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Greek Ethnography and Archaeology: Limits and Boundaries

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Joseph Skinner


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Traditionally conceived as an exclusively literary genre predicated upon stark polarities between “Greeks” and “Barbarians”, ancient ethnography might seem to encourage the view both that ethnic groups and boundaries were clearly perceived in antiquity and that these were often identified and categorized according to variations in material practice. However, whilst we have ample evidence that ancient Greeks associated material objects with specific identities, close examination of ancient ethnographic interests reveals a body of thought and enquiry encompassing a wide variety of media and genre incorporating Greeks and non-Greeks alike. Far from being a convenient prop upon which to base essentialized notions of “Greek” or “barbarian” culture, discourses of identity and difference were socially constructed and historically contingent. Like material artifacts, their analysis requires close attention to the specific frameworks and contexts in which they were created if we are to understand their full significance in the wider processes of identity construction. In both cases, the complexities surrounding their origin, mode of production, adoption and reception make it difficult to avoid labels, ethnic or otherwise, that aren’t subject to the same “play” of difference characteristic of all modes of cultural production (Hall S. 1990).

Publication metadata

Author(s): Skinner JE

Editor(s): Muller,C;Veïsse, A-E

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Culture(s) matérielle(s) et identités ethniques, Dialogues d’Histoire Ancienne, Supplement 10

Year: 2014

Pages: 171-203

Acceptance date: 24/01/2014

Publisher: Presses Universitaires de Franche-Comté


DOI: 10.3917/dha.hs91.0171

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9782848674841