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Nommer et classer dans les Balkans

 | 
Gilles de Rapper
, 
Pierre Sintès

Première partie. Aroumains, Valaques et Sarakatsans : Nommer et classer les pasteurs aroumains dans les Balkans

Vlach Women and Modernization: a footnote to progress*

Nick Balamaci

Résumé

Dans ce texte, l’auteur se demande si le processus de modernisation, sous ses diverses formes, a représenté un progrès pour tous les groupes qui l’ont connu. Il part de l’exemple des femmes valaques et de leur assimilation dans l’État grec moderne pour mettre en question l’affirmation selon laquelle la modernisation a été une bonne chose pour les Valaques. Il admet que la modernisation peut avoir été une bonne chose pour les hommes valaques, auxquels l’hellénisation a offert des possibilités en termes de pouvoir, prestige et richesse, mais que l’on s’est peu demandé si cela était vrai également pour les femmes. Et pourtant il semble que les femmes valaques avaient plus de liberté, de pouvoir et d’autorité dans leur société traditionnelle que dans l’État-nation grec et la société grecque qui les ont assimilées. Le texte s’appuie sur des sources diverses – mode de vie valaque, récits de voyageurs, langue – pour montrer que le progrès social que l’on supposait jusqu’ici avoir accompagné l’hellénisation n’a peut-être pas été général.

Texte intégral

  • * This paper was written in May, 1988, and has not been updated for this publication.
    Bibliographical (...)
  • 1 C. E. Black, The Dynamics of Modernization (1966), p. 5-6.

1Though the distinction between “traditional” and “modern” societies seems a useful one (and indeed forms the very basis of the periodization of the last 1000 years of European History),1 at least one aspect of the various theories of modernization has rightfully come under fire: the liberal faith that increasing commercialization, industrialization, urbanization, and centralization all represented “progress.” The pioneer of modernization theory C. E. Black put it this way:

  • 2 Ibid., p. 26-27.

“[I] ndeed, it has often been asserted that an era of ‘progress’ has arrived in which the benefits of man’s new knowledge can be made available to all... Yet it is well known that modernization has been accompanied by the greatest calamities that mankind has known.”2

2 In spite of this, the notion of “progress” has been notoriously hard to delete from the concept of modernization, even in the very historical writing which wishes to do away with that notion. This tendency of “progress” once thrown out of the door of the modernization household to climb back in through the window is evident when the discussion turns to the effects of this process on women. Black, for example, has the following to say about that process:

  • 3 Ibid., p. 22.

“Relations between men and women also undergo a marked change, for until the modern era the status of women was based on the circumstance that the livelihood of most people depended on heavy physical labor, which men are best able to perform. The gradual replacement of physical with mechanized labor and with clerical and intellectual work, greatly reducing this age-old functional inequality, has challenged the pattern of relations that had been accepted for many centuries... Education has been the principal vehicle for the emancipation of women, making professional, managerial, and clerical occupations available to them. At the same time, the legal and social status of women has undergone a transformation designed to give them opportunities and responsibilities equal to those of men.”3

  • 4 See, for example, J. Scott, L. Tilly, Women, Work, and Family (1978); J. Nash, “A Critique of Socia (...)

3On the contrary, more recent historiography has seen the modern period as one in which women lost the degree of equality with men they had enjoyed when the family economy was based on household production, and in which women also lost their autonomy, being forced eventually to remain at home while men participated in the new industrial economy.4

4A more specific counterstatement to this notion of “progress” as regards women is found in the work of Joan Kelly. In her Women, History, and Theory, Kelly illustrates how women’s history is an important corrective for Western historiography; speaking of the typical historical perception of great social change during Classical antiquity, the Renaissance, and the French Revolution, Kelly notes that

“Regardless of how these periods have been assessed, they have been assessed from the vantage point of men. Liberal historiography in particular, which considers all three periods as stages in the progressive realization of an individualistic social and cultural order, expressly maintains... that women shared these advances with men... To pursue this problem is to become aware that there was no ‘renaissance’ for women—at least not during the Renaissance. There was, on the contrary, a marked restriction of the scope and powers of women. Moreover, this restriction is a consequence of the very developments for which the age is noted.

  • 5 J. Kelly, Women, History, and Theory (1984), p. 3.

“What feminist historiography has done is to unsettle such accepted evaluations of historical periods. It has disabused us of the notion that the history of women is the same as the history of men, and that significant turning points in history have the same impact for one sex as for the other.”5

  • 6 Ibid., p. 2. The causal factor is seen as the increasing divergence between domestic and public sph (...)

5Not only do they not have the same impact, “what emerges is a fairly regular pattern of relative loss of status for women precisely in those periods of so-called progressive change.”6

  • 7 J. Gillis, The Development of European Society, 1770-1870 (1983), p. xi-xvi.
  • 8 See, for example, S. N. Eisenstadt, Tradition, Change, and Modernity (1973), especially the section (...)
  • 9 E. Boserup, Woman’s Role in Economic Development (1970).

6Certain aspects of the social changes experienced in the course of modern European history are also evident in the experiences of the Third World in our own time;7 the word “development” is often used in place of “modernization” in this case.8 The classic work on women and development, Esther Boserup’s Woman’s Role in Economic Development,9 was probably the first to depict the worsening position of women with modernization, yet saw that decline not as something necessary to the process but rather as an anomaly that could be improved through education. She has been criticized for this:

  • 10 M. P. Fernandez Kelly, “Development and the Sexual Division of Labor: An Introduction,” Signs: Jour (...)

