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Lvi-Strauss in the Nation-State Author(s): Michael Herzfeld Source: The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 98, No.

388 (Apr. - Jun., 1985), pp. 191-208 Published by: American Folklore Society Stable URL: . Accessed: 31/01/2014 06:20
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Levi-Strauss in the Nation-State

The Mytho-logic of Exegesis: Reflexive Structuralism


on the analysis of myth has attracted a

wide range of critical emulation. This has come not only from anthropologists eager to recover the mytho-logique of particular ethnographic areas, but has been matched in the fields of literature, mass culture, drama, and the visual arts. In other words, scholars in various disciplines have proved receptive to the suggestion that myth and symbolism might not be the prerogative of"exotic" or "primitive" cultures and hence to the possibility of including the exotic and the familiar in a shared discourse. In one area, however, this apparent openness has hardly appeared at all. In historiography, the reflexive analysis of texts as symbolic statements has as yet derived little support from the Levi-Straussian methodology. The notion of a historiography cast in so anthropological an idiom suggests a disconcertingly intimate relationship between history and myth. This in turn challenges the assumption, commonly made in both scholarly and popular discourse, that history is "factual" and as such should be opposed to the "fictional" category of myth. Ironically, this assumption has enjoyed a fairly extensive lease of life within anthropological thought as well as among some historians. By treating the ideological representation of events as a form of mythology, for example, Balandier (1962) necessarily sets it up in opposition to an accessible historical reality. For such writers, myth is the product of invention; history inertly awaits discovery. The conceptual dissolution of this piece of academic symbolism has some radical consequences. By challenging the absolute validity of historicist pronouncements, it permits identification of the ideological presuppositions that have influenced the criteria of relevance through which "data" are acknowledged. It "textualizes" exegesis itself, a development already prefigured in Levi-Strauss's call (1955:435) to include Freud's interpretation as a further transformation of the Oedipus story; commentary, no less than its unresisting object, becomes a form of mythology that can be symbolically unpacked. Drummond (1981) has already argued for a dissolution of the similar distinction ordinarily made (or assumed) between indigenous "myths of origin" and anthropological "theories of ethnicity," while a related concern to match analytical tools with indigenous concepts prompted Feeley-Harnik (1978) to a similar critique of the myth/history distinction. These admirable
Journalof AmericanFolklore,Vol. 98, No. 388, 1985 Copyright ? 1985by the AmericanFolkloreSociety0021-8715/85/3880191-18S2.30/1

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reactions, as well as Levi-Strauss's early and explicit rejection of the privileged position of historicist discourse (1962:348), would now seem to set the stage for subjecting exegesis itself to critical textual analysis.' Levi-Strauss's differentiation between "cold" and "hot" societies might be thought to imply an absence of historicalconsciousness among certain peoples who are acknowledged to have myth (Charbonnier 1961:35-46; Levi-Strauss 1962:310). But in fact his treatment of history as a methodology that treats time as a system of encoding (1962:345-348), as well as his recognition of historical thinking in examples of la pensee sauvage, accord with subsequent, ethnographic demonstrations (e.g., Feeley-Harnik 1978; Hanson 1983). Any rigid demarcation between myth and history would merely reproduce the very distinction between inert ethnographic objects and dynamic theoretical observers that Levi-Strauss's critique ofhistoricism implicitly (but necessarily) renounces and that his inclusion of Freud's Oedipus in the corpus of variants to be analyzed directly contradicts. Scholarly exegesis is a form of official, and therefore usually privileged, discourse. It thus shares certain ideological interests with official history. Sometimes, as in the case of nationalist folkloristics, this identification is very close: scholarship and the state validate each other. Official history may truly be seen as a "theft of language" (Barthes 1957:218) that invests the political status quo with the force of an eternal verity. The literate establishment claims history, suitably hypostatized, as its own; the folk must be content with mere lore. And because, as Appadurai (1981) has pointed out, the contestability of the past has to follow certain rules, the ability to regulate access to this "scarce resource" argues effective power through the control of discourse. Anthropological categories often seem to mesh comfortably with such constructions, especially inasmuch as they reflect the anthropologist's own statist background through the use of such concepts as kingship and social control. In perhaps the most sweeping critique of this tendency, Clastres (1974:161) has argued that anthropologists commonly treat stateless societies as in some way "incomplete." Or again, as Beidelman (1980) has shown, the "trickster" label has prejudiced interpretation of a wide variety of African texts, suppressing the centrality of the main character to the narrators' view of society-which may not be that of their leaders, and is certainly often not that of the academic observers who have generated the classification in the first place. The assumption-recently challenged by Galaty (1979)-that order represents the common desire of all human societies apparently explains the statist or similar bias that we encounter in much folklore taxonomy, whether nationalistic or colonialist in inspiration: government is the common ordering principle. Such taxonomic labels as "kingship myths" (i.e., myths about kingship in general) privilege that particular reading and invest it, through its very intelligibility within our particular cultural milieu, with special authority. Thus, among the origin myths of three Nilotic peoples (Dinka, Shilluk, and Nyoro), the account that demonstrates the greatest conceptual separation of human action from divine intervention (that of the Nyoro) is associated with the most differentiated and "statelike" political structure; it is clear that the maintenance of this polity is

