The Evil Eye in the Mediterranean

Joseph P. Delmonaco, Rhode Island College


In this paper I shall present and critique the four most prominent explications of the evil eye that have appeared in the anthropological literature to date. Briefly, these are the functional approach of George Foster (1972), the structural-interactionist approach of Garrison and Arensberg (1976), the semiotic-particularist approach of Michael Herzfeld (1981,1983), and the "synthetic image" approach of Anthony H. Galt (1982). These explanations by no means exhaust the universe of theoretical orientations concerned with the evil eye, although my decision to focus on them exclusively is far from arbitrary. First, I believe that these four are the best and most coherent examples of such attempts to explain the cultural trait. · Second, each has, in varying degrees, informed most research on the belief. Third, each has stimulated my own ideas surrounding the nature and functioning of the evil eye.