“Unfortunately, the experience of the last two decades has failed to validate this optimistic view. On the contrary, recent writings point not only to an increase in the gap between men’s and women’s earnings throughout the world but also to a deterioration of women’s educational gains.”10

  • 11 See, for example, C. M. Elliot, “Theories of Development: An Assessment,” Signs 3, 1 (1977), p. 1-8 (...)
  • 12 C. Tilly, “Retrieving European Lives,” in O. Zunz (ed.), Reliving the Past: The Worlds of Social Hi (...)

7The literature of development is especially valuable because in it there has been more of an attempt to explain why the position of women has deteriorated. It is most often the economic system (i.e., capitalism) that is cited,11 as opposed to reasons having to do with culture. Yet “the forward march of capitalism” is not the only approach to the study of modern Europe, and economics are not the only process at work in Europe’s development; another major approach to modern Europe is through what Charles Tilly has called “statemaking”.12 This process witnessed, amongst many other things, the assimilation of traditional, local societies to new national cultures based in and emanating from cities. In his well-known work describing state-making in France, Eugen Weber says,

  • 13 E. Weber, Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870-1914 (1984), p. 486.

“We are talking about the process of acculturation: the civilization of the French by urban France, the disintegration of local cultures by modernity and their absorption into the dominant civilization of Paris and the schools... What happened was akin to colonization, and may be easier to understand if one bears that in mind.”13

  • 14 Ibid., p. 486-492.
  • 15 Ibid., p. 484.

8Weber goes on to press the analogy of “internal colonization” following political integration, in a way tying together the strands of the argument that a parallel of some kind exists between the development of Europe and that of the rest of the world (in which colonialism also played a key role—and indeed Weber even questions the difference between the two types of colonization, internal and external).14 Interestingly, he shies away from passing judgment on this process; he says instead, “Most of all this is neither good nor bad. It is. It happened.”15

  • 16 J. Kelly, op. cit. (supra, n. 5), p. 20; Nash, loc. cit. (supra, n. 4), p. 4-5; C. M. Elliot, loc. (...)

9Obviously, there is a qualitative evaluation underlying any writings which do attempt to show that a situation has changed for better or for worse. Liberal thinkers attempting to prove that there has been “progress” require a yardstick; so do feminist historians showing “deterioration.” What are the criteria by which we are to judge a social change as an improvement or not, for men or for women? Kelly and others tend to focus on the contraction or expansion of social and personal options and powers: More are better, less are worse.16 That most women’s options and powers seem actually to have decreased even as those of most men were increasing thus gives us reason to question the positive connotation often given to “modernization.”

  • 17 The key English-language work on the lifestyle, culture, language, and history of the Vlachs is Wac (...)

10 In the Balkan Peninsula today, centering on the region of Macedonia, there exists a small Romance-speaking population alternately known as Vlachs, Arumanians, Koutsovlachs, Macedo-Romanians, and Tsintsars. Their self-designation is Arumani or “Romans,” and they are thought to be the descendants of the Roman and Romanized indigenous Illyrian, Thracian, Macedonian, and Greek population that arose in the Balkans after Rome’s conquest of that region in the second century B.C. Because of the importance of the pastoral segment of their population and because of their seasonal cycles of migration between mountain and valley, the Vlachs are often described as “nomads” or “transhumants,” but these labels are misleading: Not all Vlach settlements are seasonal—some are permanent. And even when an entire village migrates with the seasons, not all the villagers are shepherds. In fact, the Vlachs are equally well-known for their commercial activities, and they played a key role in Balkan economic, social, and political development in the early modern and modern periods.17

  • 18 Wace & Thompson 1913, p. 10 (their estimate is 500,000; they also cite the German scholar Weigand’s (...)
  • 19 See the figures in Z. Golab, The Arumanian Dialect of Krusevo in S.R. Macedonia S.F.R. Yugoslavia ( (...)
  • 20 T. J. Winnifrith, op. cit. (supra, n. 17), p. 1-8.
  • 21 See, for example, J. K. Campbell, Honour, Family and Patronage: A Study of Institutions and Moral V (...)

11One aspect of Vlach culture is its steady erosion by the surrounding cultures. Once a small but fairly compact group under the single dominion of the Ottoman Empire, the Vlachs by 1914 were divided among what are now the modern states of Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, and Macedonia, and since then have come to be largely assimilated by these four national cultures. At the turn of the century there were thought to be 375,000 to 500,000 Vlachs;18 an estimate for the year 1961 gave roughly 130,000 left;19 while the most recent researcher in 1985 has found only 50,000 remaining.20 Before the national states, the major cultural force to be reckoned with in the Balkan Peninsula was that of the Greek Orthodox Church, which had managed to dominate its Slavic competitors during the eighteenth century. The majority of the Vlach population has since at least that time been under the strong influence of Greek culture, and in fact the Vlachs played a crucial role in the emergence and development of the modern Greek state.21

  • 22 N. Forbes, A. J. Toynbee, D. Mitrany, D. G. Hogarth, The Balkans: A History (1970), p. 242.
  • 23 D. G. Hogarth, Nearer East (1902), p. 149, 170.
  • 24 H. N. Brailsford, Macedonia: Its Races and their Future (1906), p. 185.
  • 25 T. J. Winnifrith, op. cit. (supra, n. 17), p. 136-137.

12 It is this phenomenon, the Hellenization of the Vlachs, that is of interest here. The remarkable power of Hellenism in assimilating the Vlachs has routinely been attributed to the idea that there was some strong benefit for the Vlachs in being Hellenized; Arnold Toynbee, for example, has said that “Hellenism stands to them for the transition to a higher social phase.”22 In Nearer East, D.G. Hogarth saw the attraction of Hellenism for the Vlachs in the fact that it represented a “higher civilisation.”23 H. N. Brailsford felt the connection of the Vlachs to Greece to be self-interested and opportunistic, the result of the “undisputed primacy” of the Greeks (and of Greek as the language of commerce) in the Balkans in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries;24 again, the implication is functional, i.e., that there was some advantage to be gained by the Vlachs through their Hellenization. The most recent historian of the Vlachs, Tom Winnifrith, also cites the advantages and prestige of Greek language and culture as factors in the Hellenization of the Vlachs.25

  • 26 S. N. Eisenstadt, op. cit. (supra, n. 8), p. 23-25.
  • 27 The homogeneity of both Greek and Vlach traditional society is quite open to question; no scholar h (...)

