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Ethnology and Anthropology Returns

Ethnology and cultural anthropology return to the the list of officially recognized disciplines in Poland.


In 2018 Polish authorities implemented a reform of higher education that reorganized the list of officially recognized disciplines. Each discipline was now to be represented by a significant and comparable number of scholars. Anthropology/ethnology was merged together with cultural and religious studies to form a new “discipline” under the label of “cultural and religious studies”. Two things should be noted here. First, this decision was a case of the tail wagging the dog, since some disciplines were created essentially for administrative assessment reasons, and thus, to a large extent, arbitrarily. Second, within this new creation, the subject matter of anthropology and ethnology was missing. This meant that although anthropologists continued to work in departments of ethnology and anthropology, teach programs of study under the label of “ethnology”, and do research on anthropological topics, the name “ethnology/anthropology” was absent from the officially established nomenclature. As a wise, old saying goes, what is unnamed does not exist.

The Polish anthropological community vigorously protested this decision. Several letters were sent to the ministry by various organizations, including the Polish Ethnological Society, the Committee of Ethnological Sciences of the Polish Academy of Sciences, and a number of university departments. A spectacular protest took place at Adam Mickiewicz University when during a lecture delivered on January 14, 2019 by Jarosław Gowin, then Minister of Science and Higher Education. During the lecture, students stood up with signs labelled “ethnology” and gagged mouths. All letters of protest were then placed in the minister’s hands by me personally


Among these letters were those issued by several international organizations: WAU/IAUES/WCAA, EASA, AAA, SIEF, ASA, CNRS, CREOLE M.A. program partners (universities in Barcelona, Bern, Ljublana, Lyon, Maynooth, Vienna and Poznan), and some individual departments (e.g. Copenhagen). These letters were highly appreciated by Polish scholars, who were and remain very thankful for them. We are certain that all of these acts of solidarity strengthened our voice in the struggle to regain our discipline’s name. After four years of struggle, we all have succeeded. Under a regulation of the Ministry issued at the end of October 2022 (, “ethnology and cultural anthropology” have been placed on the list of disciplines officially recognized in Poland. This is a small, but important victory in the ongoing efforts around the globe to keep anthropology alive worldwide.

Michal Buchowski
Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań
Past President of the Polish Ethnological Society (2005-19)