Acts of Identification and the Politics of the "Greek Past": Religion, Tradition, Self

  • Author / Creator
    Touna, Vaia
  • This study is about a series of operational acts of identification, such as interpretations, categorizations, representations, classifications, through which past materials have acquired their meaning and therefore identity. Furthermore, this meaning-making will be demonstrated always to be situational and relational in the sense that the meaning of past material is a historical product created by strategic historic agents through their contemporary acts of identification and, as situated historical products, they are always under scrutiny and constant re-fabrication by yet other historical agents who are on the scene with yet other goals. It will also be evident throughout this study that meanings (identities) do not transcend time and space, and neither do they hide deep in the core of material artifacts awaiting to be discovered. The Introduction lays the theoretical and methodological framework of the study, situating its historiographical and sociological interests in the study of identities and the past, arguing for an approach that looks at the processes and techniques by which material and immaterial artifacts acquire their meaning. In Chapter 1 I look at scholarly interpretations as an operational act of identification; by the use of such anachronisms (which are inevitable when we study the past) as the term religion and the idea of the individual self, a certain widely-shared, and thoroughly modern understanding of Euripides’ play Hippolytus was made possible. Chapter 2 is concerned with the process of categorization, as another act of identification, which allows scholars to identify, and thereby describe (or better construct) the ancient Greek world by dividing it between what appeared to be naturally occurring private and public zones, through the use of categories such as “mystery cults,” “voluntary associations,” and “mystery religions.” Although Chapter 3 is mainly on representations, it is evident that interpretations and categorizations are both effectively used in the restoration of a pitted iconography of a small church in Thessaloniki, Greece, which is often explained as an act of iconoclasm. Instead of focusing on the pitted iconography as an instance of iconoclasm, the chapter once again exemplifies the shift of this project by looking at how a new symbol was fabricated by commentators by means of the representation, interpretation and categorization of material from the archive of the fragmented past. In Chapter 4 it is made evident how all of the intersecting processes of the previous chapters are in place in the construction of “traditional villages” in Greece. Although classification has been an important operational act of identification, it would not be enough without the way with which representation, interpretation and categorization have been used by strategic social actors in order to constitute what counts as a “traditional village,” doing so for their own social, economic, and political needs and thus contemporary interests. The Epilogue summarizes and exemplifies the shift of approach that the project is advocating by demonstrating how all of these operational acts, each of which have been identified in the previous chapters, are all working together in the construction of our view of the past and its relation to present interests.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2015
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Muir, Steven (Philosophy and Religious Studies)
    • Goldenberg, Naomi (Classics and Religious Studies)
    • Stewart, Selina (History and Classics)
    • Haagsma, Margriet (History and Classics)
    • Landy, Francis (Religious Studies)