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well served by the diachronictaxonomy provided by dynastic lists and other such forms of official history (see Herzfeld 1973).2Variantsof myths "about kingship" are seen as secondary or primitive when the kings in question lack what we recognize as historicity-mainly in the form of names and personalities, dates, and toponyms-or when our system of categoriesis offended by calling them kings at all. The creationof hypostatizedkingships in the corpus of Nilotic mythology is not just a categoricalerror,althoughit is certainlyalso that. It is an act of political constitution, paralleledin the sphereof actualgovernment by the common colonial habit of turning symbolic figures into paramount chiefs of considerable,if supervised, political authority. The choice of whatthe text is aboutthus generatesthe rankingof all known variants;arbitraryinterpretationpreempts taxonomy and through it thereby in turn also precludesmost alternativereadings.This is as true of the "national folklore" of 19th-century Europe as it is of the "primitive mythology" that Europeansdeigned to recognize in their colonial domains. Songs claimed as
"national," no less than the "kingship myths" of colonized "tribes," were expected to validate social and political order. Logically, too, textual variants whose heroes did not support an obviously statist ideology were classified as corrupt derivatives. (When a written text existed and supported the statist perspective more effectively than the oral versions, it often also served to reinforce the prevailing bias according to which literate versions preceded oral ones both chronologically and qualitatively.) The heroes' "real" identity necin the exegesis. By that very fact, the exegesis itself essarily became transformed became a new textual variant, with clear ideological presuppositions differentiating it from its predecessors. This ideological dimension is both missing from Levi-Strauss's original call for the inclusion of exegetical comments in the gamut of variants, and necessary in order to make sense of it. The originally collected texts and the collectors' exegetical treatment of them could only be compared to each other within some common frame of reference, and arguably, the most accessible such framework is supplied by ideology in its broadest sense.

Moving the Periphery to the Center: Exegesis as Transformation Levi-Strauss's contribution to text analysis essentially consists in the recof a basic symbolic structure. Thus, ognition of variant texts as transformations if treating exegesis as text is to be more than a purely rhetorical speculation, the next stage entails seeking the structure and its transformations in an actual sequence of"folk" and "scholarly" texts. To that end, I now turn to a body of material from modern Greece. The material in question consists of a set of verbal song texts and the folklorists' discussions and presentations of them. The song texts dwell on the theme of social ambiguity in various realizations. The official ideology of the Greek nation-state, however, has elevated these same texts into an affirmation of national integrity. In other words, the official mode of exegesis turns the

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conceptual exploration of society's blurred outer edges into a celebration of clearly defined political boundaries. Thus, the exegesis can be shown to have effected a structural transformation of the categorical system upon which the song texts in question are based. The nationalistic scholars laid claim to a more or less homogeneous cultural identity that encapsulated both the authors and performers of the song texts and the folklorists themselves. They privileged their own discourse over that of the oral texts in order to appropriate the latter to their vision of a unified Hellenism. Thus, perhaps ironically, it is their own key tenet that justifies the procedure adopted here; for, as Levi-Strauss (1955:435) remarks, "a myth remains the same as long as it is felt as such," and the nationalistic folklorists' immediate aim was precisely that of demonstrating the essential identity of the singers' vision with their own. In seeking historical continuity with the Classical and Byzantine past, they also sought to constitute political and cultural continuity synchronically; and continuity, Appadurai (1981:218) suggests, is what the effective control of history ensures. Consequently, the nationalistic scholars "felt" the song texts in question to belong to a culture of which they were fully participating members. For this reason their recensions and interpretations deserve to be treated as transformational variants of a shared symbolic structure in exactly the sense in which Levi-Strauss indicates. Their own reasoning forces us to reject the privileged position that they accorded their own discourse; and, in fairness, the present analysis should be considered subject to the same stricture in its turn.

