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SIEF Board

At SIEF's last general assembly (Göttingen, March 28, 2017) the following members were elected to the Executive Board:


+ Nevena Škrbić Alempijević, Croatia (1st term, President)
Nevena ŠkrbićAlempijević

Nevena Škrbić Alempijević is an associate professor at the Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb. Her background is in ethnology, cultural anthropology, English language and literature. First she worked as a curator of the Ethnographic Museum of Istria, where she was appreticed in hands-on approach to heritage. She received her Ph.D. at the University of Zagreb in 2006. Since then she has taught courses and supervised students on all levels of study, from undergraduates to PhD students. Nevena also contributes to the programme of Croatian language and culture organised for international students. She is active in the Faculty’s Ethics Committee and in the Review Board for postgraduate specialist programmes of the University of Zagreb. Recently she has become the president of the Governing Board of the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research in Zagreb.

Nevena has participated in ten nationally or internationally funded projects, mostly related to public spaces, memory and performance studies. She received two research scholarships at the University of Bergen, in 2005 and 2012. She has acted as a member of the editorial board of the Croatia scientific journal Studia ethnologica Croatica. In 2015, Nevena was appointed the president of the board of consulting editors for the Zagreb Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Press. In co-authorship with other ethnologists, she has written books on festivals, artistic performances in urban spaces and on qualitative methodology. Her bibliography also includes five edited volumes and more than 40 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes in Croatia and abroad. Her publications have been published in Croatian, English, French, Hungarian, Norwegian and Swedish languages. Her main areas of scientific interest are: anthropology of social memory, anthropology of place and space, urban anthropology, Mediterranean studies, island studies, studies of carnivals, festivals and other public events. Nevena is dedicated to the popularisation of ethnology in various social spheres by organizing public fora, walking city tours and other events, collaborating with artists on the interventions in public space, etc. She is also an active member of several national professional organizations, including the membership in the Executive Board of the Croatian Ethnological Society.

Nevena’s involvement in SIEF began with her participation at the Budapest congress in 2001. That was the first international conference she attended as a PhD student, and it was there that she got the impetus and inspiration to continue with her studies and research interests and a sense of belonging to a large professional community. Nevena is a member of the SIEF’s working group on The Ritual Year. As a member of the Local Committee and Scientific Committee, she was fully involved in the organisation of SIEF2015 in Zagreb. In 2015 she was elected an executive board member of SIEF. In the context of SIEF Nevena aims to facilitate the development of that community, which she sees as an arena of openness, multilayeredness and interdisciplinarity, but also a society were ethnology and folklore studies (E&F) meet in distinctive ways. The promotion of E&F fields, sharing of knowledge and building bridges among researchers and E&F institutions on the international level are, in her opinion, SIEF’s main purposes. However, she also views SIEF as a society that recognizes and fosters specific traits of diverse disciplinary traditions and tendencies, while at the same time providing them with visibility and giving them support within their national settings.

Her focus is also on stimulating students and young scholars in taking an active part in congresses and other activities of SIEF, and implementing fresh ideas in their own research, as well as in the development of the E&F disciplines. Based on her experience as a university lecturer, Nevena has been committed to the internationalisation of higher education in E&F through the platforms of faculty and student networking and exchange. However, for her, one of SIEF’s strengths lies in the mutual inclusion, and cooperation with ethnologists, folklorists and specialists in neighbouring disciplines who work outside of the academia. Nevena sees the diversity of research interests and the applicability of research methodology as a fruitful ground for ensuring the viability of E&F disciplines and the Society.


Website: www.ffzg.unizg.hr/etno/staff/dr-sc-nevena-skrbic/?lang=en

+ Sophie Elpers, The Netherlands (2nd term, Executive Vice-President)
Sophie Elpers

Trained as European Ethnologist in Bonn and Amsterdam, Sophie Elpers (1978) received her PhD at the University of Amsterdam in 2014. Her PhD research was about the discourse on the reconstruction of destroyed farmhouses during and after WWII, a discourse in which tradition, modernization and national identity were negotiated. Sophie taught European Ethnology at the University of Bonn (2005/2006) and worked as a researcher at the Netherlands Open Air Museum/Institute for Historical Farms Research in Arnhem (2006/2007). Since 2007 she is a researcher at the Meertens Institute (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) in Amsterdam, which has hosted SIEF’s secretariat for about 17 years now.

