I take the opportunity of the publication of this special anthropological issue of the Journal of Mediterranean Studies and its thematic affinity with Contested Identities () to pursue a comparison between them at two levels.1 I want to employ these two collective ethnographic volumes as points of reference in time and comment on transformations and reconfigurations both at the level of socio-cultural reality as captured in ethnography and the level of the very medium of ethnographic reporting, i.e. the ethnographic text itself. The time frame of this comparison is roughly the Greek Metapolitevsi, and particularly the period from the 1980s, a period that is ethnographically covered by Contested Identities, and the current decade, which is covered by the present volume. Here, in this short comment, I will use ethnography as a historical source, a testimony on sociocultural matters in a specific conjuncture, in order to raise two sets of questions. What does the comparison between the essays in the two volumes tell us about changes in the spheres of gender, sociality and work during the last 20–30 years? And, further, what do the two volumes in themselves—in their theoretical frameworks, their narrative style and the identity of their authors—suggest about the long term of Greek ethnography? As a conclusion I will offer some reflections on the achievement of cultural distance in the context of ethnography ‘from nearby’.