The Materials
The rest of this discussion centers around the verbal texts of some Greek songs that describe the exploits of heroes of mixed or suspect origins. Having published a detailed commentary elsewhere (Herzfeld 1980), I confine myself here to giving a stylistically representative text (Aravandinos 1880:227, #460)3 as well as a summary of the principal themes in diagrammatic form (Figure 1).
Text (no. III) Among the plane-treesof Ai-Yoryi, a festival was under way with dancing here and dancing there, instrumentsand song, and a thousandslaughteredbeastswere a-roastingall aroundthe festival. "Eat and drink, lads, dance, sing, and pray that Tsamadhos come not nigh to affrightus all." Scarcelywere these words spoken when Tsamadhosappeared, rushing down from the mountainside,down to the festivities. He stamped on the mountain and it shook, shouted till the valleys echoed, carriedan uprooted tree on his shoulder with wild beastshanging from its branches. As he drew close, the dancing ceased, the feastingtablesfroze, and everyone made way, and stood there full of fear.

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"Who has a marble chest and arms of iron, to come and wrestle with me on the marble threshing-floor?" Nobody stepped forward, nobody replied; and only the widow's lad, the fine son of the widow, stepped forward to go and wrestle with him on the marble threshing-floor. There where Tsamadhos trod, the threshing-floor caved in, and where the lad trod, there too it caved in and sank. Wherever Tsamadhos struck home, the blood flowed like a river, and wherever the boy struck he shattered bones. "Stop! my fine lad, stop! let me ask you, what bitch of a mother bore you, who was your father?" "When my mother was widowed, I was yet unborn, and I looked like my father and shall yet surpass him." Tsamadhos seized him by the arm and ran with him to find his mother, to seek out her house. The widow espied them and prepared the table for feasting, and there, as they ate and drank, the widow filled their glasses, poured wine for her son, poison for Tsamadhos.

Of these texts, I, II, III, IV, and VI are usually classified as "Akritic" in the traditional academic taxonomy, and V as a "ballad" (paraloyi), while VII could only be listed as an unusual text of religious character. But the conventional taxonomy is highly motivated as both the tool and the expression of a nationalistic ideology, and it is the exegetical apparatus which relates the texts to this taxonomy that provides the critical focus of the following discussion. All the texts, although not aligned in a single class in the taxonomy, share certain features, and it would be useful to specify these as a means of pointing up some key elements in the construction of the taxonomic system. The most obvious feature is the "marginal" birth of the hero, usually under humble circumstances, but often with the suggestion of a noble or exalted paternity; the birth of Christ logically fits this pattern as a limiting case. In each text, too, there is a final struggle, essentially between the hero and some personage representing his ancestry. In text IV, that personage is Death personified, fulfilling the role of the hero's mother's spouse: death is frequently represented in Greek folk imagery as a marriage with the black earth, so that the widow's suicide structurally represents a form of remarriage. In the case of text VII, whose inclusion in the series is my own, the biblical account of how the Son of Man died at the hands of men and was then resurrected both fits this pattern and, in a sense, resolves it best of all. For in all of these stories, the hero's struggle is a symbolic reenactment of his ambiguous origins; in text VII, however, that ambiguity is retained and ultimately resolved in Christ's human death and divine resurrection. Moreover, Christ's birth "on the mountainside" is a reduplication of his mother's outsider status, since ascent of a mountain is often expressed in Greek by the verb vyeno (go out). Biblical narrative is no less susceptible to local restructuring than any other essentially imported symbolic idiom (see, e.g., Dundes 1971). At this point, a literalist might well object that I had no right to include this

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I. Andronikos loses wife to pirates, gives birth in jail.

Widow/Jewess/ Nun gives birth in jail (Porfiris).

Widow's son

Digenes, widow's son

V. Kostas, the merchant

Child's rapid growth. Boasts he fears not even the king. Goes and finds Saracens at sport. They tie him up.

Child's rapid growth. King hears of his powers. All hope T. will not come. (?) rejoices at absence of brigands.

King sends Saracens to capture him. He says not to take him to where his beloved is; they do so; she says: look what comes of boasting; gives him sword; he insults king.

T. does come.

Death comes.

Brigands do appear.

He escapes and returns.

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Asks for his father, who has a black (death-color) tent; father challenges him to fight; he accepts. Challenges all to wrestle; widow's son alone accepts. Death kills Digenes. Recognition; reconciliation. T. asks name; lad is his son!

Merchant provokes brigands

who attack

and wound him mortally. Brigand chief recognizes merchant as brother!

Widow gives lad wine, T. poison.

Widow swallows poison.

Fratricidal wounds can't be cured.

Figure 1. Diagrammatic summary of texts.

