Memories of violence and the arts of living
Urania Astrinaki (Panteion University)
Paper short abstract:
Extensive research that I have conducted in communities of mountainous western Crete has shown that violent conduct constitutes a dominant discourse, a valued, even prescribed, conduct carefully instilled in people's bodies during childhood and activated through a host of elaborate social practices.
Paper long abstract:
Urania Astrinaki Department of Social Anthropology Panteion University Memories of violence and the arts of living Recent anthropological work on violence has shown that violence is not a unitary phenomenon but rather an analytical concept used by researchers to define various types of phenomena and social practices, viewed and experienced differently across as well as within societies and cultures. Personal and collective effects and experiences of violence will also vary according to contexts. Extensive ethnographic research that I have conducted in communities of mountain Western Crete has shown that violent conduct constitutes a dominant discourse, a valued -occasionally even prescribed- conduct, carefully instilled in people's bodies during childhood and activated through a host of elaborate social practices. These practices are constitutive of local identities and histories, thereby producing their own histories. Far from being outside normal human experience, then, (the immanence of) violence is a continuous presence, even in its absence, embedded in normal everyday life. It permeates social relations and constitutes an intrinsic part of the social fabric, even as it creates ambiguities and suffering. For local subjects, situated in the context of oppositional, contradictory, but historically articulated and communicating dominant discourses (local, regional, national), dealing with violence, as presence and as memory, amounts to an extremely elaborated art. Incidents of violence form a pool of never forgotten memories that lie dormant, like a volcano, under the surface of everyday life, and that are submerged or resurfaced, concealed, silenced or verbalized, even narrated, according to the context and their own texture. Well archived, these memories are drawn upon to orient present action, being themselves oriented to the present.