Ethnology, Folk Culture and Spanish Anthropology


Although Spanish ethnology has a long tradition, associated with ethnographic reports prepared by Catholic missionaries converting American Indians, today this tradition is based largely on the university and museums. Parallel to the evolution in ethnology, folklore, the study of rural cultural tradition, has followed its own historical development, though while it has attracted a wide audience, it has remained at the margins of the university.
Ethnology retained a place in university studies up to 1968 when it entered aperiod of transition in which it was incorporated within cultural anthropology (1971). Cultural anthropology subsequently became associated with social anthropology leaving ethnology as a variety of comparative ethnography. Today, cultural anthropology retains more elements of ethnology, while social anthropology retains more elements of folklore. However, there is a degree of interdisciplinary influence through ethnographically oriented fieldwork and the presence of researcher who adopt simply the name of anthropologists. There are more anthropologists working in academic institutions than physical anthropologists, the latter having become increasingly associated with the study of biology and genetics, than with culture, concerned more with laboratory studies than fieldwork.
European anthropology is facing a number of problems. One of them is the methods needed for an integrated study of ethnographic globalities and local ethnographies, while another is the analysis of cultural change and the consequences of modern technologies applied to the rapid transformation of culture in Europe. In addition, there are the problems we face in analyzing ethnicity, nationalism, identity, migration, integration, mobility and social disorganization.

How to Cite

Esteva-Fabregat, C., (1996) “Ethnology, Folk Culture and Spanish Anthropology”, Ethnologia Europaea 26(2), 111-122. doi:

Publisher Notes

  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.


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Claudio Esteva-Fabregat (Universidad Barcelona)



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