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variant in the analysis. It is stylistically quite different from the other texts; it had not been related to the series by any previous investigator; and, according to the old polarity, the New Testament could be said to belong more to history than to myth. But what do any of these objections mean in practical terms? Stylistic differences have not prevented folklorists from classifying texts together on thematic grounds, even when they are couched in different languages; the insights of the earlier folklorists do not justify the privileging of their taxonomies to the exclusion of thematic parallels that we ourselves can recognize; and finally, other rules of historical relevance and textual consistency than those with which a particular scholar approaches the New Testament may be operative for the narrator of text VII (cf. Hanson 1979). Once we accept the possibility that (for example) a mountainside makes better sense than a manger as the place of Christ's birth from the narrator's point of view, the distinction between the mythical and the historical becomes increasingly hard to sustain. It insists on the constructed nature of myth while ignoring the constructedness that many writers (e.g., Goldstein 1976) now recognize as characteristic of all historical discourse. Similar difficulties are encountered in the claims some authorities have advanced for the historicity of the texts categorized as "Akritic." This category is especially associated with Basil Digenes Akrites, the hero of a set of manuscript poems from the Byzantine period. Digenes, whose name means "born of double stock," has also been identified with the hero of several sets of folksongs, and, consequently, these have been known collectively as the Akritic cycle. The ambiguity of Digenes's birth is matched in his title: Akrites (or Akritas in songs) means "borderer," and alludes to the boundaries (akra) of the Byzantine Empire. The exact relationship of the songs, relatively few of which name Digenes as such, to the long manuscript poems is a matter of considerable complexity. Nationalist folklorists, especially those of more conservative ideological persuasion, have tended to accord compositional priority to the long poems, thus (as we have already noted in a general sense) according originary status to narrators who seemed to them to be more like themselves. (Some Marxist interpreters [e.g., Lambrinos 1947] have preferred to accord that priority to the oral poems of the people.) The likeliest scenario would now seem to be a two-way influence which often spilled over the confining taxonomic boundaries created by the philologists and folklorists. The epic was hailed as "the national epic of the modern Greeks" (Politis 1906). This is immediately curious: the text is about borders, and about a hero of ethnically ambiguous birth who challenged the supreme authority of the political center quite brazenly. The paradox recalls the self-contradictory irredentist concept of a "Helleno-Christian civilization," that is, of a civilization which is at once Hellenic (i.e., pagan) and yet Christian too. This concept, which apparently originated with Spiridon Zambelios in the mid-19th century (cf. Herzfeld 1982b:141; Kitromilides 1983:54), reached its apogee under the military regime of 1967-74. Its conceptual congruence with a category of national akrites is hardly coincidental: both were put to the service of the same

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irredentist ideology, and both represented ethnological claims to all the territories in which the Greek language was endemic. Moreover, political slogans of this sort behave much as Levi-Strauss thought myth did (1967:30) by parading internal contradictions in an apparently insurmountable form; this is the characteristic that Goldschlaeger (1982) identified as the hallmark of authoritarian discourse. The discourse of ideologically motivated scholarship behaves in similar fashion: the exegeses, especially if we treat them as variants of the original narrative texts, partake of this same mythopoeic property. This is hardly surprising in an academic discourse that analyzes narrative in order to use it for the expression of territorial control. Furthermore, the folklore taxonomy reproduced certain key presuppositions of 19th-century Balkan geopolitics. The new national frontiers could now be viewed as a new taxonomic ordering in their own right, possessed of so compelling a logic of their own that whole populations were relocated on "their" respective sides of the borders in a series of demographic exchanges in the early years of this century. This was often done against their will, but always on the implicit assumption that people "belonged" by classificatory fiat to a particular territorial and political entity. But synchronic rearrangements also provide a matrix for rethinking the past. The Byzantine era, to which the exploits of Digenes are attributed, was the essential link between the modern Greek state (kratos) and the city-states (poleis) of Classical Greece (Paparigopoulos 1853; Zambelios 1852). To the extent that it was an ethnographically heterogeneous and politically fragmented entity, it was retrospectively recast in the image of the newer polity. This occasioned, above all, some implicit leveling of the highly variable political control exercised by the Byzantine administrative center. Modern nation-states are constituted on the assumption that control should be evenly distributed throughout the entire territory contained by the national borders. The margins ("marches") are militarily, politically, and conceptually converted into fixed frontiers. Instead of a gradual or uneven diminution of centralized power from center to periphery, the periphery itself now expresses the power of the center. The drawing of frontiers on any 19th-century map certainly took that premise for granted. As a cartographic performative utterance, so to speak, it reiterated the power of the state, and, in an etymologically literal sense, "de-fined" it. Folklore taxonomies of the period served to confirm this redistribution of authority by converting relatively independent border barons into a national gendarmerie. In this way, we can begin to appreciate how the marginal hero was accordingly transformed, through a nationalist redaction, into a symbol of the center. Thus, Megas (1946:44) wrote of the medieval struggle between Greek Orthodoxy and Islam: "From this centuries-long struggle there flourished, too, the national epic tradition of the modern Hellenes, the epic of Digenes Akrites, which crowned the desires and ideals of the Greek nation." Note, in the first place, Megas's assumption that this is the epic tradition of the Greek nation; the ideological equation of nation with state, while not necessarily inaccessible to analysis in a purely formal or terminological sense (cf. Campbell 1976), is

