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Evolution of the Social Institutes: Historical and Anthropological Contexts

Priority areas of development: sociology

Goal of research

The International Centre of Anthropology was founded in February 2018 as a research unit within the School of History, Faculty of Humanities, National Research University Higher School of Economics. The Centre studies social institutions, forms of political organization and cultures of peoples of the past and present in historical dynamics, in the context of local and global sociocultural history. At the current stage of the Centre's activities, the academic work of its faculty complies with two main areas that have a profound inner content and conceptual-methodological connection for all their autonomy:

  1. Historical Anthropology of Africa;
  2. Diverse Directions of Social Evolution.

Historical Anthropology of Africa (Including the African Diaspora)

Supervisors – Dmitri M. Bondarenko and Marina L. Butovskaya

The aim of the project area is to determine how the historical past – both real facts and cultural memory of it – affects the current state of societies and cultures of post-colonial countries in sub-Saharan Africa and African diaspora communities. The particular aspects of the problematic are: the influence of historical memory on contemporary sociocultural processes in Africa (in particular, on the formation of postcolonial nations); the influence of state, including educational policy, as well as adaptation to economic and political conditions, including tourism, on the formation and modification of memory and ideas about the past and ethnic mutual perceptions and interactions in comparison with the influence of the transmission of personal impressions and memories on the same phenomena; inter- African and African-European ethno-confessional interaction; mechanisms and patterns of African social adaptations and responses to challenges (economic hardships, crises, conflicts and violence, disasters, including pandemics) ranging from new adaptive phenomena to permanent traditional institutions of group solidarity and mutual assistance (taking into account the role of physical-anthropological factors).

Diverse Directions of Social Evolution

Supervisors – Dmitri M. Bondarenko and Dmitri D. Beliaev

The goal of the project area is to form an integral concept of nonlinear social evolution and the variety of forms of socio-political organization of societies. In 2020 researchers were focusing on four key aspects of this field: basic principles of organization

and institutional evolution of societies (heterarchical and homoarchical) and variations of their historical realization; forms of (geo)political organization and integration of pre- industrial societies, alternative to the state; emergence, formation and functioning of ethnosocial, ethnocultural, ethnopolitical non-state and early state communities, self- and other identifications, including their connection with ethnic interactions and migrations; the patterns and cases of fixation and reflection by the public consciousness of temporal and spatially-cultural "otherness" (the people’s own past; foreign ethnic and cultural phenomena, etc.) and the further evolution of the corresponding concepts, including institutional forms and aspects of the implementation of these processes.


Methodology of research is based on the achievements of both history and anthropology. General anthropological methods of field research (participant observation, formal and informal, in-depth interviews, questionnaires) were used by stuff members participated in the expeditions and field studies (Dmitri M. Bondarenko, Anastasia A. Banshchikova, Marina L. Butovskaya, Alina O. Lapushkina, Anastasia A. Banshchikova, Oxana V. Ivanchenko, Daria A. Zelenova, Albert I. Davletshin). While dealing with historical data there were used general historical methods, classic comparative method and structural analysis (by all authors), event-analyses (Sergey V. Kostelyanets), various methods of textual analysis (Alexey S. Shchavelev) and analysis of oral tradition (Alexander

A. Nemirovskiy), the combination of general historical, archaeological, epigraphic and linguistic methods (Dmitri D. Beliaev, Albert I. Davletshin, Alexey S. Shchavelev, Alexander A. Nemirovskiy).

Empirical base of research

Empirical base of the research is very broad and diverse. Studies are carried out on the basis of a large number of both published and unpublished sources with the use of the widest range of supporting literature in all major languages of academic communication. In some works visual materials were used in addition to written sources: colonial postcards, photographs of museum collections in the research on historical memory and mechanisms of its transmission. A special place among the sources is occupied by the ethnographic and archaeological materials collected by the staff of the Centre.

For each of the subtopics of the Centre's researches there is a unique source base besides the general written materials, ethnographic articles etc. For the subtopic "Historical Anthropology of Africa" socio-anthropological field studies have a special place. Thus, in 2020 Marina L. Butovskaya, Anastasia A. Banshchikova and Oхana V. Ivanchenko carried out field researches in Tanzania, Alina O. Lapushkina carried archive research in Germany. Three types of sources were used for the subtopic "Diverse Directions of Social Evolution": historical, archaeological and ethnographic through a wide range of societies, including unpublished documents from RSAAD, published and unpublished archival materials on Yukaghir and East Siberian ethnography and folklore, multilingual materials of Near Eastern historical traditions of the 2nd millennium BC – I millennium AD, Mesoamerican and Pacific monuments, including the results of field research of relevant authors, Middle Eastern sources, archaeological and written monuments of early medieval Europe and

