How, in your opinion, can we describe modern people and society? What anthropological approaches do professionals use to analyze our epoch?
If we focus on contemporary multi‐ethnic European societies, we can explore the fact that traditional concepts in the various places are different. Distances between people are not based on physical distances, but more on communicative or ideological distances. Modern technology, the internet and mobile phones narrow the space gaps through the possibility of everyday contact. Being human means negotiating yourself and your identity in public space. That’s why young, teenaged people don’t understand whether the internet is or is not a public place.
What are the main characteristics of contemporary man?
Anthropologists are interested in social network analysis. There is not much difference between internet social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or many different communities, however there are discussions about what networks are preferable in the Middle East and Asia. Social networks are about the mental distances among us. Like how long the path is to contact an unknown person in my neighborhood.
Experts say that we are living in a postmodern epoch. What does that mean, and how do we distinguish the “postmodern” from the “modern” period? There is as well the definition “postmodern crisis”. What does it mean?
I really don’t think that the postmodern situation is typical for all communities in the Czech Republic or even worldwide. Nevertheless, we can talk about the multicultural society and the confusion of values and habits. Basically and figuratively we can talk about the world, where all people live in ideological bubbles. This is simply a metaphor that means that you can denominate different values (religion, culture, communities etc.) in the same space in the same time. That is not just one general frame of thinking and living. The dark side of this situation is the closing of our framework for understanding other people. The post‐modern crisis is about culture, the ethnic and political islands that we all build.
Many developed countries are devoted to the concept of multiculturalism. But there is a lot of criticism about it. What do you think about this approach?
I must agree with Tomas Hirt and Marek Jakoubek, anthropologists from West Bohemian University. They say that multiculturalism has experienced the same ideological growth that the concept of nation went through in the 18th Century. The romantic idea of the unity of culture and blood, or the reproduction of habits and values during the reproduction process has the same platform as modern racism theory in the 18th Century. It can sound paradoxical, but if societies don’t comprehend that unity of race and culture is nonsense – that we are all human, able to be members of any culture and society – then we cannot talk about real equality. Humans learn from society, and society is primarily a platform for men, created by men.
Is there another trend towards ethnocentrism, which becomes too popular from time to time even in highly cultured societies?
Ethnocentrism appears in every period. It is the same concept as exclusion. This view is based on prediction, that only one vision or set of customs is right, and all different ways of living are wrong. If we can think as anthropologists or simply open‐minded people, that is respecting cultural relativism. One typical branch of ethnocentrism is “the politics of recognition”, that is used as a tool for cultural minorities to achieve political goals.
How do a person and the State connect today? What role does politics play in our life and could a culture be a way out of this contradiction?
I’m not a politician, but I believe that the connection of humans to State is the way the community participates from the bottom up. If we can articulate our needs to the municipality, then we can learn also to do it to central government Bureaucrats. But the central government is primarily about restrictions, rules and punishment as Michel Foucault explained.
What is your vision of a society in which new technologies and high-speed information are spreading?
The future of human society can be seen in comprehending differences. If all differences are disappearing to the degree that it doesn’t matter if you are black or white – then we can talk about a sustainable vision of mutuality. Human society must also handle the poverty problem based on wealth redistribution in the world. As long as most of the wealth belongs to the minority, we cannot talk about social or race equality.