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here encoded in a form of discourse that invests it with intransigent authority (cf. Eco 1968:94). The concept of Greek national identity, though applied to the Byzantine period, is calqued on the experiences and perspectives of modern irredentists, for, as Eco remarks, "ideology interacts with the communicative setting, and may banish its implications from view." What we see here is a recasting of one symbolic complex in terms of another-specifically, of a statement that at least partially addresses the problems of marginality in the terms of a rigid, politically dominant idiom of classification. Megas's argument, which sprang largely from Politis's original (1906) endorsement of the "national epic" and his recognition of its similarity to the folksongs he accordingly labeled "Akritic," thus represents a symbolic transformation in its own right. The context is ostensibly a discussion of Bulgarian national poetry, and the article was published in the first warnings of violent civil war in Greece; hostility between Greece and Bulgaria also had a longstanding basis, and has already occasioned at least one other Greek nationalist scholar to condemn the Bulgarians' folk poetry for its supposedly crude and barbaric sentiment. Megas argued that the Bulgarians in fact had no national epic of their own; he attributed their songs about Marko Kraljevitch, who had frequently collaborated with the Turks, to a poor imitation of the Greek epic, spoiled, however, by a supposed absence of both patriotic sentiment and common humanity. Indeed, again using folksong evidence, he accused the Bulgarian brigands of failing to distinguish between Turks and Christians (his taxonomy!) as victims. Text V suggests that the contrast between Bulgarian and Greek brigandage may have been less definitive in this regard than Megas thought, but the point is that he was drawing taxonomic and moral boundaries to match the political ones. In other words, we see here a process of progressive reordering-Megas goes considerably further than his predecessors in this instance-and thus of the construction of historical actuality. Some students of Greek history have argued that the nationalist scholars were simply wrong. This, however, is as literalistic a position as the one it opposes, and is thus no less ideologically transparent. We can, in fact, trace the development of such an alternative ideology in order to substantiate further the argument that exegesis continues the transformational process of the original texts. An early commentator (Karolidis 1906), in explaining Digenes's ethnic marginality as a representation of the "culturederived from a double stock" that he saw as characteristic of the border regions of the Byzantine world, implicitly challenged the developing irredentist argument that the Empire had been thoroughly Greek. By the time of the Greek Civil War, the political consequences of such a position were much more apparent. Lambrinos (1947), a Marxist, pursued Karolidis's argument in order to deny the irredentist position any basis in historical fact. He argued instead that the Akritic heroes, like the much later revolutionary guerrillas of Greece's War of Independence, had really been participating in an incipient class struggle, and that this struggle had always transcended ethnic or religious boundaries. In this mode of argumentation, the political center disappears altogether; the marginality of

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characterof historical prothe hero-figure is identified with the international cess. This resembles the nationalistposition in its replacementof marginality by doctrinalunity, but at the same time diverges radicallyfrom it in treating national borders as tangential to the common struggle for collective human dignity. The political embodiment of the internationalist argumentin rhetoric and action is often far from trivial. In the aftermathof Turkey's invasion of Cyprus in 1974, the Greek left wing turned its ire against the NATO powers as an appropriatecommon target for Greekand Turkish defiancealike. The exegetical dialecticthat I have brieflysketchedhere can be usefully representedas a simple transformational seriesin which the key terms concernthe conceptual relationshipbetween center and periphery (see Figure 2). Of immediate interest is the apparentpairing of the epic with the irredentiststructure, and of the songs with the structureof the Marxistexegesis, in respectof the treatmentof the centralauthority. The reasonsarenot hardto guess: if the epic representsa more or less "aristocratic"view of events, even though it might be that of unruly borderbaronswho were not averseto challengingthe personalauthorityof particular emperors, it neverthelessalso entailsa concern with the defense of the imperial borders. To that extent, then, it can be logically identified with the later concerns of the 19th-centurynation-state over the safeguardingof a sometimes precariousterritorialintegrity. But the epic is also contrasted with nationalisticexegesis in the matterof the hero's insubordination: where the epic portrays a rebellious man of action, the nationalist exegesis producesthe epitome of the Greeknationalideal. Given the conflation of ethnos(nation) with kratos(state) on which the statist ideology was predicated, the very hint of internal contradictionis rhetoricallydissolved: if Dihad nothing to fear from him. genes was the defenderof the ethnos,the kratos In the nationalists'exegesis and various synopses of the epic, the hero's insubordinationhas been effectively categorizedout of existence. The songs, on the other hand, like the Marxist exegesis, seem to suggest that the problem of a divided identity can be transcendedin some ultimate fashion, by death, resurrection,victory, or proletarianunity. Whereasin the songs ethnic marginality is only one among several possible forms of social oddity, however, in the orthodox Marxist exegesis it is hypostatized as a realizationof the internationalistideal.

