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Dimitriou, Sibylla (1988) Gender roles and symbolic systems on an Aegean island. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis is based on fieldwork on the Greek island of Fourni in the Aegean, in which the main focus was women's position in social organization and in symbolic systems. After a general description of the island (history, politics, economy, social stratification), the thesis deals with three major topics: gender roles, the idiom of honour and shame, and women in religion and magic.;1. Women's economic roles and the constraints on their involvement imposed by their reproductive roles are considered. In the realm of kinship, the most intriguing feature is matrifocality. Similarly, domestic organization is matrifocal, which has significant implications for male-female power dynamics in the domestic domain. Ideological aspects of gender roles are also considered, and the antagonism inherent in the relation between the sexes and their conceptualisation of each other. Women in Fourni are by no means restricted within the domestic domain; they have important roles in the structuring of social relations that make for community cohesion and social reproduction; kinship networks, friendship between families, local trade contacts, public service transactions.;2. The Fourni material on honour and shame is very different from what has been reported from elsewhere in the Mediterranean, and questions Mediterraneanists' assumptions of cultural unity in the moral code. There is great cultural emphasis on sex, which constitutes a major topic of discussion between the sexes in everyday life and on ritual Occasions. The concept of honour is not confined to males, and the concept of shame is not confined to females. Differences in the constraints on sexual virtue and in the moral code between men and women are slight. There is a high incidence of adultery, women play a major role in resolving violations of the code and are viewed as the guardians of their own sexual virtue.;3. To discuss the Greek Orthodox religion I make use of the distinctions between Great and Little Traditions; elements of both traditions are described, as is the realm of magic, in enough detail to provide a map on which women's role and involvement can be discussed. It is not the universalistic features of the Great Tradition but the particularistic features of the Little Tradition that have been elaborated in the community and are the focus of symbolic conceptualizations of Fourni social relations, but the symbolic structures of the Little Tradition do not reveal much differentiation between male and female. The sexual division of labour in religion seems to follow the division of practical labour. It is suggested that women's greater involvement in religion and magic than men is an extension of their greater involvement in social organization, social reproduction, and the maintenance of social cohesion.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:24

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