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Reviewed by:
  • Tradition in the Frame: Photography, Power, and Imagination in Sfakia, Crete by Konstantinos Kalantzis
  • Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins (bio)
Konstantinos Kalantzis, Tradition in the Frame: Photography, Power, and Imagination in Sfakia, Crete. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2019. Pp. xiii + 321. 42 illustrations, 3 maps. Paperback $35.

Based on fieldwork in Crete, Tradition in the Frame is an ethnography that turns the seemingly facile observation that tradition is important to Greeks into a fascinating exploration of how visuality, and photography in particular, shapes dynamics of power and people's understanding of themselves. The book is a mediation on visuality, materiality, and what Kalantzis calls "montage logic." It is also an intimate window onto Sfakia, a mountain village of southwestern Crete that has been an object of intrigue, fear, and disdain from outsiders, with these attitudes often being mediated by visual technologies.

Kalantzis reveals a complex, dialectical reality in which stereotypes are lively, generative, and materially embodied phenomena (e.g., 125). Associated with stereotypes by outsiders, Sfakians performatively engage those stereotypes in ways that shape their understandings of themselves and their hopes for the future. Stereotypes are themselves products of animation by their performers. Kalantzis illuminates some of the limitations of applying Orientalism to the Greek context—or indeed to any context where a local can benefit from performing the tourist's fantasy of himself. In chapter 4, "Performing the Stereotype," Kalantzis argues that cultural domination by imperial forces, national ideologies, or elite scholars is never complete: it always has "cracks" (121). Considering Sfakians' avid taking, collecting, and circulating of photographs, he highlights what he calls "instances of local cultural productivity" (123). Even when Sfakians embody stereotypes that correspond to folklorists' understanding of their traditions, they imbue their practices with their own meanings, which may well transcend folklorists' representations of Crete. Materiality and visuality powerfully inflect the politics of belonging in Sfakia, in Greece, and in the world more generally. [End Page 257]

In chapter 6, "Who is Imagining?: The Encounter between Shepherds and Scientists," Kalantzis describes "local use of regional sources composed by outsiders as a means of self-assertion" (181). Kalantzis's treatment of stereotypes and orientalism doubles as a powerful critique of anthropologies of tourism that treat tourism as a form of subordination through consumption and commodification. Imagining tourism only as subordination implies that the disadvantaged locals are nothing more than passive (or disgruntled) victims. If tourism is only domination, then the visited victims are the embodiments of (essentialized) authenticity that tourists imagine them to be—or rather, they were such embodiments until tourism began to corrupt and dominate them from a self-contained outside world. Kalantzis's ethnography undermines such a view by demonstrating what he calls the dialogic natures of the local and the global, of self-gazing and being gazed upon, of tradition and modernity.

Kalantzis shows that Sfakians are always in what Anna Tsing (2011) calls "friction" with global or national forms. Kalantzis wants readers to unfix Sfakians from essential categories. Localness is one such category. Kalantzis shows how many different influences penetrate Sfakians' everyday lives. In the final chapter, "Sfakians and Tourists," for example, he enumerates the differences among the kinds of tourists—both Greek and non-Greek—who visit and photograph Sfakia. He uses the term "montage logic" to describe "how Sfakians . . . synthesize elements from the realm of tradition and from the landscape of modernity in ways that allow them to stake proud claims to difference within modernity" (238). Sfakians synthesize elements that come not only from tourists but from EU subsidies, urban Cretans, folklorists, and even, arguably, the people they least wish to emulate: recent immigrant and Roma communities. Given Kalantzis's interest in movement and globality, I was surprised to see only two scant references to the latter two groups (216–217, 236).

While Kalantzis is arguing for complexity, he also relies, as if by accident, on fixed or dyadic terms. Pairings such as global and local, traditional and modern, indigenous and colonial, urban and rural, feature heavily in the book. One of the most prominent narrative choices made by Kalantzis is his use of the word "indigenous" to describe Sfakians. I would have liked to know more about this...


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pp. 257-260
Launched on MUSE
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