Sophie is one of the editors of the open access journal Cultural Analysis (affiliated with SIEF), she is also one of the editors of Volkskunde, the Dutch/Flemish journal of ethnology and folklore research, and member of the editorial team of the Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World, 2nd edition. She has published several articles and books on vernacular architecture, on national symbols, and on intangible and tangible cultural heritage and edited three essay collections.

Presently her research focuses on contemporary nationalizing processes in the Netherlands and in Europe, with a particular emphasis on the instrumentalization and commercialization of heritage. Her ongoing interest in material culture is partly realized in collaboration projects with (open air) museums in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

Due to her expertise in cultural heritage she is a member of the evaluation committee of the national inventory of intangible cultural heritage in the Netherlands. She teaches ICH at the Reinwardt Academy in Amsterdam and gives guest lectures at the University of Amsterdam, the VU University in Amsterdam and Utrecht University.

Since 2013, Sophie has been the assistant of the board and secretariat of SIEF. Since 2015 she is Executive Vice President.

Ever since my first SIEF congress in Derry (2008) I have felt greatly inspired by SIEF’s activities in building bridges between international colleagues, in exchanging ideas and knowledge, and in motivating close collaboration. SIEF is a vibrant organization that has lately developed quite a few initiatives to move forward collaboration, education and publications, and to strengthen SIEF’s disciplines internationally.

Together with the other board members I want to carry on this successful process. As a new Executive Vice President I would like to act as an intermediary between the board and the members of SIEF. I am looking forward to engaging in lively communication under the umbrella of SIEF.

Important instruments for this communication are the newsletter and the website. Both provide the members with information about the society, its disciplines and its members. The website also presents the new video material ‘What is European Ethnology?’ and ‘Ethnological sensations’ – beautiful experiments which we should further expand since they show the importance of the field of Ethnology in a new accessible way. After having worked on the newsletter and the website as an assistant for the last two years, I will be primarily responsible for them in the future.

Furthermore, I will support the working groups as well as the scientific and local committees of the coming congresses in their work to keep SIEF as vital as it is. The SIEF secretariat in Amsterdam will be my base, where I have the overview of the financial affairs and of other administrative issues – supported by NomadIT.


Website: www.meertens.knaw.nl/cms/en/medewerkers/142603-sophiee

+ Bernhard Tschofen, Switzerland, (1st term, Vice-President)
Bernhard Tschofen
Bernhard Tschofen

Professor of Popular Culture Studies, Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies (ISEK), University of Zurich

Born in Bregenz, Austria, in 1966, I started my studies in European Ethnology and Art History at Innsbruck University and continued at Tuebingen’s “Ludwig-Uhland-InstitutfürEmpirischeKulturwissenschaft”. After M.A. in 1992, I went to Vienna, first working as a curator and research assistant at the “Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art”. As of 1995, I worked as an assistant at Vienna University’s Institute for European Ethnology. In 1999, I earned my Ph.D. from Tuebingen University, 2001 completed my habilitation (Dr. phil. habil.) at Vienna University where I became an associate professor for European Ethnology. After holding a chair for Empirical Culture Studies and Regional Ethnography at Tuebingen University from 2004 to 2013, I am now serving at University of Zurich where I hold a chair of Popular Culture Studies with emphasis on the ethnography of space. My research and teaching specializations include the interface between the everyday and knowledge culture (in tourism, cultural heritage, and museums), as well as spatio-cultural questions in both the past and the present. Recent studies had mainly been on Alpine tourism, culinary heritage as cultural property and the anthropology of wildlife.

