The reading of Schneider Vigilance and Virgins by Jane Schneider was an interesting read on honor and shame in the more rural and pastoral parts of the Mediterranean. I found it interesting in how the reading portrayed how inheritance works in the various societies, and how this is affected by how men and women are treated in these societies. In the section titled “Fragmentation in Pastoral Societies of the Mediterranean”, I found it interesting how the author in a way states that pastoral societies with low resources will tend to form economic units centered around the immediate family. This might make it more honorable in a way to conserve resources, and might influence the culture to use less as well as creating strong family ties. There is also a part discussing how inheritance works in some parts of the European side of the Mediterranean, and how one’s sons and daughters will have equal parts of a inheritance. There is however also a part that discuses how this can lead to tension and distrust within a family, as the land will not always be given equally. In most of the European side of the Mediterranean, it seems that the inheritance is usually given to the head male of the family, however the author does talk about how this can lead to distrust between farther and son over the inheritance. On the flip side, the author at some point mentions how in pastoral societies that the husband will in one way or another show distrust towards his wife, as his wife could undermine her husband and his inheritance. So what is with all this distrust in these societies when in comes to one’s inheritance?
This reading by Jane Schneider discusses the pastoral groups of the Mediterranean, their beliefs in honor and shame, and how women play a role in their societies. This article again poses the question of what constitutes as being “Mediterranean”. In the beginning she says she defines this area by the people who share these common themes of honor and shame and how it relates to the women of the group. That is a really broad definition of the Mediterranean. Multiple times she discusses the Fulani tribe as being in the Mediterranean because of their honor and shame rules but the Fulani are mainly in central Africa. Is she purposing the Mediterranean stretches this far? Also through the article she describes practices that remind me of class discussions about polar opposite behaviors. In class this is related to the discussion of the Evil Eye but here it is with the practices of herding. A herder watches over and brands his heard in order to protect it but if he has never lost an animal then he is a “sissy”. The later part of the article is what interested me the most. While the Mediterranean shares ideas of honor, each culture expresses it differently. I found it so fascinating how women in Sicily were on the same level as the men and inherited the same as them while Arabs described women as “cows of Satan”. If sons are the key to prosperity and sons come from women, how are women descended from Satan while men are descended from God?
I enjoyed this reading. It shed more light on the honour and shame aspect of the Mediterranean; which seems to be the focus of a lot of research in the area. The information I found most helpful was her in depth descriptions of the cultures that the honour and shame customs come from. Schneider focused on the pastoral societies on the Mediterranean. Which she described as the regions surrounding the sea that had a emphasis on the chastity of women. In the reading she talks about the nuclear family organisation of these societies from small families to larger groups. How these societies set up their lineage systems, controlled their animals, thoughts on theft were all intertwined with the honour and shame they displayed. One example I found interesting was that if a dowry cow was stolen it was fought more about then if it had been a regular herd cow. So why is it that these pastoral societies show more of a culture around honour and shame then a more ‘European’ society?
I found this article interesting as it takes a different viewpoint of history in the Mediterranean. Through the other readings I have not really thought about the history of anthropology in the Mediterranean. I have heard and learned about this region through my history and Latin classes but never thought how that information was gathered at times. Albera puts the times and processes of anthropology in the Mediterranean into understandable stages. In the 1950s it was dominated, like most studies through history, by Anglo-Saxon scholars who took their own bias into their research. These scholars seemed to only focus on the honour and shame factors of the “Mediterranean” cultures. For me it seemed like the article never really answered why they only seemed to be focused on that aspect of the culture in the Mediterranean. It discusses how this was one of the criticisms of the early anthropology studies and how in other anthropology studies at the time focused on factors like material culture, technology, food, magic, religion and healing practices. So why did the first anthropologist only focus on honour and shame?
To help you out with your readings this week (week 3), I want to ask you to think about identifying particular arguments (paradigms) for thinking about the Mediterranean as a cultural space. Make a list of these various paradigms. Flesh out their components. Then flesh out the critiques by the authors. Then think about your own assessments.
I have to say I have learned a lot from what I read until now. I found it interesting in how some think of the Mediterranean as two civilizations, with the two civilizations being, or so I believe, the mostly Christian Europe side of the Mediterranean and the mostly Islamic African and Asian parts of the Mediterranean. I also found it interesting in how in one of the readings, the author mentioned that all the cities of the Mediterranean might be considered to have a mix of the various cultures and peoples that make up the cities, as well as having their own identity.
The current debate over whether to accept Syrian refugees has echoes of a different time when another wave of people were leaving a Mediterranean country. They were seen by some Americans as being so alien in religion, culture, education, politics and law, that they could never be assimilated. They were even suspected of ties to terrorism. These were the Italians.