13Commercialization, the spread of literacy, and the forging of new national cultures are all aspects of the process called “modernization.”26 Hellenism would seem to have been an agent of modernization for the Vlachs—a means of mobility, a way to leave behind their primitive mountain way of life and to enter the modern world of widespread education, of market society, and of nascent nation-states. The Vlachs had only to accept a Greek identity; in doing so, they moved from one traditional society that was not modernizing (Vlach society) to another traditional society that was (Greek society),27 largely because Greek society offered certain benefits—at least according to the above hypotheses. Hellenization seems somehow to have offered the Vlachs a better life, much as the stages of history from traditional society to modern imply the achievement of a better life for Western man.

14Taking the plight of women into consideration has been a powerful corrective to the Western notion of progress through modernization. The question is, does it do the same for Balkan history? Did the social changes that held benefits for men also benefit women, or did they mean a disempowerment of women, as in Western Europe?

  • 28 It should be kept in mind here that far more information is available concerning Greek culture, an (...)

15When we ask the question this way—whether, when women are taken into account, Hellenization truly represented something like “progress” for the Vlachs—we arrive at a much different answer. Hellenization turns out to have been something of a misfortune for Vlach women by almost any objective measure, a misfortune that has gone almost completely unnoticed simply because no one has bothered to ask such a question. We can best illustrate this by comparing the position of women in Vlach culture and their position in Greek culture.28

16Wace and Thompson, English scholars traveling through the Balkans just after the turn of this century, were struck by the difference in the position of women in these two cultures; we will thus quote them at length. In discussing the system of social calling in Vlach villages, they observe,

  • 29 Wace & Thompson 1913, p. 49-50 (It is hard to generalize in a region as diverse as the Balkans; the (...)

“The noticeable feature about these functions is the part played by women. Vlach women, unlike women in a Greek village, are treated by the men with far greater respect and in some cases almost as equals. The women pay calls like the men and both converse together freely. On the other hand the women rarely and apparently never as a regular habit eat with the men of a family. This is probably mainly a matter of convenience, since the women do the cooking, and does not necessarily imply any idea of inferiority... [W] hole families will go out for picnics together and in general both sexes meet as equals. The superior status of women... strikes one forcibly on coming from a Greek to a Vlach village... [T] he fully developed social system as regards calling which the Vlachs possess is, as far as our knowledge goes, totally unknown in Greece. Further the Vlach custom according to which a whole village or parish is at home to everyone else on the festival of the parish church is, we believe, peculiar to the Vlachs. The freer social life of the Vlachs, partly due to frequent travels, gives them in this respect better manners and a broader outlook on life. Consequently the Vlach women never become what the Greek village women so often are, drudges in the houses of their husbands, who often deem them little better than cook-housekeepers.”29

  • 30 Wace & Thompson 1913, p. 52. One would expect the unmarried female to be more restricted in her mov (...)

17Another unusual “freedom” enjoyed by Vlach women was the custom of visiting each other and sometimes staying the night on Saturday or Sunday nights; these overnight stays (known as azboru, “flying”) were actually more common amongst unmarried than married women.30 Married women, shortly after settling down into their new households, enjoyed the custom known as merinde wherein they would visit their own relatives and friends in the village for a snack and a chat at mid-day.

  • 31 E. Friedl, Vasilika: A Village in Modern Greece (1962), p. 90-91.
  • 32 Dubisch 1986. Friedl’s essay is included: “The Position of Women: Appearance and Reality,” p. 42-52
  • 33 E. Friedl, op. cit. (supra, n. 31), p. 90-91.

18The relations between the sexes in Greek culture, in contrast, have been characterized by Ernestine Friedl, a pioneer in the anthropology of Greece, as having “an atmosphere of covert mutual dislike.”31 Friedl takes great care—as we should, too—to emphasize factors which “mitigate... the severity of the relationship”; and in fact in a subsequent essay she proceeded further along this line by asserting that the appearance of the prestige of Greek men conceals the reality of the power of Greek women— power in being able to control both their own dowries and also men’s prestige (i.e., by being able to soil it through less-than-honorable behavior). This essay in fact was the impetus behind a volume entitled Gender & Power in Rural Greece,32 which, amongst other things, seeks to correct any notion that Greek women are completely without power. While all the essays in that volume essentially agree with Friedl’s original assertion that Greek men and women can indeed “overcome overt cultural attitudes of deference and covert attitudes of sexual mistrust,”33 it is precisely those cultural attitudes and their associated behaviors that interest us here, not so much how they may be overcome.

  • 34 Du Boulay 1974. This study is especially valuable in that it concerns a mountain village. Mountain (...)

19 Juliet Du Boulay, an anthropologist who studied a Greek mountain village in Euboea, has described this fundamental opposition between the sexes:34 Men are seen as logical, divine, superior, sexually pure, and strong, in contrast to women, who are irrational, demonic, inferior, sexually impure, and weak. Other attributes follow,

  • 35 Du Boulay 1974, p. 102. In her essay in Gender & Power (p. 139-167) entitled “Women–Images of Their (...)

