Letter: Macedonia: misunderstandings about anthropology

Share
Related Topics
Sir: May I comment on the recent articles and letters concerning the Macedonian question and the work of Anastasia Karakasidou?

Dr Karakasidou's critics are blaming the messenger for what anyone who has worked, lived, or even travelled in the north of Greece should recognise: that the provinces of Macedonia, Epiros, and Thrace have always been ethnologically complex (even in antiquity), and that the simplifications deemed necessary to state formation have not occurred without conflict. The region has experienced massive population transfers in this century (eg, the influx of Anatolian Greeks and Vlachs; the exodus of Slavic- speakers and Muslim Turks).

That various policies of enculturation have been pursued by the Greek government is not surprising; this is in the nature of nation-states. It is also conventional that states wish to appear eternal and natural, and therefore do not look sympathetically on the anthropological position that national consciousness is a contingent, historical process.

Dr Karakasidou's work does not toe any political line; she is not a 'champion of Macedonians', and she does not herself use the term 'Macedonians' with reference to the Slavic speaking population of northern Greece. What she has provided in her work is a careful analysis of nation-state formation in the north of Greece.

The disparagement of Dr Karakasidou is partly the result of misunderstandings about anthropology. Anthropologists try to convey what the people they study think (and do) about their identity, their history, and so on. In forming our analyses, we combine the details of local life - marriage transactions, inheritance patterns, commercial networks, local political hierarchies, narrative traditions, etc - with testimony from archives and national history. If, however, local understandings conflict with those of the state, we do not simply dismiss the former. We report this disjunction and try to convey this local experience.

Dr Karakasidou has been careful in her writings to draw the distinction between ethnic and national consciousness. Ambassador Gounaris, in making his reasonable argument (letter, 16 May) against Macedonian nationalism, feels obliged to deny the possibility of a past or present locally- based sense of ethnic identity. The ambassador thus disappoints those of us who love Greece, who do indeed understand the complexity of the northern problem, and who are looking to Greece for informed leadership on the question of minorities in the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean. An expression of concern about (rather than indifference towards) the harassment of scholars would express that kind of leadership.

Sincerely,

LAURIE KAIN HART

Dept of Anthropology

Haverford College

Haverford, Pennsylvania

17 May

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Administrator

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are a world leadin...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nick Clegg (R) Liberal Democrat Leader and former leader Charles Kennedy MP, joined the general election campaign trail on April 8, 2010  

Charles Kennedy: The only mainstream political leader who spoke sense

Tim Farron
 

The strangely parallel lives of Oliver Letwin and Ed Miliband

Matthew Norman
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral