- From Pax Ottomanica to Pax Europaea: The Growth and Decline of a Greek Village’s Micro-Economy by Dimitrios Konstadakopulos
To a sociocultural anthropologist, as I am, this book resonates. Dimitrios Konstadakopulos, a Senior Lecturer in Strategic Management, has read the classic ethnographies of Greece by John Campbell and Juliet DuBoulay. In addition to doing a good deal of archival analysis, he has conducted significant fieldwork in and of a rural Greek community that has been dispersed and displaced by colonialisms and more recently by neoliberalism and globalization. Konstadakopulos engages such historical and anthropological methodologies in response to his personal connection to a place; he visited Tsamantas, the Epirot village in which his mother was born, for the first time in 2000 shortly after her death. Overcome by the landscape, memories of his mother, and the stories about life there, Konstadakopulos admittedly had little choice but to begin this book.
I know relatively little about Epirus, but I have spent some time there and have had the pleasure of meeting some of the anthropologists most knowledgeable about the region, such as Laurie Kain Hart (1999) and Vassilis Nitsiakos (2010). That the author consulted them is a testament to this work. That he cites me (Verinis 2005) as opposed to Michael Herzfeld (1982), for example, when considering the subtle differences between the terms ‘Ellines and Romioí is an indication of the openness with which Konstadakopulos has approached this also deeply personal foray into Balkan history and Neohellenism. While the book is perhaps at times clumsy, such as in its review of so much literature outside of the author’s field of expertise, disciplinary cleverness is not something that interests Konstadakopulos, either. This book is a happy, genuine, and well-researched accident.
In addition to reviewing the works of some of the world’s foremost historians, anthropologists, economic geographers, rural sociologists, and other scholars, Konstadakopulos has unearthed the works of Tsamantiot historian Nikolaos Nitsos ( 1992). Nitsos’s work provides firsthand and place-centered accounts of many events or historical processes often glossed over in terms such as “the World Wars” or “Balkanization.”
Konstadakopulos also thoroughly reviews the spirit of Byzantine Hellenism that inspired much Greek λαογραφία (laografía, folklore) and informed Nitsos’s attempts to connect Tsamantas with ancient Greece. Placing Tsamantas within Greece spiritually as well as territorially was perhaps more easily done than it was for many other Greek villages, on account of the fact that Tsamantas remained somewhat autonomous for most of the Ottoman period. The forests and plains of Mount Mourgana in the prefecture of Thesprotia became a refuge from Ottoman rule, and by the second half of the eighteenth century, Tsamantas had become an important part of a network of 16 villages. It was not until the Albanian Muslim agas in nearby Filiates appropriated these villages and incorporated them into a çiflik in 1866 that Tsamantiots began to suffer socioeconomic and political oppression. Late in coming, the oppression was also late to leave Tsamantas, however. We learn that, despite the fact that this portion of Epirus became officially incorporated into the Greek state in 1913, the Albanian Muslim estates were not redistributed to the local peasantry until the 1930s. Nitsos’s insistence [End Page 400] that the toponym “Tsamantas” was directly connected to Byzantine aristocracy was a strategic counterclaim against any lingering Albanian territorial interests, beyond how factual it might also have been.
The economic plight of Tsamantas throughout the course of this history, despite the heartiness, entrepreneurial spirit, and creativity of its residents, is the primary subject of the book. Although there were occasional periods of growth, in which local weavers, tailors, cobblers, millers, builders, grocers, cheesemakers, and moneylenders began to meet the needs of nascent consumerisms (between the official Ottoman departure and the first World War, and again between World War I and World War II), Tsamantiots were forced to rely primarily on subsistence agriculture and the income from its itinerant tinkerers. Chapters 1 through 4...