General information

Course type AMUPIE
Module title Cultural Relativism In Practise. The Case Of The Slavs And The Balkans
Language English
Module lecturer prof. UAM dr hab. Joanna Rękas
Lecturer's email
Lecturer position Professor
Faculty Faculty of Polish and Classical Philology
Semester 2021/2022 (summer)
Duration 15
USOS code 03-AP-CRP


Duration: 7 weeks, 10 May 2022 – 21 June 2022

Tuesday, 08:00-09:30 CET, I: 10.05, II: 17.05, III: 24.05, IV: 31.05, V: 07.06, VI: 14.06, VII: 21.06.


Module aim (aims)

The course deals with the concepts of cultural relativism (from Franz Uri Boas to Clifford Geertz) on the Slavic and Balkan real life examples. The idea that a person's beliefs, values, and practices should be understood based on that person's own culture, and not be judged against the criteria of another will be shown through the most important repetitive behaviours of Slavic and Balkan social actors playing their roles in everyday theatre. The specificity of the culture of living, eating, working, resting and showing emotions will be discussed on selected examples. All practical themes are presented through case studies of everyday practices, actions and relations.
Students will learn about the fundamental Slavic and Balkan cultural traditions, connected with everyday life, and about their historical, geopolitical, national and supranational conditions.
During the course students will be participating in a series of online activities that will enable and improve their ability to review and characterize the most important cultural behaviours that build local communities, shape their mentality, identity and affiliation. In this way students will exercise the ability of having relationships that acknowledge, respect and begin to understand each other’s diverse lives. Recognizing their own everyday rituals and habits the course participants will learn how to understand a culture (on the examples of the Slavic and the Balkan cultures) on its own terms and not to make judgments using the standards of one’s own culture. Passing through sometimes surprising and shocking social behaviours they will learn that there is no right or wrong ethical system and that any opinion on ethics is subject to the perspective of each person within their particular culture. In this way the most common superstitions connected to the Slavs and the Balkans will be recognized, described and analysed. This component of cross-cultural relationship is crucial for the intercultural dialogue, and encourages mutual respect for other ways of life, beliefs, superstitions etc.

Pre-requisites in terms of knowledge, skills and social competences (where relevant)

Keen interest in multiculturalism, the Slavs and the Balkans.


Week 1: Cultural relativism, the Slavs and the Balkans: theoretical approaches, facts and superstitions
Week 2: The theories of behaviour, taboo, rituals and habits. Between anthropology, biology and evolutionary psychology
Week 3: Food culture
Week 4: Housing culture
Week 5: Culture of showing affection
Week 6: Culture of dressing
Week 7: Culture of work and rest

Reading list

Bordieu, Pierre (1996). “Distinction. A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste“. Translated by Richard Nice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press;
Cohen, Erik (1979). Phenomenology of Tourist Experience, „Sociology” 13:2, pp. 179-201;
Crane, Diana, Bovone, Laura (2006), Approaches to material culture: The sociology of fashion and clothing, “Poetics” 34, pp. 319–333;
Douglas, Mary (1972). Deciphering a Meal. “Daedalus” Vol. 101, No. 1, Myth, Symbol and Culture, pp. 61-81;
Eliade, Mircea (1961). “The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion“. Translated by Willard R. Trask. New York: Harper Torchbooks;
Eriksen, Thomas Hylland (2001). Small Places, Large Issues. An Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology. London-Sterling-Virginia: Pluto Press;
Geertz, Clifford (2000a). “Local Knowledge: further essays in interpretative anthropology”. New York: Basic Books;
Geertz, Clifford (2000b). “The interpretation of cultures: selected essays”. New York: Basic Books;
Gennep, Arnold (2019). “The Rites of Passage”. Translated by Monika B. Vizedom and Gabrielle L. Caffee. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press;
Goffman, Erving (1956). “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life”. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh. Social Science Research Centre;
Jezernik, Božidar (2004). “Wild Europe. The Balkans in the Gaze of Western Travellers“. London: Saqi;
Lévi-Strauss, Claude (1966). The Culinary Triangle. Translated by Peter Brooks. “The Partisan Review” 33: 586-596;
M. Haldrup, J. Larsen, “Tourism, Performance and the Everyday”, London, New York 2010;
Rocamora, Agnès. (2002), Fields of fashion. Critical Insights into Bourdieu’s Sociology of Culture, “Journal of Consumer Culture” 2(3), pp. 341–362;
Schechner, Richard (2013). “Performance Studies: an Introduction”. London & New York: Routledge;
Todorova, Maria (2009). “Imagining the Balkans“. Oxford: University Press.
Turner, Victor (1982). “From Ritual to Theatre. The Human Seriousness of Play”. New York: PAJ Publications;
Zechenter, Elizabeth M. (1997). In the Name of Culture: Cultural Relativism and the Abuse of the Individual, „Journal of Anthropological Research“, Vol. 53, No. 3, Universal Human Rights versus Cultural Relativity, pp. 319-347.