In the beginnings of ethnography at the Faculty of Arts, the focus was laid on traditional Slovak folk culture, which was soon interpreted in the broader context of Slavic and European culture. The department’s curriculum was based on the theory of positivism and historical and comparative methodology (K. Chotek, V. Pražák, A. Václavík, and B. Schier). Changes in methodology came during the years of P. G. Bogatyriov and his functional-structural method. This method was kept up in the early 1950s by Bogatyriov’s student, A. Melicherčík. Focus on Slavic studies was significantly strengthened when F. Wollman was affiliated with the department.
After the war, the positivist and historical focus remained (R. Bednárik). However, ideological pressure gave way to various applications of Marxist evolutionism. Research dealt with issues which were fashionable in the period (the Jánošík tradition, anti-Nazi resistance, commemorative narratives about the Slovak National Uprising, the way of life and culture of the working class), as well as with issues which the teachings of historical materialism presented as priorities (material culture such as pastoralism, or the building industry). The historical, comparative, and Slavic focus found its expression in the analysis of topics related to spiritual culture (Slavic weddings, faith and traditional customs).
In the 1970s, the department’s research produced publications mostly of several local and regional monographs.
In the following period, the department’s research shifted its focus to ethnic issues (ethnic processes, inter-ethnic relations, the research of ethnicities – particularly Hungarian, Ukrainian and Ruthenian). In addition, the department faculty co-wrote and co-published significant synthetic ethnological works such as the Slovak Ethnographic Atlas (1990) and the Encyclopaedia of Folk Culture in Slovakia (1995).
After 1989, projects under the VEGA and KEGA grant schemes were continued with a focus on ethnic issues (ethno-cultural development in southern Slovakia, and the European context of Slovak folk culture). The subsequent grant projects were concentrated on recording and interpreting of changes in the culture and way of life caused by civilization factors, social and political changes and the resulting differentiation of rural communities in Slovakia. The department’s scope of interest was extended by new issues (folk religiosity, social communication, gender issues) which were processed using diverse methodological approaches.
Ethnography studies were initially part of other academic disciplines (geography, history, Slavic studies). After the field became independent in the faculty structure in 1947, it was offered in alternating combinations with related fields (mostly history, art history, and linguistics) or as a single major. Since the credit system was introduced at the faculty in 2000, ethnology has been studied solely as a single major.
Ethnology at the department has always focused on getting to know traditional folk culture in Slovakia in the context of Slavic and central European (in particular Carpathian) culture. This basis has been supplemented by subjects from related academic disciplines (archaeology, history, archiving, art history, dialectology). Museology and culture studies have also been consistent components of ethnology studies. Folklore studies have always been an essential part of the curriculum too, mostly because of the fact that many eminent folklore researchers have taught at the department. In addition to full-time teachers, many part-time instructors have also taught courses at the department. Part timers have been hired mostly from among the researchers at the Ethnology Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, as well as from various museums.
In the 1970s the curriculum was extended by theory and methodology of science (in the 1950s and 1960s, it was substituted by courses in Marxist philosophy). More time and space was also given to studies of European folk culture, ethnic issues and social culture (mostly family issues).
In the 1990s, more courses were offered in theory and methodology, folklore studies and ethnic groups (Slovaks abroad, Roma, and Jews). New courses were introduced – religious ethnology, urban ethnology, gender studies, social communication, environmental studies, migration, etc. Courses in symbolic, social, applied and visual anthropology have had a cultural, social and anthropological basis.
An important and consistent component of ethnology and cultural anthropology studies are methods and techniques of field research. The curriculum includes a field practice course for students (group research led by teachers is offered as a first-year course). The material collected in field research courses is then processed in students’ final theses (both bachelor’s and diploma).
Since the 1960s, the department has been offering research courses (doctoral studies) in ethnography/ethnology.
Ethnology and cultural anthropology graduates are trained to work in research and educational institutions, museums, public education institutes, cultural heritage protection and promotion institutions, editorial boards and the mass media, as well as at any workplaces where education in the humanities is required. Ethnologists and social and cultural anthropologists find jobs in the public sector, as well as in fields where they can spread their knowledge about culture as researchers, lecturers, educational workers, media employees, museum curators, project managers, expert consultants, or analysts in the strategic and long-term development of a community.