“and are seen as deriving in principle from the inherent superiority of the man... Men are thought to be responsible, cool-headed, and brave; they alone bear the economic burdens of the house, stand between their families and starvation, fight in wars, and protect their women’s honor. Women are thought to be seductive, credulous, and fearful, endangering the house by their sexual weakness and their basic irresponsibility in the matter of gossip.”35

  • 36 Du Boulay 1974, p. 118. Cf. R. Kennedy, “Women’s Friendships on Crete: A Psychological Perspective, (...)
  • 37 Du Boulay 1974, p. 131-133.
  • 38 Ibid., p. 26-27, 208-209. Cf. R. Kennedy, loc. cit. (supra, n. 36), p. 129: “It is not considered c (...)

20These ideal roles plus the physical roles of men and women control their relationship so completely that outside of these roles, “any possibility of a personal relationship... is completely excluded.”36 It is also central to the woman’s role, for complex reasons which make sense within the framework of Greek culture, that she is obliged to remain in the house, in fact, “she is the house... a woman’s absence from the house is contrary to her role.”37 There is no evidence of a social calling system that is clearly women’s own,38 and in fact, what evidence I have found tends to point in the opposite direction; for example, Dr. Henry Holland, a British traveler, noted in 1815 that

  • 39 H. Holland, Travels in the Ionian Isles, Albania, Thessaly, Macedonia, & c. (1815), p. 24.

“Female society can hardly be said to exist here [on the island of Zante]. The ancient habits of the country still confine the women in great measure to their own houses...”39

  • 40 Ibid., p. 153-155.

“There will be found here [in Ioannina], however, as in other parts of Greece, a great disparity in this respect between the sexes... [The women] seldom leave the galleries or apartments of their own houses, but when going to attend the services of the church, or when going to enjoy the luxury of the warm baths... Though not secluded from intercourse with the men who visit their houses, whether Greeks or foreigners, they seldom exchange visits with other families, or partake in any common social amusements. Their female friends they chiefly see when at the baths...”40

21Perhaps the key point of contrast between Vlach and Greek culture as regards women, however, was the dowry; again, it is worth hearing directly from our sources:

  • 41 Wace & Thompson 1913, p. 104-105; see also p. 201. Another work cites the lament of a Vlach chiefta (...)

“The social life of the Vlachs in which both sexes meet on almost equal terms and the fact that a Vlach girl has no dowry means that theoretically in both betrothal and marriage there is a certain freedom of choice on both sides. How much this is so in practice it is not possible for a stranger to say. Among the Greeks no girl can hope for marriage unless her parents can give a dowry large enough to attract some suitable young man... The Vlachs all condemn this system alleging that it prevents free choice... [T] he position of women among the Vlachs is better than in Greek villages where a girl has no choice at all.”41

  • 42 See, for example, A. Foss, Epirus (1978), p. 104.

22The Vlachs themselves have the single custom of the bride’s providing a trousseau (paya) of woven goods and household equipment at the time of marriage. The Vlachs in Greece eventually did accept the custom of the dowry,42 which continues today in spite of recent laws against it.

  • 43 See E. Friedl, op. cit. (supra, n. 31), p. 41-59, who also observes (p. 56): “In fact, the grooms a (...)
  • 44 Ibid., p. 64ff.
  • 45 In fact, the “Greek custom” is not monolithic. A notable difference exists amongst the refugees fro (...)
  • 46 Du Boulay 1974, p. 128; see also p. 104. Cf. E. Friedl, op. cit. (supra, n. 31), p. 59, 64-70.

23Greeks, too, have the custom of providing a trousseau (rukha), but they add to this a dowry proper (proika). Once consisting usually of portions of land, the dowry is now most often paid in cash.43 Note that the dowry, like the subordination of females, seems to have a clear functional role within the framework of this particular culture,44 and we cannot even begin to criticize the system in its own context. We can only trace its features and those of an alternate system and then attempt to compare the position of women in each.45 To use the feminist historians’ criterion, it would seem as if a dowry system (as Wace and Thompson note) can only act to restrict the number of choices available to women. Whereas in Vlach culture, the economic prerequisite to marriage is available to any bride, in Greek culture it is not, and some women inevitably cannot gather the wherewithal either to marry or to marry well (i.e., to marry someone who is not old or infirm in some way). Though some argue that the dowry gives a woman security because under Greek law she retains certain rights to the dowry even after the marriage, in practice there is ample reason to doubt this: “Material power and authority, ... regardless of any economic provisions in the Greek legal code, belong to the man.”46

  • 47 N. P. Andriotis, Eτυμολογιkό Λεξιkό της Kοινής Nεοελληνιkής (1971), p. 262.
  • 48 H. G. Liddell, R. Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon (1940), p. 1852.
  • 49 T. Papahagi, Dictionarul Dialectului Aromân, general si etymologic2 (1974), p. 907.
  • 50 P. G. W. Glare (ed.), Oxford Latin Dictionary (1983), p. 2123.
  • 51 T. Papahagi, op. cit. (supra, n. 49), p. 782.
  • 52 The definitions are from P. G. W. Glare (ed.), op. cit. (supra, n. 50), p. 1079. The history of the (...)

24In fact, the different gender conceptions of the two cultures are to some degree evident even in the two languages: The usual Greek root-verb for marriage of either males or females is pantrevo, which is derived from the classical hyp-andros,47 meaning “under a man, subject to him, married.”48 Vlach, on the other hand, has a different verb for each sex: a man marrying uses nsurare; a woman, maritare. The former is derived from Latin in + uxor,49 meaning “in relation to” + “a wife.”50 The latter is derived from Latin maritare,51 which originally meant “to join or ‘wed’ (vines and trees grown to support them)” and in imperial Rome had come also to mean “to provide with a husband or wife, marry.”52 The image of subjugation of woman to man in the Greek is simply not evident in the Vlach which, if anything, seems to contain an almost egalitarian notion in both male and female terms. The Vlach also may acknowledge a different experience and point of view for men and women by using two different verbs, whereas the Greek would seem to allow for no other reality than that of the man to whom one is subject.

