I thought Herzfeld made some really good points in this article, even though it was difficult to follow at some points. Overall, Herzfeld concluded that the Mediterranean does qualify as a cultural unit, but he argued on how exactly we should define the geographical borders of the area. He gathered a lot of research from other anthropologists and examined their arguments on the Mediterranean as a cultural unit. He found weaknesses and some strengths in these arguments, importantly that much of the ethnographic research on the Mediterranean as a cultural unit is influenced by stereotypes and that weakens the foundation of these anthropological arguments. He pointed out that the inclusion of these stereotypes in research is perpetuating these stereotypes further and makes the research biased, whereas anthropological research and conclusions are meant to be objective. He made the same arguments for making generalizations about Mediterranean culture. He highlighted that these generalizations “(have) banished
the societies of the “sea in the middle of the earth” to the world’s political and cultural periphery.”
Furthermore, I thought it interesting that he argued that it is a weakness to use the term “Mediterranean Anthropology” because it is perpetuating a mindset that is determined to view the area as one entity and “threatens comparative analysis” aka the term is threatening to anthropologists ability to make objective, global comparisons.
I felt that the entire aim of his discussion was “to show what deep roots the Mediterranean stereotype appears to have put down in anthropological thought.”
His discourse raised the question can we/ should we base the Mediterranean cultural unit on purely ethnographic fact, which he abundantly proved is almost inherently flawed by biases and stereotypes, or on looser cultural observations?