Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena

Professor Tomasz Rakowski

Fellow Tomasz Rakowski

October 2019 - January 2020

Tomasz Rakowski is ethnologist and cultural anthropologist, Associate Professor at the Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Warsaw, and also a medical doctor, specialist in accident & emergency medicine. He conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Poland and Mongolia. The author of two ethnographic monographs, multiple edited volumes, and peer-reviewed articles. Recently he published Hunters, Gatherers, and Practitioners of Powerlessness: An Ethnography of the Degraded in Postsocialist Poland, Berghahn Books, 2016, and Przepływy, współdziałania, kręgi możliwego. Antropologia powodzenia [Flows, Coopertions, and the Circles of Possibilities. The Anthropology of Fortune-Prosperity (in Postsocialist Mongolia)], Słowo/Obraz Terytoria, 2019. He is also the editor, with Helena Patzer, of Pretextual Ethnographies: Challenging the PhenomenologicalLevel of Anthropological Knowledge-Making, Sean Kingston Publishing, 2018. He is especially interested in postsocialist transformation and vernacular forms of socio-economic development, and also in experimental methodologies in ethnography. 

Research project at the Kolleg

Recreating ‘the Good’ in the Times of Change. A Comparative Study on Self-Organization and Affective Statehood Practices in Poland and Mongolia since the Late Socialist Period

The aim of the project is to write the first draft of a book that will be devoted to the comparative study on social histories in Poland and Mongolia, and viewed from the perspective of ‘anthropology of the good.’ What I am going to do in this book is to reconstruct and reveal some essential processes of social self-organization and affective state-production that occurred over the last four decades in Poland and Mongolia, on both sides of the former Soviet Union, along with the systemic, post-socialist transformations. As I claim, the emergence and dynamics of these social creations lay at the bottom of the ongoing changes that we may observe nowadays. Hence, my argument is that both in the (social) interiors of Poland and of Mongolia we may follow different, but highly comparable ways of informal rebuilding, reinventing and recreating the social structures, which in each case are rooted deeply in their local, socio-cultural contexts. Thus, the project is aiming to show, also on the theoretical level, that in both countries, and especially in their interiors, we can reveal the particular, but potentially comparable local sources of self-organization, and civil society bodies, that are rooted, first of all, in informal social development.

My work also aims to find the theoretical language which would prevent overlooking and omitting the local, and often fundamental, post-socialist forms of creating vernacular ideas, embedded in the ongoing local and peripheral structures of self-organization. This perspective is linked to the concept of the affective production of the state, manufactured by the people in everyday activities, as posed by Begona Artextaga (2003), and her followers. Thus, these two fields, the vernacular forms of modernization, and the affective, everyday production of the state, are the points that I am going to develop.

Main areas of research

  • Anthropology & social art
  • Phenomenological anthropology
  • Pre-textual ethnography
  • Studies on poverty and social trauma
  • Bottom-up development in Poland and Mongolia

Positions and memberships

  • Associate Professor, University of Warsaw
  • Member of Polish Council for Research Excellence
  • Member of the Scientfic Council of the Discipline at the University of Warsaw 
  • Member of the European Associations of Social Anthropologists
  • Member of the Collaboratory for Ethnographic Experimentation (an official network of the European Associations of Social Anthropologists)
  • Member of Polish Ethnological Society


2019 Przepływy, współdziałania, kręgi możliwego. Antropologia powodzenia [Flows, Coopertions, and Circles of Possibilities. Anthropology of Fortune-Prosperity], słowo/obraz terytoria, Gdańsk, 2019, pp. 358.

2019 (Paperback), 2016 (Hardback) Hunters, Gatherers, and Practitioners of Powerlessness. An Ethnography of the Degraded in PostsocialistPoland, Translated by Søren Gauger, New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books, pp. 332.

2009Łowcy, zbieracze, praktycy niemocy. Etnografia człowieka zdegradowanego [Hunters, Gatherers, and Practicioners of Powerlessness. An Ethnography of the Degraded in Postsocialist Poland]. Wydawnictwo Słowo/obraz Terytoria, Gdańsk, pp. 521.

Edited volumes

2018 Pretextual Ethnographies. Challenging the Phenomenological Level of Anthropological Knowledge-Making, co-edited with Helena Patzer, Canon Pyon: Sean Kingston Publishing, pp. 244.

2015 (2nd edition), 2013 (1st edition) Etnografia-animacja-sztuka. Nierozpoznane wymiary rozwoju kulturalnego [Ethnography-Art-Animation. Unrecognized Dimensions of Culture-Development], Narodowe Centrum Kultury, Warszawa, pp. 321, pp. 312.

2012 Humanistyka i dominacja. Oddolne doświadczenia społeczne perspektywie zewnętrznych rozpoznań, [Humanities and Dominance. Social Experiences in Perspectives from the Outside], co-edited with A. Malewska-Szałygin, Instytut Etnologii i Antropologii Kulturowej UW, Warszawa, pp. 322.


2019   ‘Ethnography, Art and a Societal Road to Nowhere. The Tear Dealer Project’, Anthropology of East Europe Review, vol. 36 (1), pp. 76-91.

2018      ‘Artisans, Alcoholics and Artists: In Search of Descriptions of Experimental Ethnographic Realities’,co-authored with Ewa Rossal, Visual Ethnography, no. 1, p. 52-65. 

2018      ‘Ethnography and Art Experiments in Rural Poland. Beyond the Culture of Shaming: Coevalness, the Inward Turn, and Proto-sociology’. Second Texts, Special Issue, no. 1, pp. 91-110.

2016      ‘Creating Bottom-up Development: A Study of Self-Organization and the Building of Fortune-Prosperity by the Torghuts from the Bulgan Sum in Mongolia’, Cesky Lid. The Czech Ethnological Journal, vol. 103, 1, pp. 119-134.

2012      ‘Local Craft, Theory from Abroad: Jacek Olędzki's Phenomenology’. In Worlding Europe – Anthropology at the Crossroads, special issue of Lud, ed. K. Pobłocki, Lud, vol. 96, pp. 123-134.

2010      ‘Les vergers figés. Arboriculteurs et paysans dans l'impasse économique’ [Frozen Orchards: Orchardists and Peasants in an Economic Deadlock] Ethnologie Francaise, vol.40, no. 2, pp. 213-222.

2007      ‘Body and Fate. The Pension As a Practice of Social Remembering’, Anthropological Journal on European Cultures, vol. 15, pp. 37–48.


2010, Doświadczenie – pamiętanie – robienie (poiein). Recenzja książki Agnieszki Karpowicz, Kolaż. „Awangardowy gest kreacji” [w:] Communicare: Almanach antropologiczny. Słowo/Obraz, red. A. Mencwel, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, Warszawa, s. 315-321.

The full list of piblications can be found here