  • 53 S. B. Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity (1975), p. 188.
  • 54 H. Holland, op. cit. (supra, n. 39), p. 153.
  • 55 It may even be that the present can help shed some light on the past, which for the common people i (...)
  • 56 Wace & Thompson 1913, p. 50.
  • 57 H. Holland, op. cit. (supra, n. 39), p. 154.

25Among the possible explanations for these differences between two neighboring cultures are their antecedents; although both Greek and Roman classical civilizations were patriarchal in character and knew dowry systems, one study of the relative position of women in each society has concluded that upper-class Roman woman, at least, “had far more freedom than the woman of similar status in Classical Athens. The Roman woman had choices; the Athenian had none.”53 The Englishman Henry Holland traced the disparity between the sexes in modern Greek culture to Antiquity: “Even in the ancient times of the country this disparity appears to have existed.”54 But more research will have to be done on this subject before any definitive conclusion can be made about the common people of both classical societies.55 What is offered more plausibly as an explanatory factor is the simple fact of the mobility which is a cornerstone of the Vlachs’ way of life—they are constantly traveling, and this inevitably must broaden their perspective and widen their social experience. Wace & Thompson, as noted above, cite the Vlachs’ “frequent travel”56 as a factor in the relative freedom of Vlach women, while Henry Holland, in explaining the position of Greek women, says “They have none of the advantages which the men obtain from travel, but are secluded in great measure from admixture with the world.”57 Yet mobility alone is not a satisfactory answer; Wace & Thompson based their observations on nomadic and sedentary Vlach villages alike. Further, Islamic culture, for example, though hugely influenced by Arabian nomadic antecedents, is notorious in its restriction of female life. Thus the question of why such a difference exists between Vlach and Greek culture with regard to women will probably have to remain incompletely answered for now; for our purposes, at any rate, it is enough simply to note that a difference does (or did) exist.

26 If we use Joan Kelly’s simple criterion ofmore options and power meaning “progress” or a better situation for women, we see immediately that Vlach women were in a better position before becoming Hellenized. Thus, when writers have referred to the attractions of Greek culture for the Vlachs, to the advantages it offered, and to the benefits it conferred, they have made the same mistake that has been made in Western historiography: They refer only to the position of men and not of women. Hellenization meant “progress” and mobility only for Vlach men; Vlach women have suffered a loss of prestige, of power, and of choices. Despite the fact that this major social change has affected at least as many Vlach women in a negative way as it has affected Vlach men in a positive way, the male biases built into the historiographical method have caused historians to see only the effects on males as significant. Vlach women lost their freer social life, sustained the decline of their status in relation to men, suffered having to be “sold” or remaining a spinster, and beyond all that, they suffered in silence—no one even thought to ask them how they liked the way they were entering the modern world.

  • 58 See, for example, E. Pavlides, J. Hesser, “Women’s Roles and House Form and Decoration in Eressos, (...)
  • 59 See the extremely perceptive discussion by H. N. Brailsford, op. cit. (supra, n. 24), p. 181-184, o (...)
  • 60 It is by no means clear that Vlach women “gained” at any point in this process, even after adopting (...)

27Further, Greek cultural sanctions worked against the education of women,58 and so only in the late nineteenth century did these women begin to receive some of the direct benefits of modernity in the form of education; yet even then, that education was Greek and in part represented the efforts of the Greek nation-state to more fully assimilate the Vlachs and other non-Greek ethnic groups.59 Vlach women may have seemed to have finally gained something then,60 but at what cost? More importantly, what would women’s life have been like in a Vlach political society which embodied Vlach cultural values? My guess is that women there would have had a head start over their counterparts in Greece in the modern fight for women’s equality.

28 All this is not to say that Vlach society was somehow ideal for women or not patriarchal or even that it was “liberating” in any meaningful way—far from it. It is simply to say that modernization is not a series of linear steps, but rather may involve steps considered “backward” along the way; that history that is not holistic, that is, history that does not seek to examine the situation of all, can be terribly misleading in its conclusions; and that state-making, like any other process involved in modernization, does not necessarily represent “progress” and in fact can do harm to people and to society.

  • 61 J. Kelly, op. cit. (supra, n. 5), p. 20.
  • 62 “[A] solid, four-hundred-year-old tradition of women thinking about women and sexual politics in Eu (...)
  • 63 I. T. Sanders, op. cit. (supra, n. 41), p. 154, contends that Greek women “are not discontented wit (...)

29 Was the Renaissance really a renaissance for women? Kelly believes not, and by the objective criteria she adduces, she seems to be correct: “women as a group... experienced a contraction of social and personal options.”61 By the same standards, Vlach women suffered a reduction of options by their incorporation into the sexually more restrictive culture of the Modern Greek state. Our study thus tends to confirm Joan Kelly’s thesis that major social changes that have been seen as beneficial may actually have been beneficial only for men, and that the prime justification for women’s history may be that adding its unique vantage point can make us look at our history in a thoroughly new and more objective, complete, and fair way. There remains a further question, however, one which yet may be the most vexing of all: Did Vlach women perceive the changes wrought by their Hellenization as having been for the worse or for the better? In other words, had they been asked—as we contend they were not— whether Hellenization represented an improvement or a misfortune for them, how would they have answered? As was pointed out earlier, the criterion of “more or less options,” though arbitrary, has the virtue of being objective; but can one use objective standards to judge something as subjective as whether lives actually improved or not? While Joan Kelly can adduce such evidence as the querelle des femmes62 to indicate displeasure amongst women with the changes wrought in early modern Western Europe, such evidence points only to a tiny, articulate minority of elite women, not to the masses whose feelings at the time may just be inaccessible to us now. One is reminded of the various studies striving to prove a “rising standard of living” during the heyday of the Industrial Revolution; fortunately, there is abundant subjective evidence that in fact a great number of the people who lived through those days could have done without industrialization. Is there similar evidence of how most women actually felt about the development of Modern European or Modern Greek society?63 If so, we may need to dig it up before we can be truly confident in our assertions about women’s gains or losses.