theMoralCenter Regional Exegesis:Relocating So far, we have consideredtexts only at the local level of performativecontext, and at the national level of exegesis. There is, however, an interesting

intermediate set of texts, consisting of regional exegeses of song texts. Greek folklore studies include an impressive range of local publications, including collections from particular islands, provinces, and even single villages. An exceptionally interesting case in point is provided by Crete. There, while expressing a generalized pride in their participation in Greek culture as a whole,

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to center insubordinate

but defends it vs. outsiders 2. Songs: SOCIALLY MARGINAL HERO

challengesown "parent"/olderbrother

and defeats him B. EXEGESES 1. Nationalist Exegesis: PERFECTLYHELLENIZED BORDER GUARDIAN



and defeats its enemies 2. Marxist/Internationalist Exegesis: ETHNICALLY HETEROGENEOUS/AMBIGUOUS BORDERER

challengesnational concept

by embracing its neighbors Thus: Al:A2 :: B1:B2, and A1:B1 :: A2:B2

+ +

Figure 2. Transformations.

local folklorists have nevertheless shown a frequent reluctance to grant Classical Athens the apical primacy in their cultural pedigree that has been commonly accepted in other parts of the country. Cretan folklorists have shifted the moral center to their own island, citing the glories and indisputable antiquity of Minoan civilization, as well as the martial grandeur of Nikiforos Fokas's recapture of Crete from the Saracens in 961. Thus, their comments on songs conventionally included in the "Akritic cycle" sound somewhat different from those of their colleagues in other regions. They express not political separatism but cultural localism: a reluctance to accept the dominant ideology according to which ancient Athens takes pride of place and modern Athens represents the cultural and moral center. In their writings we see a relocation of the conceptual center to what is now a politically and geographically "marginal" region. In the resulting transformation of the Digenes story, a quintessentially Greek

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hero defends the nation by investing the borderswith the moral force of the center. In one instance, this is done by a questionable etymological identification of Digenes with Herakles, son of the (Cretan) god Zeus, while the Cretan Digenes is said on these grounds to be a different persona from others of that name found elsewhere in Greece (Vlastos 1909). An alternative strategy was provided by the argument that Attic culture had left relatively little mark on modern Crete, unlike both the earlier Dorian and the later Byzantine traditions (Hadjidakis 1952). In both cases the conflict between periphery and center is superficially resolved by constituting a peripheral location as the center.4 Such recasting of the nationalist ideology in localist terms may bear witness to a fiercely contemptuous view of the actual political center and a resentment of its pervasive domination.5 This may even be true of those who ostensibly espouse the nationalist view most ardently, but whose enthusiasm for the national cause does not necessarily entail yielding pride of place to Athens. In the case of Cyprus the point is admirably illustrated by the late General Grivas's memoirs, especially in the contrast between the Greek edition (representing an internally directed view) and the English-language edition (edited for external consumption, and therefore less full of esoteric but revealing detail). In the English-language version (Grivas 1964:3), the general relates that he enjoyed his school studies,
in which the glories of Greek history always took first place. I was particularly fascinated by the legends of Dighenis Akritas, the half-mythical guardian of the frontiers of Alexander's [sic] empire. Not far from Trikomo [Grivas's birthplace] was a huge rock, which the village elders assured me had been hurled there by Dighenis, and my mother often sang folk-songs recounting his acts of heroism.

