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Individuals, Friends And Kinsmen In Medieval Iceland: The Legacy Of Aron Gurevich

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Chapter Summary

This chapter focuses on two different types of relations, kinship and friendship, in medieval Icelandic culture. It tries to answer the important question of whether the medieval Scandinavian man was in fact dependent on individual choices of friends, instead of inherited kins, as much as modern man. Inspired by Aron Gurevich's pioneering research on the medieval North, the chapter makes a case of the customary pre-modern/modern opposition and it is based on in-depth analysis of medieval Icelandic sagas. It also examines the ideas in Anthony Giddens' books on modernity. A typical feature of pre-modern culture, according to Giddens, was concrete trust. Medieval people trusted in persons, things, or institutions that were visible and accessible. The chapter concludes that individualism-and-collectivism and friendship-and-kinship are thus two sides of the same coin. Unfortunately, both sides of the coin were more often blood-stained than gleaming gold.

Keywords: Anthony Giddens; Aron Gurevich; medieval Icelandic culture



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