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Reviews 129 sections, for it provides both a wealth of information and an analysis of the workings of the export economy of which Patras was a fulcrum. The factual information is generously laid out with the help of almost 30 statistical tables, graphs and diagrams. The analysis of the evolution of the export economy includes a discussion of the obstacles presented by that economy to various attempts at developing a separate manufacturing economy in the city. The final and concluding section of the book is only two pages long. The author chose merely to itemize his conclusions in seven sentence-long paragraphs followed by four slightly longer paragraphs that stress the predominance of the export economy over the social and economic life of the city. This is a study brimming with factual information on Patras' history derived from Greek government and local archives, French and British consular reports, and a plethora of secondary sources. Both the broad structure of the study and its inclination toward factual presentation and cautious analysis make this book a solid and useful introduction not only to Patras' history but also to the history of the region's export economy. Alexander Kitroeff New York University Loring M. Danforth, Firewalking and Religious Healing: The Anastenaria of Greece and the American Firewalking Movement. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1989. Pp. xiii + 305. Cloth $42.50. Paper $12.50. Do firewalkers get burned? And if not, why not? By the time Danforth answers, you have suspended disbelief long enough to have forgotten you had asked. Yet even to the most seasoned anthropologist, these are surely burning questions. This artfully constructed comparison of ritual firewalking in Greece and the New Age American firewalking movement offers us two sorts of answers from two seemingly contradictory perspectives, one oriented to the material world, the other to the world of meaning. Both perspectives agree on the first question: Sometimes people who walk on fire get burned, sometimes they do not. In explaining why people do not get burned, however, the perspectives diverge. The scientific explanation, which comes almost at the book's end, 130 Reviews "relies on the distinction between temperature, on the one hand, and heat or thermal energy, on the other. It is this distinction that accounts for the obvious fact that we are not burned if we touch the hot air inside an oven, while we are burned if we touch an aluminum pan inside the same oven" (p. 286). Since the coals prepared for the firewalk "are quite light and fluffy," the likelihood of being burned depends not on heat but on how much time or how many steps one's firewalk takes, the thickness of one's callouses, and precisely where in the fire one steps. At the earlier apex of the book's carefully developed argument, however, we find out that, to firewalkers, a burn is not always what scientists would call a burn. Rather, a burn is "a cultural construct. Whether a person was burned or not is defined by social consensus, not by medical examination. It is a decision made about a person, not about the skin on a person's feet" (p. 190). According to the hermeneutic explanation (and it is chiefly interpretively that Danforth understands firewalking), what is at stake in deciphering a physical mark as a burn is group membership. For example, an Anastenárissa who, in her kitchen, "touches a hot stove and later notices a small red spot on her finger would probably say that she got burned, but if the same small red spot appeared on the ball of her foot after she danced repeatedly through a bed of glowing coals, she would probably say that she did not get burned" (p. 190). That a scientist or physician would diagnose a burn would be irrelevant to her, as it is, at this moment in the story, to us. What is important is that, if you do not get burned you belong to the Anastenaria cult; if you do get burned, you do not belong. And what is at stake in group membership is healing through ritual therapy. Although Danforth accepts the scientific explanation for why people do not get burned...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 129-132
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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