European Ethnology

... is a cultural science of everyday life

European Ethnology is an empirical cultural science that interrogates everyday social life both in the past and now. The topics covered are manifold: Changes in the world of work and living environments or urban spaces is just as much a subject of investigation as the emergence of protest movements, alternative scenes and milieus, flight and migration, human-animal relations and football fan cultures. This thematic diversity reflects the openness of perspectives and research questions in European Ethnology, and locates this field at the interface of the disciplines of anthropology, social sciences, economic history and history.

 The specific characteristics of European Ethnology as an academic discipline are marked by the key words "culture" and "everyday life". Culture is not considered to be something static or closed off. Culture is not something reserved for the lifestyles of the socially privileged classes, nor is it synonymous with long-lasting traditions of rural life. Rather, culture designates a dynamic, constantly changing expression of lived reality. Culture describes the how of social coexistence and how it is negotiated everyday. In this way culture resembles a mode of the social and the practical conduct of life. In order to examine everyday cultural phenomena, European Ethnology focuses its attention on social practices and their interpretation. It is interested in why people act the way they act and how they experience, come to know and narrate their everyday life as something that is self-evident and unquestioned.

... applies cultural analysis

Cultural analysis involves a collection of different methods that rather than investigating society as a whole; takes into view social segments from an actor-centered perspective. Flexible methodological procedures and processes come into play in order to accomplish this. Ethnographic approaches such as field research (participant observation) with qualitative (biographical, narrative and open) interviews are combined with discourse, image and object analyses, and supplemented by historical-archival methods.

... has many names

European Ethnology is a discipline that has many names in the universities of the German-speaking world. The earlier term “Volkskunde” (folklore studies) has in many cases been replaced by other terms which more aptly describe the objectives and profile of the subject: in addition to “European Ethnology” (Vienna, Innsbruck, Berlin) there are “Cultural Anthropology” (Graz), “Empirical Cultural Studies” (Tübingen, Zurich) and “Popular Cultures” (Zurich) – designations that also appear in combinations such as “Cultural Anthropology / European Ethnology” (Göttingen). The different names indicate shifts from the original discipline of Volkskunde in terms of content, concepts, methodology and theory, and derive from the different accents of the discipline’s representatives in regard partly to local, university policy and partly the content covered.

... opens up different professional fields

Students of European Ethnology gain the skills required to analyze and argue topics of cultural science in an empirically founded manner. The course of studies encourages students to develop topics independently and qualifies its graduates for various professional fields such as museums and exhibitions, adult education, research and consulting on migration and civic work, cultural activities, journalism and media. Since insights into occupational fields are essential for the successful application of knowledge and skills gained during one’s studies on the job market, the programme in European Ethnology offers courses geared toward practice, projects and real-world application.  

... can be studied at the Bachelor and Master levels

While the scientific tools for cultural-historical thinking and research are presented during the six-semester bachelor degree programme in European Ethnology, students in the four-semester Master degree programme deepen and expand their acquired knowledge and skills. Within this framework students undertake a two-semester project that allows them to develop a research topic intensively in a group and to present it to a broader public in the form of a publication or exhibition.

... raises questions

Independence and personal responsibility are not just catchwords and guiding terms of our pluralized and individualized everyday world. They also mark the self-image and the imperative of studies in European ethnology. Not only the content covered, but also the procedures and organization of degree programmes can bring about questions. To deal with such questions both before beginning and during one’s studies, the Vienna Department of European Ethnology has several contact points: Besides the office hours of the teaching staff and the administrative staff, the student representatives of the Department serve as contact persons for both prospective students and those currently enrolled in one of the degree programmes. These various opportunities to ask questions and find answers reflects the self-conception of European Ethnology, which understands science as a space for communication and discussion.