Lecturer: Prof. Michael Herzfeld
Cretan mountain villages are famous for aggressive displays of masculinity that traditionally included barrages of gunfire at weddings, reciprocal animal-theft, swaggering bodily demonstrations of male strength, and competitive skills in singing and dancing. These displays required extensive mental and bodily skills, and especially the ability to improvise effective responses to the provocative challenges that every adult man had to face from his fellow-villagers. Men were required to know the rules and to be able to elaborate on them in sometimes dramatic ways.
In recent years, this sometimes rather romanticized cultural complex has come under considerable strain, especially as a result of violent confrontations with the police – especially one dramatic and widely reported clash in 2007 – and the penetration of some villages by organized crime. The police themselves appear to have operated within a similar ethos of male aggression, and considerable debate still swirls around the inter-related questions of whether their interventions were ultimately benign or destructive, and whether what they were opposing was a respectable cultural tradition or a festering proclivity to engage in crime. Their own actions suggest, moreover, that in some respects they themselves were operating in an idiom of male power that was closer to that of the villagers than the state would have liked to admit.
The speaker, who, intermittently since 1974, has conducted extensive fieldwork in one of the most emblematic of these villages, will address both the earlier forms of this masculinity and the reasons for its transformation in the context of globalization and economic change.
Michael Herzfeld is Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University, and currently holds visiting appointments at the Universities of Leiden and Melbourne and at Shanghai International Studies University. An advocate of ‘engaged anthropology’, he has conducted research in Greece, Italy, and Thailand on masculinity, artisanship and social knowledge, gentrification and the impact of historical conservation, nationalism, and bureaucracy. Author of eleven books -- including Evicted from Eternity: The Restructuring of Modern Rome (2009) and Siege of the Spirits: Community and Polity in Bangkok (2016) – he has also produced two ethnographic films.
We'd like to thank the following donors: Pancretan Association of Melbourne.
During the course of the year considerable expenses are incurred in staging the seminars. In order to mitigate these costs individuals or organisations are invited to donate against a lecture of their choice.
You too can donate for one or more seminars and (optionally) let your name or brand be known as a patron of culture to our members, visitors and followers, as well as the broader artistic and cultural community of Melbourne. Please email:
or call 03 9662 2722.
We also like to thank the following corporate sponsors for their support: