“In Their Own Terms”

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This past semester in my upper level seminar we were discussing anachronistic uses of categories, among which “religion,” in describing and therefore understanding the past and most specifically ancient Greece, reading among other things Brent Nongbri’s book Before Religion. For those not familiar with the book, Nongbri is offering a historical study of the category religion tracing its origins not in the ancient world but in modern Europe; when used to describe ancient practices Nongbri suggests that the term is anachronistically projected backwards in time, urging his readers to be self-aware when they use that word to talk about the past. Continue reading ““In Their Own Terms””

Making Meaning

6d61b38dff59187fb1a03b5c4cdccc0fThis semester I’m teaching a course on the uses of anachronism in the study of the ancient Greek world, one such anachronism being the concept of religion itself (for it is hardly a local term in the ancient Greek world). Last week, just before class, I happened to stumble across an article that made the rounds on Facebook entitled “Mysterious Chimpanzee Behavior May be Evidence of ‘Sacred’ Rituals.” The title of the article was enough to catch my attention: “mysterious” along with “sacred rituals”? Definitely this was something that I could share with my students. Continue reading “Making Meaning”

Now You Have Taken It Too Far

herodotusThis semester I’m teaching an introductory course on the Study of Religion, that is, looking at scholarly definitions and scholarly approaches to the study of religion. We’re exploring among other things, together with my students, questions like what is the study of religion? What is at stake in naming/defining/classifying things in this or that way? Although this early in the semester one question that prevails is: Continue reading “Now You Have Taken It Too Far”

Maps, Interpretations, and “The Territory”

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Over a year ago I wrote a post, which has haunted me ever since I wrote it; starting with the idea that “every present justifies its presence by clinging onto a past not considered previously,” I looked at two different readings of a fresco in the catacombs of Priscilla, in Rome, and concluded that these two readings of the past each authorize different interests in the present.

Continue reading “Maps, Interpretations, and “The Territory””

Subtle Strategies

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 9.48.44 AMWhile I was searching the web for tradition-related articles, I came across this news story written by John Laughland (a British civil engineer) who submitted an article to a Greek e-newspaper—“protothemanews.com”—entitled “Kayakoy: Death by Restoration.” The title immediately caught my attention, given my own interest in how we use the term tradition, restorations, and the like. He and his German wife Beatrice have lived in Turkey for the last 26 years near an abandoned village known as Kayakoy, located at the south side of Asia Minor, and it is said that its Greek residents abandoned it after the 1920s population exchange between the two countries (i.e., Turkey and Greece). Continue reading “Subtle Strategies”

How and Why Should You Bring Culture on The Edge in the Classroom

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Pierre Bourdieu, in his 1998 book On Television, wrote: “There is nothing more difficult to convey than reality in all its ordinariness…Sociologists run into this problem all the time: How to make the ordinary extraordinary and evoke ordinariness in such a way that people will see just how extra-ordinary it is?” (21) This is one of my favourite quotes, one that, as a social theorist, drives my teaching approach. Continue reading “How and Why Should You Bring Culture on The Edge in the Classroom”

Restoring the Restorations

NikeTempleRestorations of monuments to their original form are not only a difficult task—as any archeologist or art restorer will certainly confirm you of—but also a point of dispute. Consider for example the following sign about the restorations of the temple of Athena Nike (pictured above) that caught my attention when I last visited the Acropolis last year. Continue reading “Restoring the Restorations”

Frames of Identity Revisited

framingWhile at a workshop in Bethlehem, PA, I stayed at The Historic Bethlehem Hotel, built in early 19th century – a very nice and quaint hotel. On the second day of my stay there I came across a photo shoot in the lobby and as you can see in the picture that I was able to snap, the multiple frames immediately caught my attention and reminded me of a blog I wrote a while back on the use of frames at a museum in Greece – devices that effectively reinforced the nation’s enduring identity. Continue reading “Frames of Identity Revisited”

Your Turn: Writing a History of Chocolate

ChocolateA few of my Facebook friends have shared a video, that, apart from the first reaction, “Oh Wow!”, really got me thinking about history-writing. Continue reading “Your Turn: Writing a History of Chocolate”

Cultural Sensibilities

Change, Same Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Clouds and Sky.A year ago, a member of the Greek Parliament, Mrs. Repousi, who belongs to the leftish political party of DEMAR (Democratic Left) provoked a series of reactions in the media with two statements (each set apart by a couple of days) that she made during discussions concerning changes in the educational system. Continue reading “Cultural Sensibilities”