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Centre for Creative Ethnography

Maruška Svašek

Maruška Svašek

Maruska Svasek headshot

I am an anthropologist who works at the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy, and Politics at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB). My main research interests include art, creativity, migration, politics and emotions, and in the last fifteen years, my work has brought these strands together, exploring the affective relationality of humans, artefacts and spaces in an era of globalization, transnational connectivity and environmental change. In the past 30 years, I have conducted fieldwork in Ghana, Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Britain, and India. At present, I am working on a monograph on Czech art and the politics of visibility. As a large part of my research explores the cultural dimensions of conflict in various historical contexts I am also Fellow of the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice.

In 2017, I began experimenting with non-textual forms of representation. So far this has resulted in the installation 12 Hours (2018, Museum of Cultural History, Oslo), the play Under the Skin (performed at the 2019 PACSI Conference at QUB), and the film and installation Finding Objects, Finding Sounds (shown at the 2019 ASA conference, University of Norwich). In 2020, I participated in the online exhibition Illustrating Anthropology, organised in 2020 by the Royal Anthropological Institute in London. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I turned to visual art and poetry to explore the destabilising situation and started developing creative methods of research and teaching.

I co-Direct the Centre for Creative Ethnography (CFCE) with Ioannis Tsioulakis.

  • Works


    Ethnographies of Movement, Sociality and Space: Place-Making in the New Northern Ireland 2018, with Milena Komarova), Creativity in Transition: Politics and Aesthetics of Cultural Production Across the Globe (2016, with Birgit Meyer), (2012), Moving Subjects, Moving Objects: Transnationalism, Cultural Production and Emotions (2012), Anthropology, Art and Cultural Production: Histories, Themes, Perspectives (2007), Postsocialism: Politics and Emotions in Central and Eastern Europe (2006) and Mixed Emotions | Anthropological Studies of Feeling (2005, with Kay Milton).

    Book Series Material Mediations, Berghahn, with Birgit Meyer


    Svašek, Maruška. 2023. Pandemic times: Nine acts Anthropology and Humanism 48(2). DOI: 10.1111/anhu.12442


    2022  Under the Skin: A Theatrical Exploration of Art, Politics, and Fieldwork Dynamics Urban People 24(2): 269-293.

    Short stories

    2020 Encounters in Lockdown, posted on the Website A Changing World: Reflections from the HAPP community and beyond.

    Blog posts on art-related issues

    2020 ‘Lockdown Fever: Painting across Distance’, 02/06/2020,


    Lockdown: Time, Space and Sociality’ (Immigration and Covid) In this podcast, I examine the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of immigrants in Northern/Ireland

  • Publications that develop creative methods

    2023 ‘Ethnography as creative improvisation: Exploring methods in (post) pandemic times’, HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 13(1).

    2021  ‘”Invasive” Writing: Exploring Subjectivity, Performativity and Politics in the Art of Jiří Kovanda’, Liminalities, 17(3), special issue Performance and Politics, Power and Protest, editors Kayla Rush and Sonja Kleij.

    2019 ‘The Art of the Game: Photography, Ethnography and Spatial Engagement’, Journal of Irish Anthropology 22(1): 205-223.

    2022 Lockdown Routines: Im/mobility, materiality and mediated support at the time of the pandemic. In Material Culture and Forced Migration: Materializing the Transient (eds Friedemann Yi-Neumann, Andrea Lauser, Antonie Fuhse and Peter Bräunlein), London: University College London.

  • Publications that explore art production and the politics of creativity

    Svašek, Maruška. 2020 ‘Affective Arrangements: Managing Czech Art, Marginality and Cultural Difference’ in: Durrer, Victoria and Henze, Raphaela Managing Culture: Reflecting on Exchange in Global Times. Palgrave Macmillan, Pp 99-125.

    2020 “(Memories of) Monuments in the Czech Landscape: Creation, Destruction, and the Affective Stirrings of People and Things.” In Negotiating Memories from the Romans to the Twenty-first Century: Damnatio Memoriae, edited by Øivind Fuglerud, Kjersti Larsen and Marina Prusac-Lindhagen. New York: Routledge.