Looking back to a membership in the board of SIEF in the two periods from 2008 to 2013 I have been asked to support the President’s work again in the role of a Vice-President. My major contribution will be to participate in the further development of the agenda successfully set by the withdrawing board. After the convincing renewal of operative structures and the public appearance of SIEF this regards the sharpening of the institutional and scholarly context of European ethnology, showing both the rich and diverse traditions as well as establishing a clearer profile that will let us compete in a changing disciplinary landscape. To further this aim, I will especially engage in networks connecting small institutions, museums and university departments as ethnology is often considered too small for cooperation in larger programmatic opportunities. The internationalization of M.A. and especially graduate programs could, for instance, be an important opportunity to strengthen visibility within academia and in public. From a more theoretical and methodological point of view, we might also learn to make better use of the discipline’s diversity and the different pathways to European ethnology. Developing the networks within SIEF to build new platforms for exploring novel ways towards comparative approaches to cultural processes in Europe and beyond is a project I would still like to contribute to.

+ Robert Glenn Howard, USA (1st term)
Robert Glenn Howard

I am Professor of Communication Arts, Director and Founder of the Digital Studies Program, and Director of DesignLab at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. My teaching and publications span several fields including Communication, Folklore Studies, Rhetorical Studies, and Religious Studies. Focusing on everyday expression through network communication technologies, I have published four books and some 35 academic articles and book chapters. My 2011 book Digital Jesus documents a grass roots religious movement using the Internet to prepare for the “End Times.” My other work expands that exploration of the possibilities and limits of empowerment through everyday expression on the Internet by focusing on the intersection of individual agency and participatory performance. My most current work combines ethnography, textual analysis, and software-based network graphing to document and compare large sets of online communications in an effort to better understand the ways in which authority is being asserted through and amplified by social media.

After completing my MA in UCLA’s interdisciplinary program in Folklore & Mythology, I went on to receive his Ph.D. from the English Department at the University of Oregon where I wrote my dissertation on fundamentalist Christians online.  Hired as part of the Social Impacts of Communication Technologies research cluster at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, I lead the Digital Studies Research Cluster and founded the Digital Studies Undergraduate Program that is now serving over 500 students. In 2013, I co-founded the Comparative Literature & Folklore Studies Department and developed a new Ph.D. with an emphasis in Folklore Studies. Currently, I have taken over the directorship of DesignLab: an interdisciplinary digital media workshop and studio housing eight graduate fellows working on issues of digital design, digital media pedagogy, and studies of digital culture.

Since I attend my first SIEF meeting in Lisbon in 2011, I have been increasingly drawn to the diversity and vitality of the scholars and scholarship I have encounter through SIEF. These experiences, individuals, and ideas have afforded me new vistas for inquiry and new tools of analysis.  I would like to join the SIEF board first and foremost to forward the mission of the ethnologists and folklorists that comprise this community. My particular position and skills would allow me to help increase the distance of this vision with what few new ideas I might bring while also helping bring the powerful community of SIEF to the attention of those who might benefit from contact with us.

As a member of the board, I would bring two specific additional contributions to the board’s general efforts.

First, I would promote an expanded awareness of SIEF among my networks of scholars who are primarily in the United States. An international society, SIEF offers my North American colleagues an opportunity to expand their sometimes overly US-focused perspectives. I would hope to expand participation among my US colleagues in Folklore Studies in the US. In addition, I would like to expand participation of my American colleagues in media studies who often engage in what might be called “ethnological” studies, but are not recognized by that name in the US.

Second, I would promote increased access to digital techniques and increased connections between scholars with research interests in the digital or whose research could benefit from those working in digital studies. At the 2015 SIEF meeting in Zagreb, a small group of SIEF members met to discuss how to better connect our SIEF colleagues studying digital and internet-based topics. Out of those talks, we later founded the Digital Ethnology and Folklore Working Group or DEF. Holding our first meetings at the upcoming SIEF congress, we expect to expand membership and create an action plan for the working group going forward. As a member of the board, I would be able to give voice to those scholars who are increasingly (by design or necessity) finding themselves using digital methods or engaging digital culture. In addition, I would seek to find ways for digital topics and techniques to better serve the society.