30If it does not stand as proven that the position of women has deteriorated, however, the feminist perspective yet offers us two very solid achievements thus far: first, our startling awakening to the fact that almost no one has, until recently, even bothered to consider women’s views on the development of modern society; and second, the idea that until those views can be determined, it can never again be taken for granted, as it has been for so long, that that development has been for the better. If “deterioration” is not proven, at least we see that “improvement” is clearly not proven, either.

Notes

1 C. E. Black, The Dynamics of Modernization (1966), p. 5-6.

2 Ibid., p. 26-27.

3 Ibid., p. 22.

4 See, for example, J. Scott, L. Tilly, Women, Work, and Family (1978); J. Nash, “A Critique of Social Science Roles in Latin America,” in J. Nash, H. Safa (eds.), Sex and Class in Latin America (1976), p. 1-21.

5 J. Kelly, Women, History, and Theory (1984), p. 3.

6 Ibid., p. 2. The causal factor is seen as the increasing divergence between domestic and public spheres under capitalism; whereas production was once a family-household activity, it later became a public activity primarily for males, while females were relegated to the private sphere of the home (p. 10-11).

7 J. Gillis, The Development of European Society, 1770-1870 (1983), p. xi-xvi.

8 See, for example, S. N. Eisenstadt, Tradition, Change, and Modernity (1973), especially the section “Modernization and Development–The New Paradigm,” p. 11ff.

9 E. Boserup, Woman’s Role in Economic Development (1970).

10 M. P. Fernandez Kelly, “Development and the Sexual Division of Labor: An Introduction,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 7, 2 (1981), p. 268-278. The full critique of Boserup which this article summarizes is in the same issue of Signs, p. 279-298: L. Beneria, G. Sen, “Accumulation, Reproduction, and Women’s Role in Economic Development: Boserup Revisited.”

11 See, for example, C. M. Elliot, “Theories of Development: An Assessment,” Signs 3, 1 (1977), p. 1-8. Of the four traditions discussed by Elliot (cultural dualism, social evolutionary thought, developmentalism, and dependency theory), one is cultural while the other three are predominantly economic at least in the way they are applied to women and development. While Elliot does point out the shortcomings of an economic approach divorced from culture, other writers are more strongly convinced of the economic causes of women’s problems; see the article by Beneria and Sen cited above.

12 C. Tilly, “Retrieving European Lives,” in O. Zunz (ed.), Reliving the Past: The Worlds of Social History (1985), p. 11-52. Of course state-making and capitalism are deeply interrelated processes, but that is not to say that either is the “cause” of the other. Capitalism is too often considered in isolation, yet it interacts with other processes which are important though not as obviously economically-based.

13 E. Weber, Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870-1914 (1984), p. 486.

14 Ibid., p. 486-492.

15 Ibid., p. 484.

16 J. Kelly, op. cit. (supra, n. 5), p. 20; Nash, loc. cit. (supra, n. 4), p. 4-5; C. M. Elliot, loc. cit. (supra, n. 11), p. 3; M. P. Fernandez Kelly, loc. cit. (supra n. 10), p. 269, 271; L. Beneria, G. Sen, loc. cit. (supra, n. 10), p. 288, 290.

17 The key English-language work on the lifestyle, culture, language, and history of the Vlachs is Wace & Thompson 1913. A more recent work which deals with history only is T. J. Winnifrith, The Vlachs: The History of a Balkan People (1987). On the role of the Vlachs in Balkan development, see T. Stoianovich, “The Conquering Balkan Orthodox Merchant,” Journal of Economic History XX (1960), p. 234-313, and V. Murvar, “The Balkan Vlachs: A Typological Study,” Ph.D., University of Wisconsin (1956).

18 Wace & Thompson 1913, p. 10 (their estimate is 500,000; they also cite the German scholar Weigand’s figure of 373,520).

19 See the figures in Z. Golab, The Arumanian Dialect of Krusevo in S.R. Macedonia S.F.R. Yugoslavia (1984), p. 16.

20 T. J. Winnifrith, op. cit. (supra, n. 17), p. 1-8.

21 See, for example, J. K. Campbell, Honour, Family and Patronage: A Study of Institutions and Moral Values in a Greek Mountain Community (1964), p. 3, n. 4; V. Murvar, op. cit. (supra, n. 17), p. 158, makes much the same point, though his concern is to show the degree to which the Vlachs were assimilated to Serbian culture.

22 N. Forbes, A. J. Toynbee, D. Mitrany, D. G. Hogarth, The Balkans: A History (1970), p. 242.

23 D. G. Hogarth, Nearer East (1902), p. 149, 170.

24 H. N. Brailsford, Macedonia: Its Races and their Future (1906), p. 185.

25 T. J. Winnifrith, op. cit. (supra, n. 17), p. 136-137.

26 S. N. Eisenstadt, op. cit. (supra, n. 8), p. 23-25.

27 The homogeneity of both Greek and Vlach traditional society is quite open to question; no scholar has yet done for Greece what Weber has done for France in Peasants into Frenchmen, though M. Herzfeld has opened the question brilliantly with his Ours Once More: Folklore, Ideology, and the Making of Modern Greece (1986). In all likelihood, one cannot even use such terms as “Greek society” before the nineteenth century, when nationalist ideology developed in Europe and began to forge new, national cultures in place of the idiosyncratic culture of each local region (pays or patridha) being incorporated into the new “nations.” Since then, our sources have spoken consistently in the terminology of nationalism, and Greeks and Vlachs as well as the anthropologists studying them have thus reified such new notions as “Greek society” and “Vlach society,” based on the most varied and even contradictory criteria (e.g., language, consciousness, or the boundaries of states—none of which ever quite coincide). Since the bulk of the evidence available to us speaks in such terms, however, we, too, are forced to assume that there were things we could reasonably call “Greek culture” and “Vlach culture” in the nineteenth century, based on the differences perceived between the two by scholars studying them in some depth. But though we may trust these scholars’ perceptions to some degree, nevertheless we must not assume that their generalizations necessarily held true for all Vlachs or all Greeks.

