Semiotics of culture and New Polish Ethnology
The paper deals with the contemporary state of semiotic ethnology in Poland (connected with New Polish Ethnology group), its internal and external influences, its specifics, subjects and its reaction to the other theoretical propositions. The “neotribe” of New Polish Ethnology was established by few younger scholars, ethnologists in the early 1980s, in an opposition to the dominant stream of positivistic ethnology. Today they have become classics of Polish anthropology, masters that have educated a new generation of their students, and lead some anthropological institutes. The most inspiring set of theories that influenced the group and its heirs was taken from Soviet semiotics of culture (Lotman, Uspensky, Toporov, Ivanov), and French structural-semiotics (Levi-Strauss, Barthes), but there are some individual differences also. On that basis they have developed a specific scope, aim and methods of interpretation with as its key terms myth and mythical thinking. They have explained many cultural events (relation we-others, body image, commercials, and anthropology itself) within the framework of mythical thinking, making it the most productive and attractive frame of interpretation within Polish humanities and social sciences. In the 1990s they had to face critical ethnography, deconstruction and postmodern anthropology and they did it with perfect flexibility that even strengthened their project, because the potential of reflexivity and self-consciousness lied within semiotics from its beginning.