Aleksandar Bošković

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Aleksandar Bošković
Aleksandar Bošković at the Temple of Hatshepsut, Egypt.jpg
Aleksandar Bošković at the Temple of Hatshepsut, Egypt.
Born (1962-06-05) 5 June 1962 (age 56)
Zemun, FPR Yugoslavia
Nationality Yugoslav, Macedonian, Serbian
Alma mater University of St Andrews
Scientific career
Fields Anthropology, Social anthropology
Institutions University of St Andrews
Universidade de Brasilia
University of the Witwatersrand
Rhodes University
Institut društvenih nauka
University of Belgrade Faculty of Philosophy
Influences

Aleksandar Bošković is a social anthropologist from former Yugoslavia, who published thirteen books and several hundred articles and book reviews on history and theory of anthropology, from a transactionalist[1] and comparative[2] perspective.[3][4] He is Professor in the Department of Ethnology and Anthropology (University of Belgrade Faculty of Philosophy),[5] and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Donja Gorica in Montenegro. Since 2 February 2017, Bošković also heads the Department of Anthropological Research (within the Center for Sociological and Anthropological Studies) at the Institute of Social Sciences in Belgrade, where he is Director of Research, and former (19 May 2009 – 1 February 2017) Head of the Center for Political Studies and Public Opinion Research.[6] Aleksandar Bošković previously taught at the Universities of St Andrews[7] (1994), Belgrade (then Yugoslavia, 1998), Brasília (Brazil, 1999–2001),[8] University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa, 2001–2003), and Rhodes University[9] (Grahamstown, South Africa, 2003–2006). Between 2000 and 2014, Aleksandar Bošković was teaching in the Post-graduate Program in Anthropology of the Faculty of Social Sciences (FDV), University of Ljubljana (Slovenia).[10] Since August 2016, he is the EASA Book Series Editor.[11] Together with Han Vermeulen,[12][better source needed] he is co-convenor of the History of Anthropology Network of the EASA.[13]

Studies and early work[edit]

Born in Zemun, Yugoslavia, Bošković studied philosophy in Belgrade between 1982 and 1990. During his studies, he was mostly interested in the work of Ernst Cassirer (1874–1945), but also "discovered" Paul Feyerabend (1924–1994), who will be a lasting influence. Aleksandar spent some years in the so-called "pro-democracy" journalism in Yugoslavia (1983–1990), in the process working as foreign politics editor and member of the Editorial Board of the Belgrade weekly magazine Student (1984/1985) and writing for almost all of the major (mostly Belgrade-based) Yugoslav magazines between 1984 and 1990. Aleksandar's journalistic texts and interviews dealt with political issues (he interviewed some of the former Praxis School philosophers – including Gajo Petrović, Svetozar Stojanović, and Mihailo Marković), foreign affairs, but also with cultural issues, comics and science fiction.

His early scholarly publications were very much influenced by the interest in the study of myth and religion, especially through the perspectives offered by Joseph Campbell (1904–1987) and Mircea Eliade (1907–1986). As a conclusion of the several decades of interest in the study of myth, he edited the Dictionary of Deities and Mythic Beings of the World (in Serbo-Croatian; co-edited with Milan Vukomanović and Zoran Jovanović), a single-volume reference work with 14 contributors, covering Non-classical Mythology. Bošković contributed over 150 entries himself, including all on Australia, Mesoamerica, Africa, Celts, and some on Middle East and Mesopotamia (Baal, Gilgamesh, Ziusudra), and India (Ganesha, Parvati, Rudra, Shiva).

Some of his early texts focused on ancient Mesoamerican religions (especially Maya and Mexican/ Aztec).[14] In 1990, Bošković went to Tulane University[15] in New Orleans to study anthropology with Munro S. Edmonson [1924–2002]. Fieldwork in Guatemala in 1991 was inspired by the interest in Classic Maya ceramics, but this interest gradually waned, mostly due to Bošković's dissatisfaction with the then-dominant "direct historical approach" in Mesoamerican studies and the tendency by some anthropologists to use material from looted sites. However, he continued to occasionally review books on this topic, especially for the journal Anthropos.[16] He kept in touch with several prominent Maya archaeologists, like Richard E. W. Adams (1931–2015),[17] American archaeologist who taught at the University of Texas at San Antonio, who influenced Bošković with his general perspective and methodological rigor; and also with the leading French Mayanist at the time, Claude-François Baudez (1932–2013), from the CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique).[18] The interest in Mesoamerica was revisited in a book published by Archaeopress in 2017, Mesoamerican Religions and Archaeology.[19] The book includes a number of review essays, including chapters on The Meaning of Maya Myths,[20] Aztec Great Goddesses,[21] and ways of interpreting the Codex Borbonicus (or Codex Cihuacoatl).