28 It should be kept in mind here that far more information is available concerning Greek culture, an accessible lowland culture which has made the transition to the modern world successfully, than concerning Vlach culture, a remote mountain culture which is not surviving modernity. Further, the studies of Greek culture have transcended mere ethnographic observation and description and moved on to sophisticated reconstructions of a cosmology; there is simply no equivalent study of the Vlachs (and, considering their present state of assimilation, there may never be). This may create an imbalance in the argument below, because whereas the Greek ideology of gender is much discussed, none at all is mentioned for the Vlachs. In the final analysis, we can only compare actual observations made about the two cultures’ treatment of women, since the rationale behind such treatment is available only for the Greeks.

29 Wace & Thompson 1913, p. 49-50 (It is hard to generalize in a region as diverse as the Balkans; the custom of the whole village being at home to everyone else on the festival of the local church, for example, is probably not peculiar to the Vlachs); and compare the section about food-serving customs with the experience of George F. Abbott at the dinner table in a Vlach household just a decade earlier: “we sat on cushions, the ladies of the house as well as the men—an arrangement which impressed me as a sign of uncommon refinement. Among the peasants of Macedonia women as a rule wait on the guests, but do not sit down to dinner with them.” G. F. Abbott, The Tale of a Tour in Macedonia (1903), p. 254.

30 Wace & Thompson 1913, p. 52. One would expect the unmarried female to be more restricted in her movements than the married.

31 E. Friedl, Vasilika: A Village in Modern Greece (1962), p. 90-91.

32 Dubisch 1986. Friedl’s essay is included: “The Position of Women: Appearance and Reality,” p. 42-52.

33 E. Friedl, op. cit. (supra, n. 31), p. 90-91.

34 Du Boulay 1974. This study is especially valuable in that it concerns a mountain village. Mountain villages tend to have certain similarities across cultural lines, as do lowland villages. Comparing a Vlach mountain and a Greek lowland village might show up contrasts that are simply the result of differences between mountain and lowland cultures; comparing two mountain cultures may better bring out differences which are more strictly cultural.

35 Du Boulay 1974, p. 102. In her essay in Gender & Power (p. 139-167) entitled “Women–Images of Their Nature and Destiny in Rural Greece,” Du Boulay concentrates more on the fact that women can be “redeemed” from their “fallen” nature through the institution of marriage, yet she stresses that “two factors, motherhood and age, act over the years not to modify the severity of the code under which women have to live, but to increase the respect which they are accorded within it.” (p. 158- 159). In other words, “while the superiority of men, with all its implications, is inevitably a value prominent in the culture, the redemption of women within the terms set by male superiority is a value that is equally important.” (p. 167)

36 Du Boulay 1974, p. 118. Cf. R. Kennedy, “Women’s Friendships on Crete: A Psychological Perspective,” in Dubisch 1986, p. 121-138: “Men and women spend relatively little time with one another, know little about each other’s domains, and have a great deal of animosity toward each other in general.” (p. 122)

37 Du Boulay 1974, p. 131-133.

38 Ibid., p. 26-27, 208-209. Cf. R. Kennedy, loc. cit. (supra, n. 36), p. 129: “It is not considered correct social behavior to be outside one’s neighborhood for a purpose not recognized by mainstream culture, and visiting a woman friend is not supported by the dominant culture. This proscription means that visiting often must occur in relative secrecy... Moreover, unlike men, who have the social institution of the kafeneion [cafe], women have no place or time specifically designated for social intercourse and relaxation.”

39 H. Holland, Travels in the Ionian Isles, Albania, Thessaly, Macedonia, & c. (1815), p. 24.

40 Ibid., p. 153-155.

41 Wace & Thompson 1913, p. 104-105; see also p. 201. Another work cites the lament of a Vlach chieftain as recently as 1953, valuable because it shows the gradual nature of assimilation of new customs as well as the direction from which those new customs come: “Ten years ago women took only their household equipment as a dowry; now they’ve started giving flocks as dowries. This accursed custom of the dowry has come up to us from the cities.” In I. T. Sanders, Rainbow in the Rock: The People of Rural Greece (1962), p. 115. The Vlach objection to the dowry no doubt includes the expense involved, but goes beyond that; as one female informant recently put it: easti canda s-ti vinda, “it is as if someone were to sell you.”

42 See, for example, A. Foss, Epirus (1978), p. 104.

43 See E. Friedl, op. cit. (supra, n. 31), p. 41-59, who also observes (p. 56): “In fact, the grooms are not interested in the rukha. As one villager phrased it, ‘It is land and money they burn for around here.’”

