow under the auspices of the IUAES Commission on Urban Anthropology and the IUAES Commission on Nomadic Peoples. The first conference, ‘Urban Encounters between Nomadic and Sedentary People’, was organized by Dr. Soheila Shahshahani, and the second, ‘The City as Counterpoint of Civilization: European, Asiatic and Russian Dimensions (The Experience of the Millennium)’ by Prof. Dr. Swetlana Czervonnaya. The organizers had received a substantial subsidy from the International Social Science Council and UNESCO. Urban anthropologists from Iran, China, USA, Germany, Israel, Ukraine, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, and Russia met in the International Centre of Architecture ‘Sukhanovo’. In four days 36 papers were presented and discussed in 7 sessions.

It was a conference of interdisciplinary character. In a broad Eurasian context the culture of the indigenous peoples of mountainous as well as steppe regions in East and South-East Europe were discussed. Also the monuments and values of the ancient and modern urban culture, the peculiarities of different civilizations as well as the specific character of small towns were studied.

At the opening of the Conference, Prof. Dr. Victor Vanslov transmitted a welcoming address from the President of the Russian Academy of Arts; Prof. Dr. Soheila Shahshahani from the Commission on Urban Anthropology and Commission on Nomadic Peoples of the International Union of the Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences; Li Jinyou from the China Urban Anthropology Association; Prof. Dr. Frank Eckardt from the ‘Bauhaus’ University Weimar, Germany; and Dr. Leonid Kitaev-Smyk from the Russian Institute for Culture Research, did likewise.

The opening papers which defined its main and most important directions were held by Prof. Dr. Viktor Vanslov (‘The Phenomenon of the City in Science and in the Arts’), by Prof. Dr. Vladimir Khayt (‘Problems of Stability in the Development of a City (Aesthetics and Culture Components)’), by Prof. Dr. Sergey Arutiunov (‘Civilization Differences Between the West and East in the Context of Contemporary Urbanization’), by Prof. Dr. Frank Eckardt (‘The European City in the 21st Century – Still a Social City?’) and by Prof. Dr. Aleksandr Jakimovich (‘Soviet Megapolis: A Phantasmagoria’).

In the first part of the double conference (‘Urban Encounters Between Nomadic and Sedentary People’) papers were read on ancient monuments of the city culture in Eurasia, on cities in the epicentre and at the borders of the nomadic world, as well as on city and nomadic cultures: connection, interaction, contradictions in historical (past) and modern contexts:

Prof. Dr. Yurij Kobishanov spoke about ‘The Role of Certain Types of Towns in the Transition from Proto-Civilizations to Civilizations’, Prof. Dr. Shamil Mukhamed’arov about ‘A city in the Civilization’s System of the Golden Horde’, Shen Lin about “Triple-Jump Process of Nomadic Urbanization in North China’, Prof. Dr. Soheila Shahshahani about ‘The Challenge of Urbanization: The Mamassani of Southwestern Iran’, Prof. Dr. Michail Guboglo about ‘The City of Steppe Comrat as Citadel of the Ethnic Sovereignty of the Gagauz People’, Dr. Ramazan Kereitov about ‘Some Questions of the Urbanization of the Kuban’Nogays’ and Ernst Kudussov about ‘The Crimean Tatars in Moscow and in front of Moscow’.

The second part of the Conference ‘The city as Counterpoint of Civilization: European, Asiatic and Russian Dimensions (The Experience of the Millennium)’ was devoted to the city as an aesthetic system, to classic traditions and modern trends in city-planning, to problems of architecture’s ensembles and styles, and to the design of the city environment. These problems were discussed in the papers by Dr. Igor’ Riazantsev ‘The Architectonic Originality of Moscow at the end of 18th-beginning of the 19th centuries’, by Dr. Vladimir Kudryavtsev ‘The Architecture of Kozmodemyansk: The Unique Sample of the Syntheses of Folk Art Traditions with the City’s Environment and Urban Functioning’, by Dr. Zilia Imamoutdinova ‘The Phonation (Sounding) of the City: The Historical and Contemporary Context, the Aesthetic and Psychological Aspects of the Problem’, by Prof. Dr. Nikita Voronov ‘Urban monument and ideology of destruction’ (read to the audience by Prof. Dr. Swetlana Czervonnaya), by Prof. Dr. Swetlana Czervonnaya ‘Capitals of the Sovereign Republics in the Russian Federation as Political and Architectural Phenomena: About the Problem of Prospects on Borders of ‘National’ Urban Planning in the Federal State’, by Rifkat Vakhitov ‘Personal Experiences of a Master of Monumental Painting from a ‘National Province’, by Dr. Anna Shukurova ‘The Movement Factor in the Aesthetics of a City: Motives of Moscow Reconstruction’, by Ilya Pilstrov ‘Light Design in the City: The History and Contemporary Trends’ and by Svetlana Nazarova ‘City Fountain as Art Phenomenon and a Part of the Ecological System’.