Bošković defended the M.A. thesis (supervised by Munro S. Edmonson), "William Robertson Smith and the Anthropological Study of Myth," at Tulane University in April 1993.[22] From New Orleans he went to do Ph.D. at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. This move was motivated by the interest in contemporary anthropology, combined with the interpretive approach,[23] to which he came through the influence of Clifford Geertz (1926–2006). In St. Andrews, he was first supervised by Ladislav Holy (1933–1997). Holy proved to be a major influence on Bošković's research with his version of methodological individualism.[24] Following Holy's illness, Bošković was supervised by Nigel J. Rapport,[25] and defended his Ph.D. thesis (Constructing Gender in Contemporary Anthropology) on 1 November 1996.[26] The ethnographic part of the thesis focused on the feminist groups in Slovenia. Methodologically, some of the conclusions were influenced by Ladislav Holy's critical interpretative approach, as well as by Marilyn Strathern's and Henrietta L. Moore's anthropology of gender – especially considering gender as a social and cultural construct).[27]

While in St Andrews, Bošković was also fortunate to meet and talk to a brilliant linguist in the Department of Social Anthropology, Sándor Hervey (1942–1997) [28] and to read several editions of Ferdinand de Saussure's (1857–1913) Cours de linguistique générale. Saussure's concept of the linguistic sign[29] also proved to be a major influence in his later work.

Academic career[edit]

Bošković taught his first academic course at the University of St Andrews in the Martinmas Term of 1994 ("Mesoamerican Pre-Columbian Civilisations", at the Honours’ level), and began teaching part-time at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Ljubljana in 2000 (courses "Contemporary Anthropology" and "Anthropology and Feminism", at the M.A. level). However, his most important teaching experience was when he moved to the Department of Anthropology of the University of Brasília, where he was influenced by Mariza Peirano's[30] and Roberto Cardoso de Oliveira's (1928–2006) concept of a horizontally-structured anthropology. (This will later influence his interest in "World Anthropologies."[31]) In Brasília, Bošković taught courses on gender, myth, anthropological theory, Latin America, but also started to develop some interest in the concept of Europe, as he was actually hired as "Visiting Professor of European Ethnology." His monograph on Mesoamerica (Mesoamerican Religions and Archaeology: Essays in Pre-Columbian Civilizations) was published by Archaeopress[32] in January 2017.[33]

Following the invitation of Robert J. Thornton, in February 2001 Bošković moved to the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa) on the Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship. There he also taught courses on religion, myth, and ethnicity. While in Johannesburg, he was fortunate enough to meet (and have opportunity to discuss anthropology with) W.D. Hammond-Tooke (1926–2004), the last of the great 20th century South African anthropologists.[34] In 2003, Bošković was hired as Senior lecturer at the Department of Anthropology of Rhodes University, a department that Hammond-Tooke helped establish during the 1960s. At Rhodes, Bošković further developed his interests in the history and theory of anthropology. This Department provided a brilliant academic setting, with colleagues like Chris de Wet, Robin Palmer, Penny Bernard, among others. Furthermore, his interest in history and theory of anthropology resulted in publication of several books. His book Myth, Politics, Ideology was published in late 2006 in Belgrade, and it covered different theoretical aspects of the study of myths, understood (in Raymond Aron's sense) as part of ideology.[35] The book also included several chapters on different aspects of Mesoamerican religions – some in revised versions from their original publications, and some previously unpublished. This also coincided with Bošković's interest in the study of ethnicity and nationalism, and his overall view that multiculturalism is an essential component of all human societies. Some of these aspects were discussed while he was a guest at the University of Oslo in 2007, following the invitation of a friend and colleague, Thomas Hylland Eriksen.[36][37]

Aleksandar Bošković was invited to teach in the Department of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Belgrade's Faculty of Philosophy in 2009. He began teaching courses related to history and theory in anthropology, mostly due to the favorable reception of his introductory book in anthropology, published in 2010.[38] In 2012, the Senate of the University of Belgrade elected him as a full Professor, so he teaches full-time in the Department from 1 January 2013.

