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142 Reviews Michael Herzfeld, A Place in History: Social and Monumental Time in a Cretan Town. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 1991. Pp. xvi + 305. 39 photographs, 8 figures. $45.00 cloth; $16.95 paperback. In A Place in History, Michael Herzfeld returns to themes he discussed in earlier works. The most important of these themes are the role of bureaucracies in daily life, the contestation over the ideologies of nationhood in everyday discourse, and the popular construction of history. He chooses to examine these questions empirically dirough ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the town of Rethemnos during the 1970s and 1980s—a transitional period. This is an important book, addressing as it does major themes in both anthropology and social history in novel ways. Herzfeld demonstrates once again his ability to uncover macrolevel discourses in microlevel discussions. The book will be read profitably by both anthropologists and historians. Rethemnos's Old Town contains some of the best preserved Venetianperiod architecture outside of peninsular Italy. The archaic houses that line the city's streets stand as mute markers of Crete's rich and varied history. Therein lies their significance: simultaneously they are emblems of Greece's past— especially of its European past—and physical dwellings in which daily life is lived. When the state intervened in 1968 to reify these structures as historical monuments, the houses' dual nature caused clashes that opened up a host of intriguing issues. History stands at the book's heart. "This account of Rethemnos has been about conflicting visions of the past and their realization in the present. History is experienced both as an immanent property and as an external threat. The same question returns time and again: whose is the history and whose the discourse about it? Who decides what constitutes the history of this place? What are the common places of its warring histories? The development of the Old Town gives shape, smell and sound to a contested cultural topography" (226). As suggested in his subtitle, Herzfeld defines two distinctive concepts that shape his analysis. The first is "monumental time," which refers to the "official" story that is the nation's objectified, collective experience; the second is "social time," which encompasses the real-life experience of individuals over time. The houses of the historical district become sites for a struggle between these two competing discourses. But, as Herzfeld adeptly shows, the contest over the past can serve as a lens through which we may view social interaction and cultural constructions. The book is divided into seven chapters. The lengthy first chapter sets out the author's theoretical framework and introduces the reader to Rethemnos's historical events; it also foreshadows themes to be discussed in the remainder of the work: the conflict between homeowners and the bureaucracy, the town's economic and social structure, and ways in which both have changed in the recent past. Chapter 2 analyzes how various conceptualizations of the island's past are constructed and evaluated through a process that Herzfeld calls "structural nostalgia," which allows people to "attribute the superior qualities of the past to its more perfect adherence to a set of structured rules and principles Reviews 143 for the conduct of social life" (74). The end result of this process is not a unitary vision of the past but rather a multiplicity of histories, each expressed in ways both formal and mundanely informal. With the increased role of the state introduced most pervasively by the preservation laws of 1968, an official discourse of the past has challenged these alternative interpretations. Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 examine work, neighborhood, kinship, sociability , and hospitality—the intricacies of everyday life. Herzfeld shows how actions in the present are meaningfully rooted in notions of the past. For example, Cretans pride themselves on their renown for hospitality, but, like so much else in life, this renown possesses an inherent ambiguity. The outward display of hospitality, best exemplified by public treatment, is significant because it taps into a number of historically grounded Cretan identities, enabling its practice to act as a boundary marker. At the same time, it uneasily coexists with "roufiania" or pimping. This refers to the practice of informing the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 142-144
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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