    2018 ‘Museum Encounters: People, Things, Affective Spaces’, in States of Mind / Beyond the Image, ed by Richard Drury. Kutna Hora: GASK.

    2018 ‘Destroying Krishna Imagery: The Limits of Academic and Artistic freedom? Christiane Kruse and Birgit Meyer (eds) Offensive Pictures: Religion and Art in Global Cultures. Berlin and New York: Sternberg Press.

    2017 ’Aestheticisation and the Production of (Religious) Space in Chennai’, in  Aesthetics of Religion. A Connective Concept. Grieser, A. & Johnston, J. (eds.). Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter.

    2016 Introduction. Creativity and Innovation in a World of Movement. In: Creativity in Transition. Politics and Aesthetics of Cultural Production across the Globe.  Svašek, M. and Meyer (eds) forthcoming in 2016 Oxford: Berghahn.

    2016 Undoing Absence through Things: Creative Appropriation and Affective Engagement in an Indian Transnational Setting. In: Meyer, B. and Svašek, M. and (eds) forthcoming in 2013 Creativity in Transition. Politics and Aesthetics of Cultural Production across the Globe.. Oxford: Berghahn.

    2014 (with Amit Desai) Transvisionary imaginations: artistic subjectivity and creativity in South India.. In: Fuglerud, Ø. and Wainwright, L. (eds) forthcoming Objects and imagination; perspectives on materialization and meaning. Oxford: Berghahn.

    2014 ‘Forced Displacement, Suffering and the Aesthetics of Loss’, in Open Arts Journal, Issue 3, Summer 2014.

    2012 What You Perceive Is What You Conceive: Evaluating Subjects and Objects through Emotion. In: Moving Subjects, Moving Objects. Transnationalism, Cultural Production and Emotions. (ed. M. Svašek).Oxford: Berghahn. Pp 245-68. Pp 182-200.

    2009 ‘Improvising in a World of Movement: Transit, Transition and Transformation’ in: Cultural Expression, Creativity and Innovation (volume in The Cultures and Globalization Series, Helmut K. Anheier and Yudhishthir Raj Isar (eds.), Sage. Pp 62-77.

    2007  ‘Moving Corpses: Emotions and Subject-Object Ambiguity’, in: The Emotions: A Cultural Reader (ed. Helena Wulff), Oxford: Berg. Pp 229-248.

    2002      ‘Contacts. Social Dynamics in the Czech State-Socialist Art World’. Contemporary  European History.  Theme  issue  on Artistic and Academic Patronage in  State Socialist Societies (ed. Gyorgy Péteri).

    2001 ‘The Politics of Artistic  Identity. The Czech Art World in the  1950s and  1960s’, Intellectual  Life and  the First  Crisis of  State Socialism  in  East  Central  Europe, 1953-1956 (ed. Gyorgy Péteri), Trondheim: Norwegian University of Science and Technology, pp. 133-153.

    2000      ‘Les monuments à la glorie de l’Armee Rouge en Tschéquie’, Les Annales de la Recherche Urbaine 85. Paris: Ministre de l’Equipement, pp 111-8.

    1998   ‘From the Zoo into the Jungle. Social Hierarchies in the  Czech  Art  World  before  and  after  1989’, in Transformation    Processes   in    Eastern   Europe, Amsterdam: NWO (ed. H. Ganzeboom), pp 191-210.

    1998   ‘The Dialectics of Materiality and Interpretability. The Case of the Stalin Monument’, in Language and Beyond, Amsterdam: Rodopi, pp 37-57.

    1997   ‘Identity and  Style in  Ghanaian Artistic  Discourse’, in Contesting Art. Art, Identity and Politics in the Modern  World, ed. Jeremy MacClancey, Berg Press, pp. 27-62.