Involvement with human rights[edit]

In 2006, Aleksandar Bošković briefly worked as Program Director (in charge of transitional justice)[39] in the Humanitarian Law Center in Belgrade.[40] The interest in human rights followed on his criticism of nationalism and violence and led to his continuing collaboration with other human rights organizations in Serbia in the 1990s (like the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights). Bošković also worked for the UNDP in Belgrade on several short-term contracts, again on topics related to transitional justice. Throughout this period he has been an outspoken critic of nationalism, as well as of all other totalitarian and discriminatory practices and tendencies within Serbian society.[41] In mid-1990s Bošković used the then-emerging concept of Virtual Reality to refer to the ways in which the political elites of Serbia (as well as other post-Yugoslav societies) understood the reality and the world among them. Several of his article on this topic were published in the Canadian Journal for Political Theory and widely read.[42] The suggestion made in his writings was that the foreign observers and diplomats trying to communicate with Serbian leaders would be much more successful if they were aware of the concept of virtual reality, as the reality that the local political leaders believed in had no connection with what is ordinary considered as real.

Most recently, following his interest in psychoanalysis,[43] Bošković used Christopher Bollas'[44] concept of the "fascist state of mind" to elaborate on the political and social situation in Serbia, in an essay published in the Belgrade weekly Novi magazin, on 15 June 2017.[45]

When considering wider implications of the persuasiveness of nationalist-inspired thinking and ideas, he organized a round table debate dedicated to Benedict Anderson (1936–2015), at the Institute of Social Sciences in Belgrade.[46] This was at least in part due to the influence that Bruce Kapferer's ideas had on him. Bošković also published a paper on anthropological studies of myths and nationalism in 2013, in the oldest anthropology journal in the world, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie - as a review article of Kapferer's major book.[47] Among the more recent published contributions, there is also a chapter that deals with Serbia's troubled relationship with her own past, and the inability of the country's elites to come to terms with its nationalistic past. This paper is based on a presentation from the conference held at Landskronna (Sweden), in early June 2012. The chapter's title is "Serbia and the Surplus of History: Being Small, Large, and Small Again".[48]

In connection with this rejection of all forms of discrimination and intolerance, and following up on his research on gender for his PhD thesis, Bošković also contributed on the "Images of Gender and Sexuality in Southern Africa" for The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Gender and Sexuality Studies,[49] as well as (with his colleague from the Institute of Social Sciences, Suzana Ignjatović) on "Gender equality in Serbia".[50][51]

Aleksandar Bošković with (l to r) Immo Eulenberger, Robin Palmer, and Herbert S. Lewis, following the African Political Systems Revisited conference in Halle, Germany, 11 September 2015. Photo by Antonadia Monteiro Borges.

Teaching and research[edit]

Since August 2008, Aleksandar is Director of Research or Research Professor (French Directeur d'études; in Serbo-Croatian Naučni savetnik) and between May 2009 and February 2017 he was Head of the Center for Political Research and Public Opinion in the Institute of Social Sciences in Belgrade (Serbia). He has been employed full time in this Institute since 1 July 2003. In October 2009, Bošković started teaching in the Department of Ethnology and Anthropology of the University of Belgrade Faculty of Philosophy, and was formally awarded full Professorship by the Senate of the University of Belgrade in November 2012. He was formally hired (tenure, full time) by the Faculty of Philosophy from 1 January 2013. He teaches Ethnological and Anthropological Theories and Comparative Religion (second-year course) on the undergraduate level, Methodology on Master's level, and History of Anthropology at the Doctoral level. In 2017, Bošković started teaching Anthropology at the newly established Faculty of Applied Science of the University of Donja Gorica (UDG) in Montenegro.[52]

Bošković edited a volume Other People's Anthropologies: Ethnographic Practice on the Margins (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2008; paperback edition in 2010), a book that received good reviews, and is being used as a reference work on the topic.[53] The book presented an important contribution to the growing field of "World Anthropologies," as it dealt with different national/regional anthropological traditions (including Russian, Dutch, Bulgarian, Kenyan, Argentinian, Turkish, Cameroonian, Japanese, Yugoslav, Norwegian, and Brazilian), all of them located outside of the so-called "central (or dominant) anthropological traditions" (Anglo-American, French and German). However, better known in Serbo-Croatian (and in the former Yugoslav region) is his book Kratak uvod u antropologiju [A Brief Introduction to Anthropology], published in late 2010 by the Jesenski i Turk in Zagreb (Croatia).[54] Serbian edition of the book was published in April 2010, based on a series of lectures delivered at the Rex Cultural Centre.[55] In 2014, he published a book in Serbia on Anthropological perspectives[56]

