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Reviewed by:
  • New Voices in the Nation: Women and the Greek Resistance, 1941–1964
  • Thanasis D. Sfikas
Janet Hart, New Voices in the Nation: Women and the Greek Resistance, 1941–1964. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. 1996. Pp. xiii + 313. With illustrations. $39.95 cloth, $16.95 paper.

Many Greeks saw the events of the 1940s as confirmation of the possibility of making history through the conscious negation of the existing order. Their new consciousness of history in the making led them to conceptualize the potential for new social structures and societies, and generated an unwavering commitment to direct and purposeful change. The origins and course of this attempt, as well as its international context and dimension, are increasingly well-documented, researched and accounted for. What remains still in its infancy is a systematic and methodologically rigorous inquiry into its grassroots dimensions and manifestations. This is the historiographical milieu in which the work of the anthropologist Janet Hart must be placed, as it endeavors to capture the active participation of Greek women in the EAM resistance movement and to gauge the extent to which this experience wholly transformed their lives.

Hart explores events in Greek political history in the 1940s and seeks to illuminate the social and political transformation that EAM tried to bring about. Her focus is on EAM’s attempt to institute a new social order that would include, inter alia, “unprecedented numbers of female citizens.” This, she argues, was “part of [EAM’s] bid for national modernity or a ‘modernist moment.’” Thus the aim of the book is to discuss the themes “EAM on women” and “women in EAM” as a direct consequence of the influence of the ideas of modernism that prevailed in interwar Europe.

Before dealing with the collective experience of female participation in the resistance and the opportunities this offered women to become agents of their own political fate, the author engages in a detailed and insightful examination of the ideas propounded by Antonio Gramsci in his Prison Notebooks. This is central to her argument, as the great Italian communist intellectual theorized on the organization of resistance to Fascist oppression. Hart finds similarities between Gramsci’s ideas and those of some leading EAM intellectuals such as Dimitris Glinos with regard to the need to create viable models of socialism that, instead of conforming to the emerging Stalinist straitjacket, would be flexible enough to fit indigenous conditions and needs.

Then she proceeds to examine the policy decisions and actions of EAM’s intellectuals in the broader context of collective action. The focus is firmly on Greek women and on an attempt to demonstrate how the modernist concepts of political mobilization, participation, resistance, and change made possible their active involvement in EAM. The evidence adduced consists of forty-four interviews that the author conducted with female members of EAM, and also some EAM literature.

Progressively, Hart’s analysis centers on mobilization based on gender, and on how Greek women fitted into the mixed-sex branches and offspring of EAM. This task is discharged successfully. The author demonstrates a formidable grasp of theoretical constructs and an enviable familiarity with the analytical tools of anthropology. What emerges with force and moving detail is the participation of Greek women, en masse and actively, in a supreme experiment of [End Page 378] social transformation. This left an indelible mark on the women’s lives and proved sufficient to sustain them through the hardships that followed the experiment’s defeat.

Even so, this is an uneven book that will cause historians to have serious reservations and misgivings. Errors of fact and interpretation mar what is otherwise an imaginative, passionate effort to remind us of some of the questions posed by Bertolt Brecht in Questions from a Worker who Reads: “Who built the Thebes of the seven gates? / In the books you will find the names of kings.” To begin with, the author fails to clarify what kind of inquiry this is. In the very beginning the clearly stated aim is “to explore events in Greek political history that occurred during the 1940s.” The suspicion that this may well be a work of history is reinforced at the very end, where...