Synopses & Reviews
What constitutes a history? Is this term to be restricted to the works of recognized historians? Or can information about the past gained through dreams, spirit possession rituals, or dancing performances also count as histories? Instead of dismissing such productions as "myth" or "religion," Charles Stewart contends in Dreaming and Historical Consciousness that our definition of history must be widened. This move is crucial in a global setting where alternative historical practices require appreciation as systems of thought rather than rejection as inferior types of knowledge. Villagers on the Greek island of Naxos have long experienced dreams of saints directing them to dig up buried objects. These dreams impelled the villagers to become both archaeologists and historians striving to uncover a past that would alter their future. Dreaming and Historical Consciousness elucidates these dreams of the past-present-future in terms of local cosmology and theorizes them as existential expressions of the struggle for agency. This ethnography of historical consciousness offers new insight into how people imagine the past, consciously and unconsciously, in daily life.
This illuminating study examines a group of documented social dreams on the Greek island of Naxos from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century. Some of their themes are correlated, strikingly, with the visions and discoveries recorded in the Book of Mormon...But they are also social reactions: to nationalization, economic depression, physical displacement...It is hard to convey in brief the subtlety, delicacy, and care with which anthropologist Stewart pursues and historicizes the elusive treasures and dream-myths in which for two centuries the villagers of Koronos have invested so much. As he concludes, they are, like too many of their countrymen today, 'rich in the imagination of that which they do not have and virtuosi at negating their benighted present.' His book is itself a treasure. P. M. Green
This important study is not simply a sophisticated, interesting, and extremely readable book on vernacular modes of historicization in Greece. It is also a profound inquiry on the links that connect dreaming, earth, material culture, and temporality. As such, it will be of direct relevance and benefit not only to social archaeologists, classicists, and scholars of modern Greece, but also archaeologists, material culture specialists, and heritage professionals, irrespective of their geographical interests. In this work they will find many insights that can help them rethink their conceptual schemes, and come to terms with a range of alternatives archaeologies outside the dominant paradigms of western modernity. Choice
This is a magisterial study. As a contribution to a philosophy of history and an explanation of the meaning of dreams and the faculty of imagination it is a serious and profound book. It is a worthy successor to Stewart's earlier study of Greek religious cosmology. Yannis Hamilakis, author of < i=""> The Nation and its Ruins: Antiquity, Archaeology, and National Imagination in Greece <>
This is an elegant, theoretically astute, and consistently engaging history of the historical imagination on a Greek island. Charles Stewart significantly advances our understanding of the ways that religion, dreaming, and historical consciousness can inform one another. Laurie Kain Hart, author of < i=""> Time, Religion, and Social Experience in Rural Greece <>
In his extraordinary Dreaming and Historical Consciousness in Island Greece, Charles Stewart offers a wholly new way of thinking about dreams in their social contexts...And Stewart has a gripping story to tell. Michael Lambek, author of < i=""> The Weight of the Past: Living with History in Mahajanga, Madagascar <>
Directed by their dreams to dig up buried objects, villagers on the Greek island of Naxos have long acted as archaeologists and historians and striven to uncover a past that would alter their future. This ethnography of historical consciousness widens our definition of history and offers new insight into how people imagine the past in daily life.
A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2013
About the Author
Charles Stewart is Reader in Anthropology at University College London.
University College London