As a result of his long-standing collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology,[57] Aleksandar Bošković also co-edited a volume on the development of anthropologies/ ethnologies in Southeastern Europe between 1945 and 1991, with Chris Hann,[58] in which he also contributed a Postscript. He also published a review essay on the uses of rational choice in anthropology in Ethnos in 2012 (with Suzana Ignjatović).[59] The interest in rationality also resulted in the process of helping Suzana Ignjatović organize a Symposium about Individualism[60] at the Institute of Social Sciences in Belgrade, on 20 October 2017. The Symposium resulted in the edited volume,[61] with international contributors including Walter Block, Veselin Vukotić,[62] and Patrick Laviolette. This event also received attention (and formed a major part in the leading story) in one of the leading Serbian news magazines.[63]

Guest lectures and invited seminars[edit]

Since 1986, Aleksandar gave more than 220 guest lectures or seminars and six short courses in 27 countries. He delivered these lectures and seminars at, among other places, University of Oslo, University of Bergen, Goldsmiths College, Vanderbilt University, College of William and Mary, University of Cambridge, University of St. Andrews, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Hebrew University of Jerusalem's School of Philosophy and Religions, and University of Hamburg. In recent years, he also spoke about topics such as rationality (both at the IUAES Congress in Manchester in 2013, and at the Inter-Congress in Chiba, Japan in 2014), identity (at the meeting of the Croatian Ethnological Society in Zagreb in 2013), Giambattista Vico (at the ASA Decennial Conference in Edinburgh, 2014), ethnicity (in the Masters’ seminar at the University of Leipzig, 2014) and anthropology in Belgrade (at the Institute of Social Anthropology, Wilhelms University of Münster (Germany),[64] in 2014). In late April 2017, Bošković lectured at the Department of Social Anthropology at the Panteion University in Athens, as part of the ERASMUS exchange.

He co-organized (with Salma Siddique) a panel on "Anthropology and psychotherapy" at the ASA conference in Exeter in April 2015, and presented a seminar on Edvard Munch at the Comparative Sociology Department of the University of Leiden. With Professor Günther Schlee, he organized a Workshop commemorating 75th anniversary of the African Political Systems at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, 10–11 September 2015.[65] With David Shankland, he co-convened the workshop Themes in the history of anthropology at the 2016 EASA,[66] and with Thomas Hylland Eriksen, the workshop Clashing scales of infrastructural development at the 2017 SIEF Congress in Göttingen.[67]

In early 2018, following the invitation of Salma Siddique, he spent six weeks as a Visiting Researcher at the University of Aberdeen.[68] During this period, Bošković gave two talks about The Meaning of Maya Myths (unrelated to the 1989 article), at King's College, Aberdeen and at the University of Edinburgh,[69] as well as a lecture on Anthropology and Psychoanalysis, in the School of Education.

Selected works in English[edit]

  • Mesoamerican Religions and Archaeology: Essays in Pre-Columbian Civilizations (2017)
  • The Anthropological Field on the Margins of Europe, 1945–1991 (2013, ed. w/Chris Hann)
  • Other People's Anthropologies: Ethnographic Practice on the Margins (2008/2010, ed.)
  • Serbia and the surplus of history: Being small, large, and small again, in Small Countries: Structures and Sensibilities (2017, eds. Ulf Hannerz and Andre Gingrich)
  • Globalization and its discontents, in Globalizacija i izolacionizam (2017, ed. Veselin Vukotić et al.)
  • Gender equality in Serbia (w/Suzana Ignjatović), in Gender Equality in a Global Perspective (2017, eds. Anders Örtenblad, Raili Marling and Snježana Vasiljević)
  • Serbia and the Surplus of History: Being Small, Large, and Small Again, in Small Countries: Structures and Sensibilities (2017, eds. Uff Hannerz and Andre Gingrich)
  • Escape from the future: Anthropological practice and everyday life, in Balkan Heritages (2015, eds. Maria Couroucli and Tchavdar Marinov)
  • A very personal anthropology of Mary Douglas Anthropological Notebooks 22 (2016)
  • Socio-cultural anthropology today: An overview Campos 6 (2005)
  • Anthropological perspectives on myth Anuário Antropológico 99 (2002)
  • Great Goddesses of the Aztecs: Their meaning and functions Indiana 12 (1995)

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External links[edit]