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Studia ethnologica Croatica, Vol.19 No.1 Prosinac 2007.

Izvorni znanstveni članak

Contribution to Understanding and Discussion of Cultural-Historical Method in Croatian Ethnology

Milana Černelić ; Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb, Croatia

Puni tekst: hrvatski, pdf (221 KB) str. 5-14 preuzimanja: 511* citiraj
Černelić, M. (2007). Prilog poznavanju kulturnopovijesne metode u hrvatskoj etnologiji i raspravi o njoj. Studia ethnologica Croatica, 19(1), 5-14. Preuzeto s

The author points to the theoretical drawbacks and lack of arguments for the criticism of cultural-historical method which she sees as the consequence of insufficient understanding and comprehension of the advantages of this method and its possible results. In the following paragraphs the author discusses the basic criticisms addressed to this method.
The most common criticism is that this method is out-dated and theoretically ungrounded. The author asks how it is possible for any method to be theoretically ungrounded and uses the example of her own work to show that a clearly defined research goal and the application of the basic premises of cultural-historical method can yield reliable results. The second criticism refers to the uniformity, i.e to one-dimensional approach to cultural phenomena and this one is, according to the author, equally ungrounded, because a method, whose main aim is to establish cultural links and which analyses traditional elements both diachronically and synchronically, cannot be branded as such. The critics of the cultural-historical method are also starting from the wrong idea that this method sees culture as an unchanging and a stable category. This criticism is a good example of insufficient understanding and comprehension of the achievements of the cultural-historical methodological procedure, since ethno-cultural processes, which are the scope of interest of this method, are a very dynamic category. The criticism referring to the lack of context is related to one of the requirements of this method to single out specific cultural elements and processes from the entire cultural context. In order to apply the comparative procedure we have to atomize a certain phenomenon, since we can compare only structural segments, not whole structures. In order to establish the entire context of the historical development of a certain phenomenon and its elements, it is necessary to separate it from the present context, i.e. the context in which we have found it, with the purpose of determining its temporal and spatial contexts, or, in other words, its multi-contextuality (the context of its formation and disappearance and of all the phases in between). The most ungrounded criticism, next to the criticism on the lack of theoretical background, is the criticism on a-historicity of the cultural-historical method, since the main goal of this method is to reconstruct the history of specific cultural elements/phenomena on the basis of geographical distribution. Their horizontal distribution reveals their vertical historical development. This criticism stems from different approach to history and from the wrong perception of the concept of ethnological present, which was best explained by A.L. Kroeber and his idea on descriptive and conceptual integration.
After considering the most common criticisms of the cultural-historical method, the author concluded that everything that was emphasized as its drawback turned out to be quite the opposite: its advantage. Hasty negative labeling of the method was simply the consequence of inadequate understanding of the possibilities and achievements of its application. The author lists arguments against such ungrounded criticisms of cultural-historical method and points to the basic mistake of its critics who were using the criteria of different methodological approaches for evaluating this method.

Ključne riječi
criticism; cultural-historical method; (un)valid arguments; ground(less)ness

Hrčak ID: 22110



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