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Earthly lives and life everlasting: Secular and religious values in two convents and a village in western Greece.

Iossifides, Anna Marina (1990) Earthly lives and life everlasting: Secular and religious values in two convents and a village in western Greece. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis is the result of eighteen months fieldwork in western Greece. The study compares the interaction between a village community and two Greek Orthodox convents. This interaction however, is not examined along the lines of economic exchange but along the lines of symbolic interaction. Attention is centered on kinship, commensality, the symbolism of food, and on exchange and hospitality. It is seen that the nuns, by using images, relationships and symbols that have great significance within the secular world in order to create and portray their relationship with the divine, are able to posit their world as both an alternative to and superior from the lay world. The laity thus find themselves on the lowest rung of the religious hierarchy. They have to either reject the nuns' claims to spiritual superiority or accept their subordinate position. Most, as we shall see, do both, in an attempt to reconcile their beliefs as Orthodox and their need to justify their lives and world views. Underlying, then, the distinction between the convent and the lay world are two opposing world views. For the villagers, the supreme purpose of human life is marriage and procreation. It is through the birth of legitimate children that the house, the family and the individual may achieve a type of continuity. In contrast, for the nuns, the main aim in life is the achievement of eternal unity with the divine upon death. By willingly "sacrificing their youth" the nuns believe that salvation and eternal life after death may be assured. It is these two opposing world views which underlie the comparisons drawn and the understanding gained of the village and the convents.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Anthropology, Cultural
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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