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Title: The ontology of difference : nationalism, localism and ethnicity in a Greek Arvanite village
Author: Magliveras, Simeon Spyros
ISNI:       0000 0004 2684 0120
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis focuses on the dilemma caused by visible differences which are used etic-ly to envisage a group as an ethnic group. The Arvanites are a group of Albanian speaking Greeks who have been living in Greece for one thousand years. They are thought to have come to Greece as mercenaries. The Great Empires gave them lands where they eventually settled down in payment for their service. Throughout the centuries they have maintained their language. However, with the Age of nationalism, they slowly transformed their identity from a regional localised ethnic identity to a Greek national identity. As a result, the Arvanite language, Arvanitika, is in decline at the present time. I set out to explore the ways in which ethnicity or non-ethnicity is practiced and examine the construction of a Arvanite/Greek national identity and offer this as a case study through which we might further our understanding of the practices and politicisation of identity in a context of the Greek nation but more generally in any national context where ethnic identities are not recognised by national, super-national or international forums. The accomplishment of the Greek national model has been examined intensively in terms of it formation, foundation and historicity and its relationship to Europe and in opposition to other national entities such as Turkey. However, such approaches may explain the Greek invention of nationalism from a political and historical point of view but such approaches miss the cognitivisation of national, local and ethnic identities through action and practice in everyday life. Moreover the actors have forgotten much of their local history which may have given them the propensity to choose to participate in or even subordinate their own ethnic identities for an alternative prestigious, in this case, national history and identity. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the village of Gogofis in North Eastern Attica, I consider mundane acts of everyday life such as, patron/client systems, kin-like relationships, names and naming of people and the processes of memory production and reproduction, as well as practices associated with food and landscape within the framework of the Arvanites’ relationship to the nation state. I then investigate the Arvanites’ relationship to Albanian immigrants, and to the state to better qualify the Arvanites as Greeks or as ethnic Albanians. I conclude that the Arvanites consciously embrace and maintain their Greek identity through banal processes while having an alternative outlook with regards to the Albanians whom the Arvanites envisage as representations of their past selves. Thus, instead of seeing them as a threatening ‘others’ or simply as sources of cheap labour, they see them as part of their own village, representing future villagers, future Greeks, and future memories. The Arvanite should not be understood as just a passive ethnic group who has submitted unawares to symbolic violence. Rather they are active participants in the nation state and see both social and cultural capital advantages in maintaining the nation. Finally, although this thesis focuses on Arvanite/Albanian/Greeks constructions and expressions of ethnic/local and national identity, it may be considered a framework for any ‘ethnic’ group and their relationship to a state in which the said, group inhabits and participates but fundamentally does not ‘fit’ essentialised categorisations of national membership.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available