That is all: Digenes was a hero of Greek national history, important in Cyprus certainly, but of equal significance throughout the Hellenic world. Lest Digenes's "half-mythical" status somehow undermine the historical significance of his reminiscence for his irredentist argument, Alexander's evocative name provides reinforcement. (It is ironic that Alexander was celebrated in folk poetry for his dual origins, in much the same fashion as Digenes.) There is nothing in this version of the general's account to suggest any kind of departure from the official version of history as it was disseminated for decades through the medium of the Greek schools. The Greek text, however, is suggestively different at this point from its English-language counterpart:
Cyprus had been Greek for three thousand years and more. . . . The Greek character of the island was preserved unsullied throughout the entire medieval period, when Christianity constituted a source of renewal and cohesion for the Greek world. Cyprus then became the centerof the Helleno-Christian civilization. . ... In Cyprus, at that time, the bravery of the Byzantine borderers was celebrated in song more than in any otherpart of the Greek world. There, Digenes and Andronikos and the other heroes of the Akritic cycle impressed traces of their heroic passage upon legend and tradition. At a distance of only a few kilometers from the house where I was born, the houses and the Rock of Digenes were admiringly shown to me by the old men, while my mother often used to lull me to sleep

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on her knees with the folksong verses that extolled the bravery of the heroic borderers. [GrivasDigenes 1961:5; my emphases]

Note here how the moral center has shifted to Cyprus, an island physically located on the outer margins of the Greek-speaking world. The ideological premise of a Helleno-Christian culture is retained without change, but, as in the Cretan folklorists' work, its origins-and therefore its moral epicenterhave now been categorically dissociated from the political center. All this might seem nothing more than a scholastic appendage to Grivas's romantic reminiscences, were it not for two circumstances. First, General Grivas was no ordinary local soldier, but a commissioned officer of the Greek national army and an ardent advocate of enosis (union [with Greece]) who played a decisive if controversial role in bringing Cyprus full independence from Britain in 1960; later, he even rebelled against his erstwhile ally President Makarios when the latter seemed to prefer Cypriot independence to enosiswith Greece. Second, during his struggle against the British, he actually used the nom deguerre of "Digenes." While independence was seen at the time as a prelude to the eventual incorporation of Cyprus into the Greek State, the process that had already taken place in Crete several decades earlier (1898-1913), many Cypriots feared that enosis would deprive their newly sovereign island state of some of the economic and political benefits that independence had brought. Even the most ardent supporters of enosis faced this dilemma. Thus, in Grivas's musings on the essential Hellenism of Cyprus, we can detect the besetting concern that enosis should entail full recognition of Cyprus as a central source of cultural regeneration for Greece as a whole. The mainlanders, whom Cypriots often contemptuously dismiss as kalamaradhes(pen-pushers, i.e., bureaucrats, men of words rather than of deeds), should now abandon the condescension with which they have customarily regarded Cypriots and their culture. Here is a moral tension between periphery and center, between rural warriors and urban bureaucrats, that has recurred again and again throughout recent (post1821) Greek history as the central administration gradually extended and consolidated its territorial control. The mountain dwellers of Western Crete, for example, express a fairly comprehensive disdain for the political and bureaucratic power brokers in Athens. Other tensions of a related nature continue to subsist, at least in the form of verbally expressed attitudes, between the various regions. Unity, not internal tension, is nevertheless the appropriate mode for presenting the Greek realities to outsiders; differences of both opinion and culture are reserved for internal discussion, where they concern the collective selfidentification of Greeks and include negatively valued features that are thought to be unsuitable for external consumption. This distinction between an extroverted and an introspective model of the collective self, best known through the sociolinguistic construct of diglossia (Sotiropoulos 1977), can be usefully extended to cover the entire range of expressive modes and domains. In all of them, we can detect a radical discrimination between ideologies of national

