The Invention of Greek Ethnography: From Homer to Herodotus

By Joseph E. Skinner | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 4
Mapping Identities

HAVING IDENTIFIED SOME OF the major building-blocks upon which “ethnographic discourse” might be founded—knowledge relating to a variety of foreign peoples, both Greek and non-Greek, and the mechanisms by which it was deployed—it is now time to extend our analysis to encompass unfamiliar settings and far-flung locations: the wilds of Scythia, Magna Graecia, and, at the “imagined center,” the great Panhellenic sanctuaries at Delphi and Olympia. This broad canvas is necessary in order to demonstrate that discourses of identity indicative of a self- conscious engagement with questions of cultural difference were not only widespread well before their supposed epiphany during the fifth century B.C.—the point at which Greek identity is purported to have switched from “ethnic” to cultural criteria1but also intrinsic to the processes by which identities (of any kind) were constructed. If “ethnographic discourse” was indeed manifest in a variety of contexts outwith traditional genre-writing—and therefore just as important in contexts in which we have little or no literary evidence for an interest in the manners and customs of one’s neighbors or those further afield—then it should be possible to map its various features and contours, in a manner sensitive to local nuances and complexities: the networks of trade and association that connected settler and indigene, thriving metropolis and remote farming community. Time, space, and the availability of evidence mean that this will remain a partial and somewhat uneven treatment of the period in question; our survey will alternately zoom in and out, focusing upon particular questions or locales in some detail while merely alluding to others in passing. Although the result may be a somewhat

1 E. Hall 1989; but especially J. Hall 1997, 2002.

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