This book by an eminent cultural anthropologist from Warsaw University's Institute of Polish Culture is an overview of culture from a joint historical and anthropological perspective. It is a look at multi-system culture, of which communication processes, as the foundation of interpersonal ties, are an important component. It presents people in culture and culture in people.
It is the result of 20 years of the author's work as a researcher and writer. It contains previously published texts and new ones, collected in four sections: I. The theory side, II. The cultural history side, III. Our 20th century, IV. Facing the "communication revolution".
Source of Polish version: www.wuw.pl/ksiegarnia
- Andrzej Mencwel
Wyobraznia antropologiczna / The Anthropological Imagination
Series: Communicare - historia i kultura / history and culture
Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, Warszawa 2006
135 x 205, 448 pages, paperback
The book has been nominated for the 2007 Nike Literary Award.
"WYOBRAZNIA ANTROPOLOGICZNA / THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL IMAGINATION" BY ANDRZEJ MENCWEL
[Excerpts from the described book are translations made for the purpose of this article; for the original text go to the
link*Polish version*http://www.culture.pl/pl/culture/artykuly/dz_mencwel_wyobraznia_antropologiczna**]**In December 1832 Charles Darwin stepped off a British ship onto the shore of the Land of Fire. The natives he saw reminded him of the orang-utans at London zoo: "miserable, degraded savages ... their mouths frothed from the rapidity with which they talked". "I could not have believed how wide was the difference between savage and civilised man: it is greater than between a wild and domesticated animal, inasmuch as in man there is a greater power of improvement", Mencwel continues to quote Darwin.
Mencwel's book is an attempt at a comprehensive description of what we imagine culture to be. What is it now, what was it in the past, where would we be inclined to draw the line between culture and the natural state? Mencwel is concerned chiefly with his home turf - what would we recognize as the beginning of Polish academic achievement in cultural anthropology? Finally, what place in contemporary culture is occupied by knowledge of culture and cultural awareness, in an anthropological sense as opposed to an artistic one? Mencwel seeks answers by analysing different eras and different fields of human activity - he writes about distant times and 20th-century modernity. He writes about Paris-based "Kultura", the experience of the captive mind on the example of the correspondence of Tadeusz Kronski and Czeslaw Milosz, and also ponders on the communication role of the Internet.
The whole treatise has been divided into two fundamental parts - a theoretical one and a more extensive historical one. In the former, the writer reflects, among other things, on forms of communication - the oral form typical for primeval culture and the subsequent, developed written culture. In the historical part, he goes back to the beginnings of civilization and European culture, including an extensive analysis of the theory which assumes that apart from its Judeo-Christian and Greek-Roman foundations, the European tradition was also founded on less well researched and almost forgotten local tradition - of the Balts, Germans and Slavs, and that consequently there exists an independent identity of Central Europe, as - to quote Jerzy Kloczowski - the "younger Europe". Mencwel also analyses one of our oldest written texts - the famous "Gertrude's Prayer Book", which is in Latin but was written on the territory of Poland, and which for some is an important relic and manifestation of historical culture (though a completely non-individualized manifestation), while others see it as something original, creative, almost literary. The author also finds major sources of reflection on culture in literary adaptations that have a place in the popular awareness, such as Ogniem i mieczem / With Fire and Sword [by Henryk Sienkiewicz].
His reflections on the history of how national identity developed ultimately lead Mencwel into contemporary times - he believes that the most modern, cohesive and, first and foremost, still relevant political thought was practised by the Paris-based "Kultura". The ideas promoted by "Kultura" become a cultural project in the anthropological sense: Giedroyc "knew that hostility ... was the effect of hundreds of years of forming sensual, emotional, intellectual habits. If you want to have not just political but also practical friends next to you and around you, you have to bore into those age-old deposits of habits", writes Andrzej Mencwel.
Author: Marek Radziwon, wiadomosci.gazeta.pl, June 21, 2007 - Polish version