I hope that SIEF will find my experience, interests, and goals a useful contribution to the SIEF board. Please feel free to contact me via email or website.


Website: rghoward.com

+ Cyril Isnart, France (1st term)
Cyril Isnart
Cyril Isnart

I am a research fellow at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, at the IDEMEC (Institutd’EthnologieMéditerranéenne, Européenne et Comparative) in Aix-en-Provence (France). Previously, I taught anthropology in France and Portugal, worked for cultural institutions and served as research fellow at the CIDEHUS (University of Évora, Portugal, 2009-2014). Since 2009, I chair the Network of Researchers on Heritagisation (Respatrimoni) and, more recently, the Francophone Network of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies.

After a PhD on the cult of local catholic saints in the Western Alps (Université de Provence 2004), I investigated heritage-making of religion and music in a border village between France and Italy, on the Island of Rhodes (Greece) and in Portugal. My research deals with religious and musical performances embedded in tourism and heritage contexts, mixing up ethnographic methodology, historical approaches and individuals’ reflexivity. I published Saint légionnaires des Alpes du Sud (Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 2008), edited the works of Robert Hertz, co-directed Les vocabulaireslocaux du « patrimoine » (Lit Verlag, 2014) and was guest editor of EthnologieFrançaise (France), Civilisations (Belgium), Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change (UK), Cultura (Romania) and Etnográfica(Portugal).

During the next term of the SIEF board, I would like to promote academic mobility for European ethnologists, as I experienced this intellectual and personal journey during the last years. I want to defend the legacy of anthropologies, ethnologies or folklores from Southern Europe, which provide a great number of concepts and open the way to provocative comparisons. I also wish to help our sciences to continue the dialogue with other fields of humanities and social sciences (history, musicology, geography, museology), and to show that we have, nonetheless, a specific place in the current interdisciplinary debates, especially on heritage matters. SIEF community, I believe, can be one of the best milieu to cultivate the diversity of our disciplines and propose innovative paths for a more comprehensive approach of the contemporary world.


Web: www.idemec.cnrs.fr/spip.php?article203&lang=fr

+ Ewa Klekot, Poland (1st term)
Ewa Klekot

I graduated in archaeology and ethnology from the University of Warsaw and received a doctoral degree in art studies from the same University in 2002. For over twenty years I have been teaching at the University of Warsaw, mostly at the Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, where I am currently affiliated. Since 2011 I have also been collaborating with the School of Form design (University SWPS) in Poznan, where I developed the program Anthropology in design, which I have been coordinating and teaching since.

I have also been collaborating with several museums, since 2013 serving as the head of the Museum Council of the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków. In 2015 I joined the team preparing the new core exhibition in the Museum of Warsaw, both as a co-curator and the co-author of its textual information structure.

I have translated over 40 books and articles by leading anthropologists, art historians and social scientists into Polish, among them Ruth Benedict, Mary Douglas, David Freedberg, Zygmunt Bauman, Anthony Giddens, Victor Turner, Kirsten Hastrup and Marcel Griaule.

My main research interests focus on material culture, anthropology of design, anthropology of art, especially visual arts and heritage studies. Currently I am working on an interdisciplinary project in anthropology and design entitled “People from a porcelain factory”, financed from a grant awarded by the Polish government and carried out in the oldest Polish fine porcelain factory in Ćmielów.