Other sections of the conference dealt with economic and social problems, with psychological stress, with contradictions and crisis situations, with the extreme zones of modern urban anthropology, with the city as a strong point of national movements and ethnic mobilization, as well as an arena of political and religious activity migration, with conflicts, inter-ethnic and inter-confessional relations in the cities, etc. In these sections papers were read by Prof. Dr. Vladimir Tolstoy ‘Megapolis as a Contradictions’ Knot of the Technotronic Civilization’, by Prof. Dr. Gideon M. Kressel ‘Ascendancy Through Aggression’, by Dr. Mohammad Shahbazi and Zahra Surraf ‘Prevalence of Anemia Among the Qashhqa’i Tribes People in Southern Iran’, by Dr. Nikolay Goroshkov ‘Architecture of Voronej after Zigmund Freud’s Theory’, by Dr. Irina Abramova ‘Historical Particularities and Contemporary Contradictions in the Cities Growing in the Arab Republic of Egypt’, by Dr. Andrey Tolstoy ‘Paris of the 1920-1930s as a centre of Russian Artistic Emigration’, by Dr. Lev Perepelkin ‘The Modern City of Russia as a Field of Social and Ethnic Conflicts and Public Dialogues’, by Dr. Michail Arutiunov ‘Moscow – a City of Migrants’ and by Prof. Dr. Lionel Dadiani ‘The ‘Right’ Radical Extremism in Modern Russian Cities. On the Question of Russian Fascism’.

The city-culture in the regional dimension of the Caucasus was represented in the papers by Dr. Khabiba Khabekirova ‘The Phenomenon of the City in the Consciousness of the Adygues’, by Dr. Fuad Pepinov ‘Urbanization Processes among the Turks of Meskhetia: The Historical Experience of the 19th and 20th Centuries’ and by Dr. Leonid Kitaev-Smyk ‘A Townsman and the War: Psychological Particularities of Grozny’s Inhabitants at the End of the 20th –the beginning of the 21st Centuries’.

The conference’s programme was planned very well. Therefore one paper could continue the thematic line of the previous one, working out different aspects of a problem and thus a base was formed for very fruitful discussions.

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5. A History of the Double Conference in Moscow

by Freek Colombijn

The double conference on ‘Urban encounters between nomadic and sedentary people’ (from here on: Moscow I) and ‘The city as counterpoint of civilization’ (Moscow II) was a conference with mixed results. In general, Russian participants were very enthusiastic and non-Russian participants had some doubts about the usefulness.

Fully to understand the good aspects and the missed opportunities, it is good to understand the genesis of the conference. This history of the conference is given hereafter. Dr. Soheila Shahshahani was convener of Moscow I and Professor Swetlana Tcherwonnaja was convener of Moscow II. Tcherwonnaja also took charge of the local organization. Dr. Freek Colombijn was co-ordinator between Moscow I and II, but was unable to attend the double conference. His overview of the development of the double conference is based on oral and e-mail communications with the conveners and reports by Dr. Vladimir Kudryavtsev (in this newsletter) and Dr. Mohammed Shahbazi.

Birth of the conference
At the IUAES Inter-Congress at Göttingen (Germany, summer 2001) Tcherwonnaja presented a paper on the multi-ethnic composition of Moscow in a session where Shahshahani, Colombijn, and Dr. Peter J.M. Nas (Secretary-General of the IUAES) were also present. Tcherwonnaja ended her presentation by stating that she would be under heavy political pressure and might be threatened physically if she presented the same paper in Russia, merely because of the suggestion that there are more ethnic groups in Moscow than ethnic Russians. The idea that cultural heterogeneity exists and is valuable is unwelcome in the present political climate of Russian nationalism. She invited the listeners to come to Moscow and back the efforts of Russian anthropologists to defend the richness of heterogeneity. Nas welcomed Tcherwonnaja’s invitation.

Stimulated by Nas, Shahshahani and Colombijn, who happened to be on the same train after leaving the Göttingen conference, discussed the matter and decided to organize a conference on ‘Urban encounters between nomadic and sedentary people’. The IUAES Commission on Nomadic Peoples, of which Shahshahani is also a member, supported the conference. Tcherwonnaja also approved of the theme and began preparations to hold the conference in Teberda (Caucasus). The host institution, the Russian Academy of Arts, however, had no funds available. Fortunately, the International Social Science Council (ISSC, Paris) endorsed the proposal and passed an application for a US$ 10,000 grant on to UNESCO. This application was approved in a letter to Nas (dated 17 April 2002). A conference was born.

After a lot of discussion, Tcherwonnaja, Shahshahani and Colombijn decided that the political and security situation made it impossible to hold the conference in Teberda. It was less a matter of actual security as more how the situation would be perceived by potential foreign participants. We feared that foreigners would be scared away. Therefore we decided to move the whole conference from Teberda to Moscow. Tcherwonnaja, the local organizer, managed to find an excellent venue at Sukhanovo. Sukhanovo is a lovely country house on the outskirts of Moscow and home to the Russian Institute of Architects. An important point is that hotels in Moscow rank amongst the most expensive in the world, but the costs of accommodation and meals at Sukhanovo are low and do not prohibit participation by people from countries that are economically speaking not so well-off.

