Taking seriously critiques of historiography produced in recent decades, Vaia Touna advocates for an alternative approach to the way the past is studied. From Euripides’ tragedy
Hippolytus, to the notion of voluntary associations in the Greco-Roman world, to the authenticity of traditional villages in Greece,
Fabrications of the Greek Past argues that meanings (and thus identities) do not transcend time and space, and neither do they hide deep in the core of material artifacts, awaiting to be discovered by the careful interpreter. Instead, this book demonstrates that meanings are always relative to their present-day context; they are historical products created by social actors through their ever-contemporary acts of identification.
“By disturbing the notion of an easily knowable Greek past, Touna makes an invaluable contribution to critical scholarship regarding ancient cultures and to contemporary theory about ideological uses of history.”
- Naomi Goldenberg, University of Ottawa
“From an insider to Greek tradition, expert in its modern appropriations and translations,
Fabrications is an important stimulus to metatheory and self-reflexivity in the study of religion, ancient and contemporary.”
- Gerhard van den Heever, University of South Africa
“Vaia Touna expertly dissects modern discourses on the past, arguing that our contemporary interests don't just
color our accounts of the past, they
constitute them. A fantastic book.”
- Brent Nongbri, author of
Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept
Historically, all societies have used comparison to analyze cultural difference through the interaction of religion, power, and translation. When comparison is a self-reflective practice, it can be seen as a form of comparatism. Many scholars are concerned in one way or another with the practice and methods of comparison, and the need for a cognitively robust relativism is an integral part of a mature historical self-placement. This volume looks at how different theories and practices of writing and interpretation have developed at different times in different cultures and reconsiders the specificities of modern comparative approaches within a variety of comparative moments. The idea is to reconsider the specificities, the obstacles, and the possibilities of modern comparative approaches in history and anthropology through a variety of earlier and parallel comparative horizons. Particular attention is given to the exceptional role of Athens and Jerusalem in shaping the Western understanding of cultural difference.