Romanticising the Past

I thought that in both the chapter readings and the article, that, at different levels, both romanticized the past. Istanbul, and Turkey in general, has not always had a glorious past, yes at one point it was  a major economic capital for a large portion of the world, but there has also been extreme social unrest in the country as well, not to mention the capital has been tossed around from conqueror to conqueror many times over again. So I thought that it was interesting how sometimes, people tend to pick the good parts of the past to reminisce, and in this case, to fight for. The Istanbul chapters made me sad, the entire book seems to be filled with melancholy, poor Istanbul.

Work to Eat and Steal to Save

I had no idea how complicated the Greek crisis was. I have always found economics confusing, but these articles brought forth so many factors that were brewing for a long time and eventually led to the disruption of the Greek economy.

I found that in the readings, there were a few common problems that contributed to the crisis; historically, there has always been an abnormally large unemployment rate in Greece, tax evasion has basically been legalized, and the corruptness of a haphazardly organized government led to communication breakdown and mistrust in the government and legal systems of Greece.

Greece has apparently always had a large unemployment class, for various reasons, “The ratio of wage earners to the total working population was 35% in 1950 and reached 50% in 1980, when in other western countries the ratio was 80-90% or even higher.”

Furthermore, tax evasion seems to be widely accepted in Greece, which seems pretty odd to me in regards to trying to run a successful government, but hey I’m not an economist. The majority of Greece’s economy is comprised of small businesses, and a huge portion of these small business owners have special tax statuses, for some reason, these professions are “considered untaxable.” These professions include doctors, lawyers, electricians, plumbers, taxi drivers, retailers, tax collectors, residents of remote islands. Tax evasion has obviously been a long-running issue that has been practiced by all sorts of citizens, including civil servants and members of government, and because of this diverse population of tax evaders, the issue has been swept under the rug for a long time.

Along with tax evasion is a general lack of documentation, for example, the funds in public schools (Eat That! Strathis Stasinos).

These articles represented the complexity of the Greek Crisis, which has actually been a long running issue, and illustrates how difficult it will be to turn the situation around, and how many processes and procedures need to change in order for that to happen.

Revolution in Egypt

I was surprised that in none of the articles I read, was social media mentioned. Social media played a huge role in the social uprisings in Egypt. Multiple times, the internet has been ‘shut down’ in Egypt by the government, however, an anonymous  group advocating for social reform based out of Sweden (?) helped bring the internet back up on several occasions to share news with all of Egypt. This group also explained how to be smart social media and internet users, the Egyptian government is notorious for setting people up on sites like Facebook, mainly Egyptians that spoke out against the government on these social media platforms. This anonymous group helped organized the Tahrir protest by getting the internet back up and using social media like Twitter. Without social media and this social reform group, the Tahrir protest may not have been so ‘successful’ and I am surprised it was never acknowledged in any of the readings.

Something that I found interesting was in the article, “Building the New Egypt: Islamic Televangelists, Revolutionary Ethics and ‘Productive’ Citizenship” by Yasmin Moll. She explained the idea of “superficial religiosity” as being an outward show of religion purely to have the image of being devout, even though ones conduct does not align with these religious beliefs or practices. I thought this observation was important because it shows just how strict the government must be in Egypt and how closely tied religion is to the regime. Moll explains the ‘ethics’ behind religion as being more important than the practice itself. And I thought this was important, just because one prays five times a day does not mean that they can be selfish all they want. I also thought this was an interesting representation of Islam itself since the religion is often viewed as having very strict practices that one must follow in order to be a ‘good muslim.’

Another criticism of the articles that I read, given I did not read all of the posts at the bottom of the page, would be the representation of the protest itself. I thought that the protest in Tahrir was portrayed as being very successful, and I think many people would like to believe that is was, however it wasn’t. Yes, because of the protest the head of government stepped down, but only to be replaced by another extremist. Since Tahrir, there have still been protests that have been met with brutal government rebuttal, such as the 74 Egyptians that were killed in the football stadium. The Egyptian government is still seen as the most strict government when it comes to online and social media practices, they are still fish baiting innocent people online and subsequently going after them. The anonymous social reform group has actually removed most of their people out of Egypt after the Tahrir protest because it just became too dangerous. The one exception to this criticism would be A “Time out of Time”: Tahrir, the Political and the Imaginary in the context of the January 25th Revolution in Egypt by Hanan Sabea. He (she?) lists a number of horrible events that have occurred in the wake of Tahrir, “A year has passed since January 25th and with it more dramatic events of loss, death, violence, exhaustion, incomprehension.”

The Horns of the Mediterranean Dilemma- Hannah M

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?