Victor Barac
Department of
Profile Research AN3210

I do both basic and applied research.

My basic research consists of several areas of inquiry that are connected by an interest in how culture shapes consciousness. Since the beginning of 2013 I have been researching Serbian hip hop as one part of a vigorous and widespread expansion of hip hop culture in Eastern Europe. This research for a projected monograph entails fieldwork with rappers, beat-makers and producers in several cities in Serbia, Canada and the USA. It examines hip hop as an aesthetic rendering of the experience of a unique conjunction of forces, principally, rapid urbanization, post-socialist transition trauma, and globalization. It looks at the social and adaptive dimensions of hip hop and presents the latter not as a shoddy imitation of American hip hop, but rather as a viable and enduring mode of artistic expression with its own identity and standards of excellence.

A second field of basic research is a comparative study of anthropological approaches to the study of risk. This research was prompted by an attempt to provide an anthropological explanation of the global financial disaster of 2008. It provides a cross-cultural perspective on risk management strategies and outlines how both rational and irrational elements interact in the process of making choices that have economic impact. This research indulges and expands on a long time interest I have had in hunter-gather economics.

A third area of basic research lies in the intersection between anthropological theory and history. Its focus is on the mutual influence of modernist art and anthropology, particularly in the work of the Canadian-British artist and writer Wyndham Lewis. I have recently published an essay on the anthropology of Wyndham Lewis and another essay comparing Lewis’s theory of culture with that of T. S. Eliot, another modernist who was engaged in a sustained dialogue with anthropology. I also recently acquired a previously unpublished photograph of Wyndham Lewis on which I have been invited to contribute an essay for the inaugural edition of the new Wyndham Lewis Journal.

I also do applied research. After some early pro bono medical anthropology research on AIDS I landed my first job as an applied anthropologist, which was to last for four years, as head of research for Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World, a 10-part, BBC/PBS sponsored, Emmy Award-winning film series which has become an anthropological classic and staple of university libraries. The experience of working on a major documentary series provided a good background for further applied research. Since 1999 I have been working professionally as an applied anthropologist and management consultant, conducting research predominantly for large corporations and government agencies contemplating or undergoing major changes.

Most of the research I have done in this area has focused on problematic aspects of corporate culture and identity, including branding and the process of mergers and acquisitions. My work as an applied anthropologist has necessitated an astonishing amount of travel across the USA, Canada, and the UK to observe workers and consumers in a variety of industrial, domestic and leisure settings. A sizeable share of my applied ethnographic research has been conducted for large media organizations such as the CBC, TVO, Rogers, True North Communications, and Telefilm Canada. My work as an applied anthropologist has been featured in the national business press and in popular university textbooks. Such interest in applied research attests to the growing public relevance and efficacy of anthropology outside of the customary boundaries of scholarship.







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