The move was also a reason to modify the topic of the conference. Moscow is further away from the steppes than Teberda is, so it was decided that the conference should not be purely devoted to nomads. Moreover, the organizers wanted to profit from the presence and expertise of the permanent resident of Sukhanovo, the Russian Institute of Architects. Therefore the conference was split into two: Moscow I, devoted to Urbanization and nomads (the old proposal), and Moscow II, devoted to Cities as counterpoints of civilization. The change of venue and theme, reported in the interim report to ISSC, were approved by the subsidizer.

By this time it became clear that Colombijn would not be attending the conference, because he was expected to become (and indeed became) the father of a baby in the same week that the conference took place. Fortunate as fatherhood may be, his absence was regrettable, because all communication from Tcherwonnaja to Shahshahani went first in German to Colombijn, who translated into English. Reversed messages went directly, because Tcherwonnaja has a good passive understanding of English. During the preparations, Colombijn continued to act as coordinator, but he would not be available to intermediate at the conference.

Last minute problems
Several problems emerged in the last weeks before the conference and at the beginning of the conference itself. They can be grouped under financial and communication problems.

Most serious were the financial difficulties. UNESCO was late with transmitting the necessary funds to ISSC, ignoring the fact that the US$ 10,000 necessary for the organization may be a trivial amount to an international organization, but can form an insurmountable problem for local organizers. The host institute, the Russian Academy of Science, had no financial reserves available to advance the money, and also the ISSC was short of cash. Only in the last days before the conference would take place, did the full scale of the problem become clear. Since Sukhanovo and other Russian suppliers do not accept payment afterwards, the whole conference was under threat to be cancelled at the last minute. Fortunately, the International Institute of Asian Studies at Leiden, the former employer of Colombijn, was helpful and made an advance payment to the local organizers in Russia. This is a most unwelcome situation that should be avoided by UNESCO in the future.

Another problem became apparent with the Sukhanovo management. The deal with Sukhanovo was that a minimum number of rooms would be rented by the local organizer, and another number of rooms would be reserved for the conference, but only had to be paid if actually occupied. Now, the management of Sukhanovo demanded payment for all rooms, threatening to cancel the booking. If all rooms had really to be paid, it would mean that the conference was financially shipwrecked, and that the local organizer would be unable to fulfil promises made partially to reimburse the travel costs of foreign participants. It was only due to the persuasive talents of Tcherwonnaja that Sukhanvo’s management backed off.

The last financial problem emerged on the opening day when the Russian-English interpreter after taking her pay demanded more money. She pretended to be ill when Tcherwonnaja refused to consent and left the conference. Here, a financial problem turned into a problem of communication.

The last financial issue, that even Tcherwonnaja could not solve, was that she had made an advance payment to acquire visas for foreign participants. Several of these participants did not show up, some without giving notice at all or informing at the last minute, so that the local organizer was unable to reclaim the costs made for the visa.

The conference was haunted by several problems of communication. The fact that the local organizer was repeatedly away for several days shortly before the conference took place hindered participants who had questions to the local organizer.

More serious was that the venue, Sukhanovo, could not be reached by phone. This especially prevented one distinguished foreign scholar, who had failed to meet the visa requirements in time, from getting a last minute visa at the airport, ready to board the plane to Moscow. Equally serious was that outgoing calls from Sukhanovo were impossible. Also public transport between Moscow and the venue was, although not impossible, somewhat difficult. One delayed participant, from Lithuania, had difficulties getting at Sukhanovo. In short, the venue was rather isolated from the rest of the world.

Most serious was that after the interpreter left, there was no longer a person capable of interpreting simultaneously from Russia to English or vice versa. Some Russian scholars did the best they could, but for unknown reasons the most capable Russian person in this respect was not enlisted to do all interpretation.

It was tragic that the President of the Conference’s Organization Committee, Professor Nikita Voronov, had died just a few days before this event.

Positive results
Despite the setbacks mentioned above, there were several positive results.

No less than 36 papers were presented in four days by 53 registered participants from Russia, China, USA, Iran, Germany, Israel, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Poland about various topics. More papers came from India, Switzerland, Armenia, and Bulgaria, of whom the authors for whatever reasons did not come to Moscow. Especially the large Chinese delegation in Russia should be mentioned. The presence of anthropologists of nomadism and urbanism on the one hand and of specialists in cultural studies on the other hand resulted in cross-disciplinary debate.

The non-Russian participants had a chance to get an intimate and enlightening view of the academic situation in Russia. The Russian-speaking participants were in general very positive about the chance to meet foreign scholars. The science of anthropology in Russia, and academic life in general, got a moral boost by the presence of foreign scholars from several of the most powerful nations in the world. The publication of abstracts and papers is a more tangible stimulus to anthropology in Russia.

As a follow-up to this conference, the results will be disseminated in other forms. Information about this conference has been made available on an English website (http://www.aha.ru/~czervona/). Tcherwonnaja has been invited to write a forty-page article for a glossy Russian academic journal, Dekorativnoe iskusstvo, on the conference. She is presently working on the article, which will be lavishly illustrated with photographs.

Conclusions and recommendations

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