The better part of my adult life has been taken up with the questions, thoughts, and conversations that have culminated in this book. Just as my field notebooks are littered with the scraps of letters to faraway friends, this manuscript contains for me memories of people I love and many more I wish I had come to know better. Their contributions to this book have been fundamental.
Upon my arrival in Athens, the unflappable staff and committed language instructors at the Athens Centre served as my welcoming committee. Eleni, Frosso, and Koralia exercised my Greek and validated my research plans; Dora Papaïoannou became a friend and confidant. Caroline Littell followed my life in Athens from that excruciatingly jet-lagged first week to the bittersweet end nearly two and a half years later, and she graciously lent me her flat when I returned during the scorching summer of 1998.
Many kind folk took time out from their busy schedules to guide me in Athens. I am especially indebted to the generosity and interest of Fotini Dimitiadou, Tasso Gaitani, George Kindis, Eftyhia Leontidou, Merope Michaeleli, Eleni Pambouki, and Haris Symeonidou. David Turner schooled me on Orthodox thought and practice. Chloe Dondos and Eurydice Spiropoulou helped me transcribe and translate interview tapes, often adding their own insightful commentary in parentheses. Dimitra Gefou-Madianou introduced me to the Department of Anthropology at Panteion University. With Marina Iossifides I enjoyed helpful expatriate anthropological conversations. Joanna Skilogianis, conducting related research toward her doctorate at Case Western University, was a source of support and inspiration. Nia Georges, Peter Loizos, and Ritsa Veltsai have been valuable interlocutors at various stages. I especially thank Michael Herzfeld for the generous help and encouragement he has provided me over the years since (p.x) I first met him in Athens, and for his meticulous reading of a draft of this volume.
Kathy Hall, my Pangrati flatmate, traveled with me to various islands and introduced me to the British School at Athens, which became my second base of operations. I am grateful to Guy Sanders, Ian Whitbread, and Penny Wilson for making me feel welcome in the library and beyond. I thank my friends at the BSA who shared with me a unique intellectual and social community: Roger Doonan, Louise Joyner, Seamus O'Buchala, Jonathan Tomlinson, Charles Watkinson, and Ruth Westgate. Michael Boyd kept me company into the wee hours of the morning as each of us encouraged the other's ethnographic and archaeological translations and interpretations. Katherine Alexander shared with me her memories and offered gentle advice. After breezing in and out of our lives in Athens, Wendy Walker rematerialized as my neighbor in New York City, where her convivial dinner parties saved me from my own writing.
My fieldwork was framed by reading, writing, and reflection in Palo Alto and San Francisco, California. The questions I took to the field, and the ways I came to make sense of my data back “home,” crystallized under the astute guidance of my sympathetic and conscientious advisor, Jane F. Collier. At Stanford, Eva Prionas taught me Greek verbs and prepared me for living in Athens. Carol Delaney's “Creation and Procreation” course and Sylvia Yanagisako's “Gender and Kinship” seminar propelled much of my proposal writing; Carol and Sylvia also provided a useful critique of my dissertation. Many others have contributed to my thinking and phrasing since then, and their words are buried as deeply as layered archaeological fragments within this book. I thank for their collegial commentary and support Vincanne Adams, Katerina Akassoglu, Genevieve Bell, Amy Borovoy, George Collier, Sarah Franklin, Helen Gremillion, Sherine Hamdy, Aída Hernández Castillo, Marcia Inhorn, Gwynne Jenkins, Carina Johnson, Lynda Lane, Julia Olson, Michele Rivkin-Fish, Stacy Leigh Pigg, Sheila Ruth, Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov, Mukund Subramanian, and Sue Visakowitz. The wisdom of Gail Kligman, Lynn Morgan, and Soheir Morsy, serving as discussants on conference panels in which I presented pieces of this research, has stuck with me and, I hope, sunk into subsequent writing. I am also beholden to the engagement and enthusiasm of my students in “Gender/Body/Ethics” and “Techniques of Gender,” graduate seminars I taught at New York University while making revisions.
Marcy Dermansky, Erika Flesher, and Kamala Jain have moved in and out of my orbit over the past decade and more. Our shared stories of writing and relationships, our traded tips on juggling personal and professional (p.xi) lives, are not entirely dissimilar to the stories of Athenian women gathered in this book. I am grateful for these friends as I begin to imagine—one way or another—my own potential encounter with modern motherhood.
In 1975, my parents, Thomas and Judith Paxson, decided I would learn more with them living in Greece for three months than attending the final quarter of first grade. They bought me a Greek alphabet book, handed me books of classical mythology, and dragged me around innumerable archaeological sites. At age six I planned to become a classical archaeologist when I grew up; eighteen years later I returned to Greece, although to conduct ethnographic research. My parents were there again, visiting and lending me money when my grant expired before my list of research questions. Later, my father trained his exceedingly careful, professional eyes on the more philosophical portions of this manuscript. I cannot thank them enough. I am grateful too to my sisters, Jessica Paxson Joseph and Laura Paxson, for continuing to look out for me from afar. And I thank Mary and Gisbert Helmreich for making me feel at home.
At nearly every step of this project, from initial grant proposal writing to revising the final sentences of this manuscript, Stefan Helmreich has been at my side. For all he does to sustain me, I am ever thankful.
At the University of California Press, I thank my editor, Naomi Schneider, for her confidence that this book would eventually come into being. Jacqueline Volin and Bonita Hurd helped make it happen. Financial support for my fieldwork was provided by the National Science Foundation (SBR-9312633), the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University, and the Stanford University Center for European Studies. Dissertation writing was supported by the Foundation for Hellenic Studies, the Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, and a Mellon Dissertation Writeup Grant administered by the Stanford Department of Anthropology. I am grateful to the Modern Greek Studies Association for awarding my dissertation second place in its Biennial Dissertation Prize Competition (1998).
Epigraphs to chapter 2 are reproduced with permission:
Excerpt from Children of Byzantium, by Katherine Alexander, is reprinted with the permission of Cormorant Books and Katherine Alexander.