Hall, Jonathan M. Hellenicity. Between Ethnicity and Culture.
Hall's study is so rich in sharp insights that a short review cannot do justice to them. Let me mention just a few: in chapter 5, particularly interesting are the observations that the term "Panhellenes," which replaces "Hellenes" in the seventh century, points to ethnic diversity rather than unity, as is often believed (p. 132), and that the elites played a major role in creating a sense of common ethnic identity in the archaic period (p. 164). Hall's comment in chapter 4 on the "double standards" by means of which scholars speak of "Hellenized" for non-Greek people but of "Orientalizing" for the Greeks, thus emphasizing "the active nature of Greek initiative" (p. 107), is thought-provoking. In treating a subject that lends itself to ideological bias, Hall is admiringly balanced: while protesting against the "unashamed Hellenocentrism" of an approach such as the one described above, he also makes a strong case for the importance of filiation or common ancestry in perceptions of identity, thus challenging weaker, and meeker, definitions of ethnicity. One observation in this regard deserves quoting in full because of its perceptiveness and vividness: "it is not by accident that the national anthems of 'ethno-nations'--i.e. states where political boundaries are ideally (if not actually) coterminus with ethnic boundaries--are peppered with kinship terms. So, the French anthem begins "Allons enfants de la patrie" ("Onward, children of the fatherland"), while the opening lines of the Italian anthem are "Fratelli d'Italia, l'Italia s'e desta" ("Brothers of Italy, Italy has awakened"). By contrast, those national anthems that avoid kinship references generally belong to countries such as the United States or Switzerland where statehood is not predicated on the myth of ethnic homogeneity" (pp. 15-16).
Hall's scholarship and versatility are impressive: he is at home among literary texts (including several Platonic dialogues concerned with the representation of Greek ethnic identity, which are discussed in chap. 6) as well as material artifacts; he masters the techniques of historiography as well as of anthropology, linguistics, archaeology, and epigraphy. He is well informed about modern theories but does not let them take over the discussion. The richness and depth of his knowledge are reflected in the bibliography, which extends over forty-four pages. Finally, Hall's writing style is engaging, with plenty of elegant touches such as Homeric or Shakespearean allusions in the titles ("Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea" [p. 91]; "What's in a Name?" [p. 123]). This book is a pleasure to read, and we welcome its re-edition in paperback.--Silvia Montiglio, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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|Publication:||The Review of Metaphysics|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2006|
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