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Katerina Dalakoura

Nationalism and education:
The National Self and the “Other” in Greek Women’s Educational Writings


A great number of the 19th-century Ottoman Greek women’s writings (original or translated) concerned directly or indirectly women’s education. Essays on education, pedagogical works, textbooks, speeches/lectures delivered to open public, in the first case, poetry, short stories, articles on women’s emancipation/anti-emancipation, in the second.

In these texts, particularly in the first category’s ones, women’s education is presented as the necessary means of Greek nation’s progress and of a strong national consciousness construction, reflecting the ethnic/national - gradually turned into nationalistic - discourses emerged at the time. According to these discourses women’s education should be based (exclusively or primary) on national principles emerging from Greek nation’s history, life and culture. In other words education should provide a national edification on all levels. Within this frame references to other ethnicities/nations (f.i. Ottoman ethnicities and Balkan nations) entered into educational writings in a contradictious and ambiguous way: either as counteractive to the Greek nation’s interests or as nations aiming to progress, the same as Greeks. Particularly western nations or “West” as a collective cultural “nation”, were presented either as progressed nations, whose cultural and educational experience could benefit Greek education or as nations whose mimicry or influence could harm “Greek ethos and mores”.

The presentation will focus on the discourses on the “national self” and the “national other” that penetrated women’s writings, especially from the 1870s onwards. It is based mainly on the works of Kalliopi Kechagia (1839-1905), Sappho Leontias (1830-1900), two celebrated pedagogues of the era, who represent different traditions in regard with the cultural construction of the national self and – therefore - the stance towards the “national others”.

Ask, September 2012

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