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Factions, Friends and Feasts

Factions, Friends and Feasts: Anthropological Perspectives on the Mediterranean

Jeremy Boissevain
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Factions, Friends and Feasts
    Book Description:

    Drawing on field research in Malta, Sicily and among Italian emigrants in Canada, this book explores the social influence of the Mediterranean climate and the legacy of ethnic and religious conflict from the past five decades. Case studies illustrate the complexity of daily life not only in the region but also in more remote academe, by analysing the effects of fierce family loyalty, emigration and the social consequences of factionalism, patronage and the friends-of-friends networks that are widespread in the region. Several chapters discuss the social and environmental impact of mass tourism, how locals cope, and the paradoxical increase in religious pageantry and public celebrations. The discussions echo changes in the region and the related development of the author's own interests and engagement with prevailing issues through his career.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-845-2
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. List of Figures
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    This book is about my explorations into aspects of some societies in and from the European Mediterranean; it is not about Mediterranean society writ large. There has been lively and at times fierce debate among anthropologists about the extent to which ‘The Mediterranean’ is a social or cultural unity. This discussion, in which I also participated some thirty years ago (see Boissevain 1976, 1979a, 1979b and 1979c), has been ongoing since the 1960s. Dionigi Albera and Anton Blok (2001) have fortunately provided a timely, thorough and sensible analysis of the copious and often acrimonious attempts to delineate or challenge the...

  6. Patterns

    • Chapter 1 Seasonal Variations on Some Mediterranean Themes
      (pp. 13-19)

      Many writers have attempted to link climate to social behaviour.¹ The French, perhaps because their country embraces such diverse climates – but perhaps also because they have a penchant for grand theories – have given this interesting subject considerable attention. The ideas of Mauss and Braudel have been particularly significant. Mauss (1979) examined the impact of seasonal variation on the social life of the Eskimo. He showed how the starkly contrasting summer and winter seasons are accompanied by equally distinct patterns of social behaviour. While the details of this difference need not concern us here, the seasonal variation of social behaviour he...

    • Chapter 2 Unhealed Scars: Religious and Ethnic Diversity around the Mediterranean
      (pp. 20-27)

      Although Fernand Braudel wrote about the Mediterranean world in the age of Philip II, the unhealed scars to which he referred still exist. They are scars of hatred, prejudice, stereotype, suspicion and xenophobia. Some are centuries old, others are more recent; but all inhibit cultural exchange and contain the festering germs of conflict. These scars were once attached to specific geographical characteristics, for physical features provide the underlying reality of the religious and ethnic diversity around the Mediterranean Sea. Some, have travelled with migrants from the southern to the northern shores and thence, along with other scars, transported onward to...

  7. Communities

    • Chapter 3 Factions, Parties and Politics in a Maltese Village
      (pp. 28-41)

      In writing up my fieldwork I puzzled about which English terms to use for the various collectives and contentious divisions that criss-cross Farrug, the Maltese village in which I was staying.¹ In spite of the fact that almost thirty years ago Linton (1936: 229) suggested that the study of factions presented ‘an interesting and still almost unexplored field’, relatively little work has been done on the subject. Though Siegel and Beals recently discussed factionalism at considerable length in two interesting papers (1960a and b), they said little about factions, for their primary interest was the study of conflict. But regardless...

    • Chapter 4 Poverty and Politics in a Sicilian Agro-town
      (pp. 42-86)

      Leone¹ today is a town of some 21,000 inhabitants located about a mile and a half from the coast, halfway up a steep hill that dominates a fertile plain that runs down to the sea. Because of its lack of adequate water and sewage facilities, its lack of paved roads, its general rundown appearance and the dire poverty of the majority of its inhabitants, Leone in 1963 had the dubious reputation of being perhaps the poorest and most underdeveloped town in Sicily. But it differed only in degree from numerous other towns and villages in the ItalianMezzogiorno(the southern...

    • Chapter 5 The Italians of Montreal
      (pp. 87-114)

      The Italian community in Montreal has grown in three stages at an ever-increasing pace. The first began just before the turn of the century and lasted until the early 1920s; the second extended from the 1920s to the end of the Second World War; and the third from the end of the war to the present day [1960s]. Although an Italian in the service of Great Britain, Giovanni Caboto, otherwise known as John Cabot, discovered Newfoundland in 1497 and a number of Italians – missionaries, soldiers and traders – played a part in the country’s early history (Vangilisti 1958: 3–109), Italian...

  8. Questions and Puzzles

    • Chapter 6 The Place of Non-corporate Groups
      (pp. 115-129)

      There is a range of social phenomena that have received little attention from social anthropologists and even less from cultural anthropologists and sociologists. These are the forms of social organization that lie somewhere between interacting individuals on the one hand, and formal corporate groups on the other. Examples of such social forms are well known to all. I refer of course to the networks of relatives, friends, acquaintances and to the more intimate but often temporary coalitions which are formed out of these: the cliques, interest groups and factions of which all persons are members. These for the most part...

    • Chapter 7 Towards a Sociology of Social Anthropology
      (pp. 130-144)

      In their evaluation of the proceedings of the 1963 conference on ‘New Approaches in Social Anthropology’ Max Gluckman and Fred Eggan noted that the papers presented showed no new general orientation. Instead, they argued, they displayed a ‘determination to get on with the job with established orientations’ (1966: xxxi). The chief line of approach, they observed, had been ‘the drive for the refinement of concepts which in the past have been illuminatingly employed in order to secure more penetrating analysis’ (xxxiii). They evaluated the period roughly between the founding of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the Commonwealth in 1946...

