The Concept of the "Field" in Early Soviet Ethnography: A Northern Perspective

Dmitry Arzyutov, Sergei Kan

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The conceptualization of the “field” in early Soviet ethnography had its own dynamics and elaborations within the discursive arenas of the Leningrad ethnographic school. Beginning with the prehistory of the idea of the field among the Enlightenment naturalists and travelers, we turn toward a description of long-term expeditions of the first generation of Soviet ethnographers of the North. Comparing field diaries, photographs, questionnaires, lectures, and textbooks, we consider the patterns and flexibility in the concept of the field in the first half of the twentieth century. We conclude with a discussion of how post–World War II Soviet anthropologists departed from the ideas of participant observation and long-term fieldworking prominent in earlier conceptualizations of fieldwork in Soviet ethnography.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31–74
Number of pages44
JournalSibirica : Interdisciplinary Journal of Siberian Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • field
  • history of anthropology
  • participant observation
  • Soviet ethnography


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