Perspectives of European Ethnology


The current identity discourse inside and outside ethnology is – for different reasons –since more than a decade connected with political rhetorics. It includes a frequent labelling of artifacts and attitude as “ethnic” and the use of history in search for key-words as “roots” and “authenticity”. Since ethnologists often are authors or mediators of plausible metaphorics they seem to serve as story-tellers, as entertainers.
Since ethnologists offer materials for the construction of the self by interpreting habits, rituals etc., contemporary everyday-life turns out to be a scientificated one and has lost its quality of indisputable self-evidence. Modern lives have to be narrated and explained by stories. People have learned to use a set of options and thus are enabled to celebrate a ‘virtual identity’ which turns out to be the everyday practice.
Interpretations surrounding identity brought up by ethno-sciences as well as its creators achieve more importance since ethnological knowledge is to be regarded as an integral part of modern lifestyles. They demand responsibility. The planned celebrations for the year 2000 e.g. are stuffed with cited patterns of culture marking a change.

How to Cite

Köstlin, K., (1996) “Perspectives of European Ethnology”, Ethnologia Europaea 26(2), 169-180. doi:

Publisher Notes

  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.


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Konrad Köstlin (Universität Wien)



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