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identity that is in turn rooted in the historical genesis of modern Greek nationalism (see Herzfeld 1982a). In an important sense, the difference between the Greek original and the English-language edition of Grivas's memoirs expresses and reproduces precisely this ideological tension: only within the Greek world could it be comfortably conceded that a single region-in this case, Cyprus-enjoyed special status as a fount of Hellenism; for in this context, Cyprus vies with all other Greek lands for an internal cultural primacy. To the outside world, however, all Greek-speaking territories must be presented as equally Greek. Grivas was indisputably an ardent exponent of national unity and of the incorporation of Cyprus in the Greek State. But even the attenuated glimpse we have snatched of his reminiscences suggests the tension between Classical and more recent models of identity that is encapsulated in the "Helleno-Christian" oxymoron. Thus, Cyprus appears to subordinate Greece to its own self-image. Nor is the relocation of the moral center at the geographical and administrative periphery confined to political figures; on the contrary, it has an obvious appeal for the peasantry of the outlying areas. Thus, Rhodian villagers who complained to me that they lived "at the edge of the world" (i.e., in an isolated and neglected place) regarded themselves as genetically and morally the "purest" Greeks, untainted by the wickedness of the cities. Such is the structural tension of Greek identity, which represents a conversion into historical and ideological terms of the ambiguities also expressed variously in the seven folksong texts discussed above. The heroes of these texts conjoin superhuman qualities with the mundane messiness of actual social experience, the gloriously idealized with the sometimes embarrassingly familiar. Like the heroes of these songs, so many Greeks not only wrestle with the tension between the idealizations of neo-Classicism on the one hand and the introverted but often scathing idiom of self-appraisal on the other, but also confront similar conflicts between public and private images at many different levels of social inclusion and exclusion. Some, of course, opt ideologically for one or the other extreme. Thus, at the national level, General Grivas shows in the more introverted (i.e., domestic) version of his autobiography how he came to terms with the inherent paradox of modern Greek identity and the tension between his concentric loyalties to Cyprus and to Greece: he cast his Akritic home island as the true center of Hellenism and himself as the Digenes of his own day. Was this myth or history? Perhaps it would be better to say instead that it was, in the context of the times, an intelligible construction upon the perceived political and cultural world. The Anthropologistas Digenes Structuralism has conventionally been regarded, as I pointed out earlier, as effectively irrelevant to the concerns of political anthropology. That perception derives from a rigidly statist and mechanistic view of what constitutes political relations, a view that treats rhetoric and discourse as secondary rather than integral to political processes. It also stems from a failure on the part of

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formal structuralism to exploit concepts of time as a form of symbolic classification. Myth, unlike history, is regarded as achronic; therefore, time has no place in the mytho-logique.That, at least, seems to have been the implicit assumption. Yet, in this sense, the "ethnographic present" is also a myth-like eternal verity; it, too, is a "construction upon" the data, a taxonomic grid of simplistic design. The concept of history introduces the notion of time as a device for classifying and relating events within an intellectually accessible format. But its constructed nature still retains that combination of formal arbitrariness and ideological motivation that characterizes the entire phenomenon of social semiosis. It is this that allows us to deconstruct the distinction between myth and history as itself an artifact of a particular discourse with its own ideological motivations and institutional reinforcement. We thus commence a dual semioclastie: we provide a metacommentary for both local folkloristics and global social anthropology, emphasizing at the same time what may perhaps seem obvious enough, that the distinction between the two disciplines is similarly embedded in ideologically contrastive taxonomies of the human phenomenon. How do we escape these dilemmas? The anthropologist is a Digenes of the intellect, caught in the tension between common humanity and ethnographic "otherness," between a persistent search for the general and an immediate immersion in the particular, between the recognition of informants' theoretical capacities and a sensitivity to the ethnographic conditionality of the anthropologist's own world view.6 But which Digenes that of statist folklorists or that of village perceptions? Maintaining an uncritical distinction between myth and history ranges the anthropologist on the side of the statist Digenes. Acknowledging the conditionality of anthropology's own constructs allows the scholar to step instead into an ambiguous role that fits far more comprehensively with the experienced uncertainties of social life. Notes
of the publicationof Levi-Strauss's I offer this essay in respectfulcelebrationof the 30th anniversary inspirational"The StructuralStudy of Myth," which appearedin thisjournal underthe editorshipof Thomas A. Sebeok. I would also like to recordmy debt to Cees Post and Gerardvan den Broek for encouragingme to write the presentpiece. 'Such a shift of emphasis would seem entirely necessaryto the claims of reflexivegenerativitythat have been made for varietiesof poststructuralist anthropology.This disciplinedisplaysfeaturesof both history and myth as these terms are ordinarilyunderstood. 2W. A. Arens has recently suggested (1979) that the Shillukrethmay have had some considerablepolitical power and that this was in some measurevalidatedgenealogically. text is itself complex and ideologically 3Of course, the question of what constitutesa truly "representative" what are the criteriaof laden. So, pursuing the argument to its logical extreme, is the choice of "variants": inclusion?This does not mean that we should henceforthavoid any kind of analysis, only that we should admit the inevitabilityof this type of bias. 4Theresolutionappearsto occur at the rhetorical level; Cretanvillagersremaindeeply awarethatthe center exerciseseffective politicalcontrol and that urbanMainlandGreeksgenerallyregardthem with contempt. 5I have elsewhere attempted to suggest the ideological connections that bind folklorists and villagers together in a solidary localism in Crete (Herzfeld1985a).

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6Greekvillagers certainlyhave a strong sense of history in the conventionalsense, although they bring to it organizingprinciplesthat deserveattentionas an independentconceptualapparatus that sometimes appears to placetheirhistoricalperceptionsin opposition to those of ethnographers. For a fullerdiscussion,see Herzfeld (1985b)

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Indiana University Bloomington

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