I think that the biggest challenge we are facing now is to promote outside of the academia the positive value of diversity that our discipline voices. Wherever we work: in different schools and universities, museums, archives, in various places of Europe and further in the world, we are confronting this challenge. Many projects with which we are engaged, touch upon inclusivity, diversity and social cohesion. SIEF has been a wonderful platform for exchanging our ideas, but it can be – I believe – a platform for promoting and supporting each other in our attempts of remediating the fear of the Other that is spreading in Europe. We can do it in our publications, but also in social media and/or the SIEF webpage. I think that now it is very important to know about the projects going on in different places and learn about people’s activities before they are brought to fruition in a noble form of an academic article or even a conference paper. In my opinion we should know more about each other’s work-in-progress. Mobilization and encouragement come more from knowing that someone is acting, than from the fact that they have already acted and the fait is accompli.

+ Thomas A. McKean, UK (1st term)
Thomas A. McKean

Thomas McKean is director of the Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen, a centre dedicated to integrating research with social and community engagement. He holds a PhD in Ethnology and Celtic Studies from the University of Edinburgh and an AB from Dartmouth College in the US. He joined the Elphinstone in 1996, first as Research Fellow, then Lecturer, and now Director, having previously founded the North East Folklore Archive in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

My work focuses on the individual at the intersection of creativity, knowledge, and practice, focusing on how these elements contribute to cultural confidence, and help create social resilience in troubled economic and political times. By studying, celebrating, and promoting the local, we at the Institute aim to help strengthen community in a region of Scotland often undermined, or overlooked, historically.

Much of our work is done through Community Partnerships with local, regional, and national stakeholders, including schools, societies, community organizers, which inevitably leads us along new and interesting pathways, disclosing connections previously unseen, illuminating our complex multiform culture in approachable, grounded ways. By working collaboratively, from the bottom up, we look at how culture works around here, from experiences of immigrants in Aberdeen to stories from people who have had supernatural encounters, from those who safeguard minority languages and skills to those with complex emerging religious practices.

I am interested in how this intangible cultural heritage can be re-used and re-purposed to support social and economic regeneration, an idea I have explored through young people’s community boatbuilding projects. Our task is to show how successful initiatives engage with young people and invigorate cultural assets, both tangible and intangible, for contemporary needs. Objects are thus injected back into the development cycle, becoming relevant, living culture once again. 

One of the great privileges of working in these fields is that we get to meet the most extraordinary, ordinary people, from farmers to oil workers, from cleaners to peers, from musicians to fishermen, from oil wives to singers. How traditions – ways of making sense of the world around us – are made, modified, and communicated tell us a great deal about what it means to be human. We are fortunate, then, to be in the business of stories, verbal and visual, and our disciplines provide insights needed now more than ever as we seek to understand the social and political changes sweeping across the world, broad movements that derive, of course, from individual experience.

As Director of the Institute, I always have an eye on integrating our triple remit of research, teaching, and Public Engagement, and I would hope to bring a similar balance to SIEF, using my time on the board to promote the perspective and support that our disciplines can give to communities, activists, and policy makers. In addition, as an organizer of international conferences, I would contribute to the continued development of the SIEF congress as the key academic showcase for Ethnology and Folklore.

In addition to my post at the Elphinstone, I am a member of the Ritual Year WG, and serve as President of the Kommission für Volksdichtung, Convener of the American Folklore Society British Folk Studies Section, and on the advisory boards of Studia Ethnologica Pragensia and Lexington Books’ ‘Studies in Folklore and Ethnology’.


+ Fabio Mugnaini, Italy (1st term)
Fabio Mugnaini

As my short bio will show, I've always found that wide, open and international relations are necessary for the advancement of sciences, no matter how hard or soft; consequently I have devoted some of my time and energy to participation in national networks (first, the Italian Association for Canadian Studies, then the Associazione Nazionale Universitariadegli Antropologi Culturali) and in frontierless ones (first the International Society of Folk Narrative Research, then SIEF). When asked, I have not hesitated to take on responsibilities: I've been Director of the Department of Philosophy and Social Sciences at the University of Siena; chair of the Cultural Arts and Humanities Task Force for the European Coimbra Group; I  coordinate the Board of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology Master Degree (regrouping all Italian universities offering higher education in anthropology), and I am the founder and coordinator of Unisi.cares, a support group of academics working to welcome refugees and asylum seekers in the province of Siena. Carrying out these various tasks, I've enjoyed the wider perspective that I owe to my anthropological formation and deformation. Having practiced for decades as a folklore scholar, doing grassroots research, I have often made use of the professional sensitivity to practical aspects of everyday life, to the needs of persons as well as those of institutional life.