44 Ibid., p. 64ff.

45 In fact, the “Greek custom” is not monolithic. A notable difference exists amongst the refugees from Asia Minor who were settled in mainland Greece after the catastrophic failure of the Greek invasion of Anatolia in 1922; I. T. Sanders, op. cit. (supra, n. 41), p. 127 says that they “brought many family patterns new to those whose forefathers had lived in Greece itself. The women in refugee villages of Macedonia, for example, have more independence of decision than do those in nonrefugee villages.” This family pattern is nicely described in S. D. Salamone, J. B. Stanton, “Introducing the Nikokyra: Identity and Reality in Social Process,” in Dubisch 1986, p. 97-120. There are other parallels between the Asia Minor refugees and the Vlachs: the dowry custom was not as rigid, often consisting of the rukha only; the husband tended to bring property, as well as the wife; and they may have had an open system of social calling (S. D. Salamone, J. B. Stanton, loc. cit., p. 102, 106- 115). The refugees were largely resettled in Macedonia, traditionally the chief Vlach area; interestingly, while Greeks have tended to look down on both groups, the Vlachs and the refugees seem to have fit in well together and now often intermarry.

46 Du Boulay 1974, p. 128; see also p. 104. Cf. E. Friedl, op. cit. (supra, n. 31), p. 59, 64-70.

47 N. P. Andriotis, Eτυμολογιkό Λεξιkό της Kοινής Nεοελληνιkής (1971), p. 262.

48 H. G. Liddell, R. Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon (1940), p. 1852.

49 T. Papahagi, Dictionarul Dialectului Aromân, general si etymologic2 (1974), p. 907.

50 P. G. W. Glare (ed.), Oxford Latin Dictionary (1983), p. 2123.

51 T. Papahagi, op. cit. (supra, n. 49), p. 782.

52 The definitions are from P. G. W. Glare (ed.), op. cit. (supra, n. 50), p. 1079. The history of the changing meaning of maritare is from A. Ernout, A. Meillet, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine: histoire des mots4 (1967), p. 387.

53 S. B. Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity (1975), p. 188.

54 H. Holland, op. cit. (supra, n. 39), p. 153.

55 It may even be that the present can help shed some light on the past, which for the common people is so obscure. To cite just one example, the name of the custom of merinde comes from Latin merenda, “lunch” or “snack.” Could it be that the custom itself is a continuity from Roman times, and that common Roman women enjoyed a similar privilege? Such questions must be approached with great caution, however, as classical antecedents are a fiery issue amongst the two broad Balkan groups that can claim such antecedents, the Greeks and the Vlachs (the latter group including the Rumanians as well).

56 Wace & Thompson 1913, p. 50.

57 H. Holland, op. cit. (supra, n. 39), p. 154.

58 See, for example, E. Pavlides, J. Hesser, “Women’s Roles and House Form and Decoration in Eressos, Greece,” in Dubisch 1986, p. 68-96, especially the discussion (p. 93) of differential access to education in modernizing societies such as the one they studied in Greece.

59 See the extremely perceptive discussion by H. N. Brailsford, op. cit. (supra, n. 24), p. 181-184, of the culture-reproducing force represented by women in the Ottoman Empire, and the belated efforts of the Greek educational system to include females and thereby to eliminate non-Greek cultures. The most sophisticated discussion of the role of the modern Greek national ideology in the education of women is M. Herzfeld, “Within and Without: The Category of ‘Female’ in the Ethnography of Modern Greece,” in Dubisch 1986, p. 215-233.

60 It is by no means clear that Vlach women “gained” at any point in this process, even after adopting a Greek identity; in fact, the status of Greek women has diminished “as their society has undergone the transformation from a subsistence economy to a market economy while retaining both dowry and traditional restrictions on women.” Women seem only to gain if they “leave the village for urban centers where opportunities for education and wage labor exist.” E. Pavlides, J. Hesser, loc. cit. (supra, n. 58), p. 94. Even when women are educated and employed, they are at a marked disadvantage as compared with men; cf. the discussion of factors forcing women into lower-paying teaching jobs in I. T. Sanders, op. cit. (supra, n. 41), p. 247.

61 J. Kelly, op. cit. (supra, n. 5), p. 20.

62 “[A] solid, four-hundred-year-old tradition of women thinking about women and sexual politics in European society before the French Revolution. Feminist theorizing arose in the fifteenth century in intimate association with, and in reaction to, the new secular culture of the modern European state. It was the voice of literate women who felt themselves and all women maligned and newly oppressed by that culture, but who were, at the same time, empowered by it to speak out in women’s defense.” Ibid., p. 66.

63 I. T. Sanders, op. cit. (supra, n. 41), p. 154, contends that Greek women “are not discontented with their social relations.” The Gramscian “false consciousness” argument that these women are somehow self-deceived is anticipated and answered (inadequately, in my view) by Du Boulay 1974, p. 153-158. Significantly, if historical evidence does not exist of women’s responses to modernization, it is largely due to the traditionally male, upper-class orientation of history before social history and women’s history broadened the scope of the profession. Thus, women’s history is justified either way, i.e., whether women objected to or supported the developments in modernizing Europe, because in either event we can’t know the answer unless we include women in history—at the very least—or, at most, even grant women a history of their own.

Notes de fin

* This paper was written in May, 1988, and has not been updated for this publication.
Bibliographical Abbreviations:
Dubisch 1986 = J. Dubisch (ed.), Gender & Power in Rural Greece.
Du Boulay 1974 = J. Du Boulay, Portrait of a Greek Mountain Village.
Wace & Thompson 1913 = A. Wace, M. Thompson, Nomads of the Balkans: An Account of Life and Customs among the Vlachs of Northern Pindus.

Auteur

Est l’auteur de nombreuses publications sur les Balkans et sur les diasporas grecque et valaque. Il est diplômé en histoire de la City University of New York et de la Rutgers University. Il est actuellement secrétaire de la Society Farsarotul, la plus ancienne et la plus importante association culturelle valaque aux États-Unis.

© École française d’Athènes, 2008

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