    1997   ‘The Politics of Artistic  Identity. The Czech Art World in the  1950s   and  1960s’,  in   Contemporary  European History  6  (3)  (November   1997).  Theme  issue  on  `Intellectual  Life and  the First  Crisis of  State Socialism  in  East  Central  Europe, 1953-1956' (ed. Gyorgy Péteri), pp. 383-403.

    1997    ‘Visual Art, Myth  and Power.Introduction’, Focaal. Journal  of Anthropology 29  (May 1997). Theme issue on `Visual Art, Myth and Power' (eds. Maruška Svašek and G.van Beek), pp. 7-24

    1997   ‘Gossip  and  Power  Struggle  in  the  Post-Communist Art World’, Focaal. Journal of Anthropology 29  (May 1997). Theme issue on `Visual Art, Myth and Power' (eds. Maruška Svašek and G.van Beek), pp. 101-122.

    1996   ‘What's   (the)    Matter?   Objects,   Materiality   and Interpretability’,  Etnofoor  9(1).  Theme  issue  on ‘Words and Things', pp. 49-70.

    1995  ‘The Soviets Remembered: Liberators or Aggressors?’, Focaal. Journal of Anthropology (25). Theme issue on `War and Peace', pp. 103-124.

    1991   ‘Orith Pinto. Amphitrite of de kracht van tolerantie’, in Contrapunten.   Mythen  in   de  kunst   van  vrouwen, Amsterdam: Amazone, pp. 84-89.

    1991   ‘Rituelen in de muziek. Interview met Sinta Wuller’, in Contrapunten.   Mythen  in   de  kunst   van  vrouwen,  Amsterdam: Amazone, pp. 42-47

    1991   ‘Ara Gerhardt. Beelden uit het onderbewuste’, in Contrapunten. Mythen in   de  kunst van vrouwen,  Amsterdam: Amazone, pp. 96-101.

  • Non-Academic Publications

    2012 ‘We Are What We Wear’… But Are We? An Anthropological Assessment. In: Kathakali. The Classical Dance Drama of Kerala, south Indian. Southampton: The Kala Chethena Kathakali Company, Pp38-39.

    1991  ‘Souvenirs: Art or Kitch’,  Ghana  Newsletter  10  (2) Nijmegen: Dutch Ghana Committee.

    1991  ‘Rikki  Doesn’t  Give in to the  Public:  The  Badly Understood Pictures of Wemega-Kwawu’, Ghana  Newsletter  9 (2).  Nijmegen: Dutch Ghana Committee, pp. 10-16.

    1991   ‘It is Not My  Fault  We  Use Toyotas  and Bedfords:  Ato Delaquis  Paints Everyday  Life’,  Ghana  Newsletter  9(1), Nijmegen: Dutch Ghana Committee, pp. 10-16.

    1990  ‘Back to African Roots’, Ghana Newsletter 8(6), Nijmegen: Dutch Ghana Committee, pp. 27-31.

    1989  ‘Copying Urge or Own Identity?’, Ghana Newsletter 7(2), Nijmegen: Dutch Ghana Committee, pp. 26-29.

  • Collaborations

    2009   Kathakali: Performing Emotions

    This was a five day workshop, designed and delivered by The Kala Chethena Kathakali Company in collaboration with Queen’s University Belfast. facilitated by Maruška Svašek (QUB anthropology) and Mark Phelan (QUB drama), it was aimed at undergraduate students in anthropology, ethnomusicology and drama, and at QUB

    2011-2019 Kathakali Heritage projects

    These projects were designed and run by The Kala Chethena Kathakali Company and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Company was founded in 1987 by Kathakali make-up specialist, Kalamandalam Barbara Vijayakumar and Kathakali actor, Kalamandalam Vijayakumar to bring the remarkable art and culture of Kathakali to the UK. My task as ‘in-house anthropologist’ was to give workshops on migration, family history, religion, heritage and interviewing techniques in primary and secondary schools, museums and for other organisations in England.


    Maurska Kalamandalam Barbara Vijayakumar at a workshop on the Isle of Wight, 2016With Kalamandalam Barbara Vijayakumar at a workshop on the Isle of Wight, 2016