Michael Herzfeld: "Subversive Archaism: When Local Communities Defy State Culture"

Departmental Seminar Series features Michael Herzfeld, Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences, Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, Harvard.

The seminar is followed by informal gathering, at which refreshments are served. All are welcome!

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Photo: Anthropology, Harvard


Drawing on his fieldwork in Thailand and Greece, the speaker will address the consequences for local communities of claiming a deeper or more authentic knowledge of “national culture” than that possessed by an intrusive bureaucracy.  One community he will present has been completely demolished by the Thai military and its residents scattered; the other, in the democratic setting of present-day Greece, was humiliated and vilified in ways that have left deep scars.  Why does this happen?  What is the breaking point?  And what aspects of local renditions of culture so particularly infuriate officials that they respond with disproportionate verbal abuse and physical violence?  What, finally, do these interactions tell us about the significance of “national culture” and “national heritage”?

Research Profile 

Michael Herzfeld is the Ernest E. Monrad Research Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University. Hertzfeld’s research ranges from Greece and Italy to Thailand, and has been concerned with the topics of ‘cultural intimacy’, bureaucracy, history of anthropology, social poetics and the politics of history. His current research activity includes completion of a book and a film about historic conservation and eviction in Bangkok and planned new research on Italian-Chinese interactions in Rome and on the profession of town planning in Italy and elsewhere. 

In addition to numerous articles and reviews, he has authored the following books: Ours Once More: Folklore, Ideology, and the Making of Modern Greece (1982), The Poetics of Manhood: Contest and Identity in a Cretan Mountain Village, Anthropology through the Looking-Glass: Critical Ethnography in the Margins of Europe (1987), A Place in History: Social and Monumental Time in a Cretan Town (1991), The Social Production of Indifference: The Symbolic Roots of Western Bureaucracy (1992), Cultural Intimacy: Social Poetics in the Nation-State (1997; a second, revised edition has just been released [2005]), Portrait of a Greek Imagination: An Ethnographic Biography of Andreas Nenedakis (1997), Anthropology: Theoretical Practice in Culture and Society (2001), The Body Impolitic: Artisans and Artifice in the Global Hierarchy of Value (2004), and Evicted from Eternity: The Restructuring of Modern Rome (2009). Several of his books have appeared, or are scheduled to appear, in other languages (Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Serbian, Croatian, Polish, and Chinese; a chapter of another has appeared in Japanese). He also filmed and produced Monti Moments: Men's Memories in the Heart of Rome (2007). Further information



Published July 21, 2019 5:28 PM - Last modified Oct. 21, 2019 6:06 PM