Pseudo-Marxism and Proto-Functionalism in Serbian Ethnology: Kulišić versus Filipović

  • Gordana Gorunović Department of Ethnology and Anthropology Faculty of Philosophy University of Belgrade
serbian ethnology, pseudo-Marxism, proto-functionalism, ideological critique, polemics


This paper discusses an episode in the history of Serbian ethnology, which I take to be indicative of the conditions in domestic disciplinary production in the first decade following WWII. The debate on functionalism between the then-leading representative of "vulgar materialism" (a form of pseudo-Marxism), Špiro Kulišić, and Milenko Filipović, who advocated an innovative social and functional perspective in ethnology (as a form of proto-functionalism), is viewed as a critical example that reveals the condition of academic ethnology at the time. Its characteristics were: the rule of intellectual inertia and ideological exclusivity; absence of constructive public discussions, debates and critical consideration of the subject, methods and aims of ethnology in the period of socialist transition; arrest of theoretical and methodological thought, exemplified by collector's empiricism and designed, schematic application of the Soviet model of "ideologically correct study". Proto-functionalism occurred in this setting as a rival strategy. Aware of the stagnation of Serbian ethnology and the need to innovate it, as well as of the complexity of the social and cultural milieu of the time, Filipović – in a theoretically modest and perhaps premature way – offered an alternative to the dogmatic views according to which ethnology was a study of rural surroundings and survivals; to the schematic application of methods and abstract concepts of evolutionism; and to the pretentious discourse of vulgar materialism, with its ideological and propaganda-serving functions.


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How to Cite
Gorunović, Gordana. 2006. “Pseudo-Marxism and Proto-Functionalism in Serbian Ethnology: Kulišić Versus Filipović”. Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 1 (2), 185-208.