chapter  2
32 Pages

Constructions of arcadia

In the course of writing this book I had an invitation to observe real pastoralism in practice by visiting the shepherds of a village in the mountains of Crete. During the late 1970s an American ethnographer, Michael Herzfeld, had studied the society of this village, which he called ‘Glendiot’, resulting in his book The Poetics of Manhood: Contest and Identity in a Cretan Mountain Village (Herzfeld 1985). He had found that these Cretans believed that they were living a way of life that had a continuity with that of shepherds in ancient Greece. ‘They do talk of the birth of Zeus on Mount Ida as though it were historical fact,’ wrote the ethnographer (Herzfeld 1985: 35). My single visit focused upon the notion of Arcadia. My conversations with the current ethnographer and with two young shepherds from the village raised some questions about how an idealised, literary notion of place can be used about a real place to express these shepherds’ idealisation of their way of life. Was ‘Glendiot’ Arcadia? When I returned from my

visit I wrote what follows in my journal. I offer it as a preface to this chapter.