Cultures and Politics in Rural Greek Macedonia

by Georgios Agelopoulos

Abstract of Ph.D. Thesis submitted to the Department of Social Anthropology, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge (1994)

The thesis is a study of the relationship between cultures and politics in rural Greek Macedonia. Applying a 'Modernist' approach on nation-building, it aims to contribute to the knowledge on the construction and manipulation of national and cultural identities in this area. The relationship between cultures and politics is examined within the context of: the history of Macedonia, the current wider socio-political Greek context, and that of a culturally mixed rural community in central Greek Macedonia (Nea Mesimvria).

An extended historical analysis of the process of creation of national groups in Macedonia provides the necessary background in order to understand the current situation. It is argued that in Macedonia, identification with a nationality during the initial nation-building period only partly overlapped with pre-existing cultural backgrounds. Special attention is paid to the role that 'the Macedonian issue' and 'the Slavs' as stereotypes have played as Others defying modern Greek identity. The importance that these stereotypes hold is revealed by the situation existing at the local level. In Nea Mesimvria villagers from all the cultural categories of the population ('Ntopii' Macedonians, 'refugees' descended from Bulgaria, 'refugees' descended from Eastern Thrace, Pontic Greeks, Sarakatsans) are aware of the flexibility, ambiguity and relativity that identities have. They contextually and politically manipulate them. The rhetoric of nationalism and history is often used by the villagers to provide further grounds for political negotiation. This analysis highlights the dynamic character of nation-building, boundary construction and the politicisation of culture.

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