Accepted Paper:

The warrior-shepherd signifier: locations and meanings of highland Cretan photographic subjects  


Konstantinos Kalantzis (University of Thessaly)

Paper short abstract:

My paper discusses the articulation and consumption of the iconography of Cretan pastoralism and links it to issues of "tradition", tourism, national imagination, and indigenous aesthetics in contemporary Greece. It focuses on the ‘’social life’’ of photographs that represent Cretan shepherds and discusses their meanings in different contexts.

Paper long abstract:

The paper is concerned with diverse significations of a certain visual imagery that evokes "tradition", ruggedness and masculinity in contemporary Greece. This imagery is currently central in both global (commercial products, tourism) and local contexts. It draws on my fieldwork observations in the Sphakia region of south-western Crete and elsewhere in Crete and Greece.

The paper focuses on the images of specific Sphakian shepherds who were photographed throughout their lives by professionals and tourists. These photographs are currently used in various contexts, such as public state displays, on commercial products, as postcards but also in household photographic albums.

Sphakia is a region in contemporary Greece that holds an evocative "myth" of masculine tradition which is understood within a visual, typological aesthetic of a warrior-shepherd who displays embodied tradition and hardship. Such imagery (initially the product of 19th century folklorists and travellers) which is central in the national imaginary, has been recently re-used within a context of global commercial potentials but also of Cretan re-engagement with the past. The imagery entails both glorifying and exoticising facets.

In my analysis I explore different spheres and engagements with the discussed images and thus examine the location, dislocation and production of meaning, paying attention to consumption as well as to the pictorial strategies involved. Broadly, the paper engages with issues of power in visual stereotypical motifs but focuses on signification thus exploring the importance of the aesthetics of ruggedness for different ''agents'' in a time when tradition and the past are objects of great interest.

Panel W010
Looking, seeing and being seen: connecting and controlling through visual representation