The Overlooked Researcher: The Contribution of Dr. Branislava Sušnik to the Research of the Indigenous Cultures of Paraguay
This article presents the life story of Slovenian emigrant Dr. Branislava Sušnik. It evaluates her scientific research work in the historical anthropology, ethnography, ethnolinguistics, and museology of Paraguay. It exposes the importance of her research in American studies and its public reception in Paraguay. It also draws attention to the inappropriate attitude of the Slovenian professional community toward her scientific achievements. Until now, Slovenian ethnology and cultural anthropology have failed to evaluate her scientific work. In conclusion, the article proposes the professional and personal recognition of Dr. Sušnik and the translation and inclusion of her key works into the heritage of Slovenian scientific achievements.
KEYWORDS: Branislava Sušnik, Paraguay, historical anthropology, ethnolinguistics, indigenous people
The professional path of Dr. Branislava Sušnik (Medvode 1920–Asunción 1996), the doyenne of Paraguayan anthropology and ethnolinguistics, was formed in the Central European intellectual space, starting in Ljubljana, where she finished high school and studied history and prehistory at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana. She upgraded her professional expertise with oriental studies in Rome while remaining closely connected to the Vienna school of cultural history.
In the forty-five years of her creative museum, scientific research, and pedagogical work in Paraguay (1951–1996), she published eighty-one works, comprising scientific and professional articles, books, catalogs, reports, and textbooks. She carried out fifteen field-work expeditions: five ethnolinguistic, six anthropological, and four archaeological, lasting from a few weeks to half a year. Not only did she edit, supplement, and update the original collections of the Ethnographic Museum in Asunción, she also educated the younger generations of anthropologists and historians who are still professionally active today. In 2018, Latin American anthropologists included her among the most important field researchers of the twentieth century in Latin America.
Her extensive work in the social sciences and humanities is highly regarded in Paraguay. In 1992, the Republic of Paraguay honored her with the highest recognition for scientific achievements, the Premio Nacional de la Ciencia Paraguaya. The Paraguayan government also posthumously awarded her the honorary title of Gran Oficial for her creative contribution to the formation of Paraguay’s identity.