I teach Storiadelletradizionipopolari and Antropologiadella performance at Siena University, within the master formation in Anthropology and Visual Arts. I have decades-long experience in higher education and university administration; my scientific interests currently center around the heritage turn, complementing my long-standing interest in oral tradition, in expressive practices and in festive events. My most recurrent fieldwork site is central Italy, though my reading lists are open to different ethnographies and to interdisciplinary approaches. I have presented my research and shared my thoughts at various international conferences (most recently at the SIEF congress in Zagreb and the Bozen conference of ANUAC: Associazione Nazionale Universitariadegli Antropologi Culturali) and through visiting professorships (Sevilla, Toulouse, Åbo, Reykjavík). A resilient thread links me to Mexico, where I did my first long-term fieldwork (started on traditional storytelling and expanded to the contemporary and mediatic popular culture, exploring the world of soap operas. )

As member of the academic generation that assisted to the dawn of quality assurance systems, of university rankings, and now to the ongoing shining ‘proceduralisation’ of scientific research and academic life, I have tried to defend the values of academic freedom (freedom also from marketing fallouts and neo-nationalistic revanches) and of commitment to raising awareness of the importance of cultural diversities, whether they are staged in festivals and collective rituals, or whispered by some shy storyteller, whether they come from the intimacy of a national cultural tradition or bourgeon from new social subjects, who have landed in safer places and claim due attention: the attention that is due to any making of the future.

For these reasons, I believe it is important to strengthen our disciplinary identity and voice; to defend its presence and place in higher education; to cooperate across methodological schools, linguistic borders, and national or supra-national belongings and loyalties. SIEF offers an important venue for these ambitions, and I am glad to make myself available and to pour limitless commitment, within my personal limits, into the common goals of our international society.


+ Marie Sandberg, Denmark (1st term)
Marie Sandberg

Marie Sandberg (born 1975), PhD, is Associate Professor in European Ethnology at the Saxo Institute of the University of Copenhagen.

In a still more renationalising, rebordering and ethnocentric Europe, it seems increasingly important to cooperate, exchange ideas and conduct research across borders. In my view, SIEF is the perfect platform to stimulate and encourage such international scholarly exchange.

Working in the fields of European cultural processes my overall research interest is the ‘Europeanisation of everyday life’. My research themes are everyday border practices and migration. For instance, I have conducted fieldwork at the German-Polish border, as well as among Polish circular migrants in Denmark, and from 2017 I will be PI of the interdisciplinary research network Helping Hands - Research Network on the Everyday Border Work of European Citizens, funded by the Danish Research Council for Independent Research (DFF). Through a selection of six European locales, the network will explore various ways of doing solidarity work in European everyday life, in support of refugees coming to Europe. As a steering group member of the Centre for Advanced Migration Studies (AMIS), University of Copenhagen, and former Vice-Chair of the Nordic Migration Network, I am vividly engaged in discussions within the international as well as Nordic fields of migration and border studies.

Since 2013 I am the editor (with Monique Scheer, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen) of Ethnologia Europaea – Journal of European Ethnology, which entered an agreement of cooperation with SIEF from 2014 onwards. Supporting this joint venture of the journal and the society, thereby moving the field further forward will be one of my main goals serving as a SIEF board member. Further, I am keen on contributing to making SIEF a still more visible, creative, transparent and open-minded environment for scholars to engage and thrive.

E-mail: sandberg(at)hum.ku.dk

Website: saxoinstitute.ku.dk/staff/?pure=en/persons/165782


Photograph of the SIEF board, along with representatives of NomadIT, taken at the SIEF Board meeting, January 2018, Amsterdam.

SIEF board