Monday, August 01, 2011

Cultural Identity in the Ancient Mediterranean

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Reviewed by Anna Lucille Boozer)

Erich S. Gruen (ed.), Cultural Identity in the Ancient Mediterranean. Issues & Debates. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2010.

Cultural identity is defined by the ways in which groups can be distinguished from other individuals and groups in their social relationships.1 Facets of identity can include ethnicity, gender, age, sexuality, class, power and myriad other social categories. Needless to say, these facets overlap and combine in unexpected ways that are contingent upon immediate social contexts. Because identity is a notoriously fluid concept, it can be best understood through case studies that highlight the relational capabilities of individual and group identities. Case studies and contextualizations can take many different forms. For example, in the past decade, numerous scholars have turned to the life cycle in order to address the various identity changes individuals experience from birth to adolescence, adulthood and old age.2 Holistic and contextualized studies of identity, such as these, allow for deeper explorations of individual life experiences and fluid self-perceptions.

Scholars of the ancient Mediterranean have generally explored single facets of identity, rather than the interaction between multiple markers of identity. In particular, scholars have focused upon ethnicity, due to the complicated interconnections that occurred in this region.

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