    • Chapter 8 Beyond the Community: Social Process in Europe
      (pp. 145-156)

      Political, religious and economic relationships, say, in an Italian village, clearly do not exist in isolation at a local level. Relationships and processes that lie beyond the community at regional, national and even supranational levels influence them. Terms such as ‘group’, ‘village’, ‘community’, ‘culture’ and ‘society’ have been used to indicate socially significant entities. Concepts like brokerage, encapsulation, penetration, folk–urban, great tradition and little tradition, absorption, and acculturation have been brought forward to deal with aspects of relations between these entities. These terms and concepts, which are used by most anthropologists as scientific instruments, were largely developed to describe...

    • Chapter 9 Of Men and Marbles: Reconsidering Factionalism
      (pp. 157-167)

      There is a pervasive, and to my mind incorrect, view that holds that some conflict, while full of sound and fury, is socially insignificant. Factionalism, it is argued, despite being aproduct ofrapid social change, is not about change. Rather, faction fighting is viewed by many as a game, and hence scarcely worth the attention of today’s social scientists. Instead, they prefer to focus on conflict that they regard as socially significant – class conflict. As one aggressive seminar discussant recently put it to me, ‘Factional leaders, like Wilson and Heath, only play games for marbles!’

      Related to the view...

    • Chapter 10 When the Saints Go Marching Out: Reflections on the Decline of Patronage in Malta
      (pp. 168-181)

      The growing literature on patronage deals chiefly with its utilitarian aspect. It is conceived of as an asymmetrical, quasi-moral relation between a person (the patron) who directly provides protection and assistance (patronage), and/or who influences persons who can provide these services (brokerage), to persons (clients) who depend on him for such assistance. Clients, in turn, provide loyalty and support when called on to do so. A great deal is now known about varieties of patronage, its inner mechanics, its consequences and the way it is modified.

      One of the perennial problems remains the question of why patronage emerged more prominently...

  9. Ritual, Insiders and Outsiders

    • Chapter 11 Ritual and Tourism: Culture by the Pound?
      (pp. 182-196)

      There has been an apparent growth in the scale of public rituals. One set of explanations that keeps cropping up attributes this expansion to the increase of leisure time, commercialization and tourism (Werdmolder 1979; Manning 1983; Weber-Kellerman 1985). This chapter explores to what extent the commercialization of culture to attract tourists is taking place, and, if so, what impact it has had on parish celebrations in Malta.

      The argument about the influence of commercialization runs roughly like this: people in tourist destinations commoditize their culture for gain; celebrations are increased to maximize profit; this commoditization has a detrimental effect on...

    • Chapter 12 Revitalizing European Rituals
      (pp. 197-211)

      Contrary to received wisdom, public celebrations in Europe are expanding. This development is neatly, if hyperbolically, summed up by Frank Manning: ‘Throughout both the industrialized and developing nations, new celebrations are being created and older ones revived on a scale that is surely unmatched in human history’ (1983: 4). Yet countless scholars had solemnly foretold that increasing secularization, industrialization, rationalization of production, mobility, mass media, alternative sources of amusement, and the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) would take their toll on public rituals.¹ Equally surprising is that few of those working in the field of public...

    • Chapter 13 ‘But We Live Here!’: Perspectives on Cultural Tourism
      (pp. 212-228)

      There is a worldwide trend towards a different type of tourism. Though sun and sea remain attractive, tourists are increasingly looking for cultural experiences during more frequent but shorter holidays. They are heading inland to seek authentic local culture. How does this growing interest in cultural – as opposed to seaside – tourism affect the host populations?¹ Is this developing trend sustainable? The following discussion explores these questions by looking at recent developments in Malta, and in the ancient walled town of Mdina in particular.

      While up to the 1990s the impact of mass tourism on Malta’s coastal ecology and built-up environment...

    • Chapter 14 Insiders and Outsiders: Mass Tourism in Southern Europe
      (pp. 229-242)

      Until the early 1980s anthropologists working in southern Europe largely ignored the growing influx of outsiders, one of the most significant developments in the area since the 1960s. The increasing affluence of Western Europe and economic and political upheavals in eastern Europe and Africa have combined to bring various categories of new ‘others’–tourists, foreign residents, second-home owners, migrant labourers/guestworkers, refugees and illegal immigrants–into established communities in the region. The introduction of outsiders with widely different customs into relatively homogeneous neighbourhoods brings about a confrontation with new ideas and customs. The arrival of outsiders also creates new categories of...

    • Chapter 15 Tourists, Developers and Civil Society
      (pp. 243-262)

      Malta’s traditional architectural and natural heritage was first used to attract tourists and, later, to sell apartments and commercial space to speculators and locals and foreigners seeking holiday homes. Malta’s political culture in combination with blatantly commercial interests are now threatening to destroy this heritage and with it the country’s unique identity. Environmentalists and a growing segment of civil society are increasingly contesting this commercial assault on the country’s landscapes.

      Malta gained its independence from Britain in 1964. Its government uses proportional representation to elect sixty-five MPs from thirteen five-member constituencies. Since independence two parties have dominated the political scene...

  10. Reflections

    • Chapter 16 On Predicting the Future: Second Thoughts on the Decline of Feasts and Patrons
      (pp. 263-274)

      Some years ago I predicted that the celebration of parish rituals in Malta would decline. A few years later I also suggested that patronage was diminishing. I was wrong on both counts. Parishfestihave expanded in a most extravagant fashion and patronage is more pronounced than ever. Why were my attempts to predict the future so unsuccessful?

      In the early 1960s there were good reasons to believe that the competitive celebration of parish festivals, in particular the festi of patron saints, would decline. During the 1950s heavy emigration had drawn off much of the man-power needed to mount spectacular...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 275-296)
  12. Index
    (pp. 297-310)