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Power through Submission in the Anastenaria Loring M. Danforth In recent years anthropologists have increasingly turned their attention to the analysis of women's lives and the roles women play in societies throughout the world. Excellent examples of work in this area can be found in Women, Culture, and Society edited by Michelle Rosaldo and Louise Lamphere. The essays in this collection raise many important questions and provide valuable theoretical constructs with which to answer them. Rosaldo and Lamphere suggest that we should examine women as "social actors whose goals and strategies are intrinsic to the process of social life" (p. 11). In this way we are forced to confront the following questions: What is the exact nature and extent of the powers exercised by women in various societies? How and in what context do they exercise these powers? Rosaldo and Lamphere argue that in attempting to answer these questions we must keep in mind the universal structural opposition between the domestic sphere, with which women are associated, and the public sphere, with which men are associated. Closely linked to this opposition is the "asymmetry in cultural evaluation of the sexes" (p. 17) by which women are denied the authority, prestige and cultural value which men are accorded. This asymmetry does not, however, imply that women are powerless . Drawing on Weber's distinction between authority and power, Rosaldo and Lamphere are careful to point out that while men exercise culturally legitimated authority over women, women nevertheless have many kinds of informal power by which they are able to influence others and attain personal goals. As a result of the distribution of authority within a society the exercise of power by women is often seen as manipulative and illegitimate (p. 21, 97-112). The challenge facing anthropologists is to specify the exact nature of women 's power as it is exercised in the context of male authority. The purpose of this paper is two-fold. First I present a general analysis of the strategies and powers used by women in rural Greece 203 204 Loring M. Danforth as they participate in the process of social life. I draw on the work of Rosaldo and Lamphere as well as on Ernestine Friedl's important article: "The Position of Women: Appearance and Reality." Here Friedl anticipates two of the central contributions of Rosaldo and Lamphere. Friedl's distinction between the public and the private sectors parallels Rosaldo and Lamphere's distinction between the domestic and public spheres, while her distinction between the "appearances of prestige" and the "realities of power" parallels Rosaldo and Lamphere's use of Weber's distinction between authority and power. My conclusions, based on fieldwork carried out in the village of Ayia Eleni in the nome of Serres in Greek Macedonia in 1975—76,' suggest that Friedl's argument should be modified in two important respects: the definition of the public sphere must be revised, and the specific strategies available to women to influence the men who have authority over them must be re-examined. The second half of this paper is devoted to an analysis of the Anastenaria, a ritual involving trance and possession which is performed in Ayia Eleni and in several other villages and towns in northern Greece. During ritual gatherings, women who participate in the Anastenaria are possessed by Saint Constantine. At such times their actions and utterances are attributed to the saint himself. In this way these women gain access to the supernatural power of a male saint and are able to act as males, in public, and with an authority which would ordinarily be restricted to men. However, in spite of the fact that the vast majority of cult members are women, the Anastenaria does not constitute a world free from control by men. The patron saint of the cult and the cult leader are both male. In order for a woman to attain the power and prestige which is associated with cult membership and which is traditionally limited to men, she must obey the orders of the cult leader and submit completely to the will of the possessing saint, which is established by social consensus. Paradoxically, then, a woman's strategy to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 203-223
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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