Western Asia, including digitized Greek and Latin scripts, manuscript collections of the State Historical Museum and the Russian State Library, media materials and official websites of African states, as well as documents and analytical materials of the international and regional organizations

Results of research

Within the framework of the project various components of nonlinear social evolution were studied. While working on subtopic "Historical Anthropology of Africa" number of studies was conducted dealing with: inter-African and African-European ethno-confessional interaction (Dmitri M. Bondarenko, Alina O. Lapushkina); the impact of the historical past and concepts of it on the later and present state of societies of postcolonial Africa south of the Sahara and their diasporas, factors of formation and modification of group and general social conceptualizing their past (Dmitri M. Bondarenko, Anastasia A. Banshchikova, Oxana V. Ivanchenko); mechanisms and patterns of African social adaptations and responses to challenges: economic hardships, crises, conflicts and violence, disasters, including pandemics (Sergey V. Kostelyanets, Daria A. Zelenova), including traditional institutions of group mutual assistance, taking into account direct and the reverse influence of physical-anthropological factors (Marina L. Butovskaya). While working on subtopic "Diversity of social evolution directions" the following themes were studied: theoretical issues, general processes and typical phenomena of the evolution of social organization (Dmitri M. Bondarenko, Albert I. Davletshin; Alexander A. Nemirovsky), the constitution and construction of ethnosocial, ethnocultural, ethnopolitical non-state and early state communities, their territory, self- and other-identification, including connection with migrations and ethnic interactions, ethnocultural synthesis and divergence (Gleb A. Alexandrov, Alexander A. Nemirovsky, Albert I. Davletshin); socio-political institutions of archaic polities, primarily geopolitical-integrative ones, and factors of inhibition of integration (Dmitri D. Beliaev, Alexey S. Shchavelev); fixation and reflection by the public consciousness of temporally and spatially-culturally "other" (Gleb A. Alexandrov, Alexander A. Nemirovsky, Gleb A. Aleksandrov, Alexander A. Nemirovsky, Anastasia A. Banshchikova). In all these areas new scientific results were obtained, presented in 49 published works and 33 presentations at the conferences and other academic meetings.

Level of implementation, recommendations on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of the results

Results of research were widely demanded in the field of domestic and international academic research in the field of anthropology, general history, source studies, regional studies, conflictology and implemented in the first place in Centre’s educational activity within National Research University Higher School of Economics and other universities. The Centre faculty members teach general anthropology courses as part of basic curriculum of educational programs for bachelor and master's in various fields and in the framework of university "minors" (Physical Anthropology, Evolutionary Anthropology, Political Anthropology, Historical Anthropology), as well as more specialized courses, such as Ethnoconflictology (Cultural Anthropology of Conflict).


Костелянец С. В., Гришина Н. В. ТУРИЗМ НА АФРИКАНСКОМ КОНТИНЕНТЕ: ВОЗМОЖНОСТИ И УГРОЗЫ // Азия и Африка сегодня. 2019. № 10. C. 52-54. doi
Bondarenko D. M. Introduction, in: The Evolution of Social Institutions: Interdisciplinary Perspectives.: Springer, 2020. С. 1-25. 
Bondarenko D. M. Social Institutions and Basic Principles of Societal Organization, in: The Evolution of Social Institutions: Interdisciplinary Perspectives.: Springer, 2020. С. 51-78. 
Bondarenko D. M. The Benin Kingdom (13th–19th Centuries): Megacommunity as Socio-Political System, in: The Evolution of Social Institutions: Interdisciplinary Perspectives.: Springer, 2020. С. 337-357. 
Alexander A. N. Fast Way Upstairs: Transformation of Assyrian Hereditary Rulership in the Late Bronze Age, in: The Evolution of Social Institutions: Interdisciplinary Perspectives.: Springer, 2020. С. 133-159. 
undefined. Basic Features of Political Organization and Social Structure of Rurikid Polity in the 10th Century, in: The Evolution of Social Institutions: Interdisciplinary Perspectives.: Springer, 2020. С. 283-292. 
Денисова Т. С., Костелянец С. В. COVID-19 в Нигерии: вызовы и прогнозы // Азия и Африка сегодня. 2020. № 8. C. 26-30. doi
Денисова Т. С., Костелянец С. В. Трансформация африканских повстанческих лидеров: из «полевых командиров» в «большую политику» (на примере Сьерра-Леоне) // Контуры глобальных трансформаций: политика, экономика, право. 2020. Т. 13. № 3. C. 214-231. doi