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‘The nation’, ‘the other’ and the possibility of change A study of the (unpredictable?) development of national identity discourses in contemporary Greece.

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Presentation on theme: "‘The nation’, ‘the other’ and the possibility of change A study of the (unpredictable?) development of national identity discourses in contemporary Greece."— Presentation transcript:

1 ‘The nation’, ‘the other’ and the possibility of change A study of the (unpredictable?) development of national identity discourses in contemporary Greece

2 HYPOTHESIS: The category of the nation often functions as a discursive framework which people use to deal with reality (and otherness) – although not necessarily with the introvert implications often assumed in nationalism theories.

3 STEPS: Identification of important discourses throughout the historical development of Modern Greece Choice of public policy context: the Cultural Olympiad The theatre-projects within the CO Examination of diversified manifestation of discourses within the specific public policy context

4 Greece: between ‘West’ and ‘East’? 1989 Greece stripped of what was considered till then a major political bargaining card in ‘the West’ – i.e. its privileged positioning within a space in which ‘the West’ had limited access a novel emphasis on political and economic potential for Greece within ‘the East’ significant alteration of population-profiles: an unprecedented reality of VISIBLE diversity

5 Greece: between ‘West’ and ‘East’? Certain places and the ways they are progressively moulded as well as the memory of such processes create a discursive framework of expectations within those places. Such discourses retain one foot in historical facts but have also become somehow independent and may, thus, be put to varied use beyond the historical links that have actually at some point informed and sustained them.

6 Public policy … is often initiated to bring change. However, the discourses in which this public policy is framed may undermine the change which it seeks to promote.

7 “Discourses”: “In this study, discourse analysis is seen as ‘a general analytic approach whose precise implementation depends upon the particular theoretical issues at hand’ (Reicher and Hopkins 1996: 359), rather than as a set of rules for processing data. The analysis undertaken thus concentrates on the specific issues of concern in the study” (Triandafyllidou 2001: 123).

8 Discourses of ‘otherness’ Discourses of ‘merit’

9 Discourses of ‘merit’: ‘Demetriades’ skull’ and other stories What is worth keeping and promoting from the Greek cultural past “It may be argued that the destruction of the traditional, autochthonous culture under the impact of Western ideas is not a specifically Greek experience. Cultural imperialism goes hand in hand with economic imperialism in all peripheral social formations. But what was specific of Greece was the total lack of awareness or any serious resistance to that ‘cultural imperialism’. On the contrary: the pushing aside of the endogenous culture (songs, dances, poetry, language) was facilitated enormously by the fact that it was seen as the shameful bastardised heritage of four centuries of Ottoman yoke. It was easy, therefore, to attack it and replace it by another cultural tradition which, although dead, was ‘really Greek’, i.e. nearer the ‘glorious ancient heritage’” (Mouzelis 1978: ).

10 Discourses of ‘merit’: aspects ‘Fetishisation’ of Greekness as a powerful form of positive self-evaluation The unpredictable implications of the 19 th century transplanting of modern institutions: if Greece is ‘the West’ s ancestor, it is also the ancestor of civicness and progress The initiation of European support for the Greek cause in the early 19 th century.

11 Discourses of ‘merit’: aspects Hellenism fitting dominant hierarchies of race Eastern pollution? The Greeks: remnants of the Ancients? (Demetriades’ skull) Preservers of the Ancients? (the ‘laós’) – the ‘laós’ as “modern everyday incarnations” of Hellenism

12 Discourses of ‘merit’: aspects “To the Greeks “the scale of the cultural work of Hellenism in the past places such pressure on the present that it chokes free creativity, and imposes imitation[1]” (in Augoustinos 2003: 92).[1] [1] Amantos Konstantinos I. 1923: Οι Βόρειοι Γείτονες της Ελλάδος, 186-7; Athens.

13 Discourses of ‘merit’: aspects “The contemporary culture of the people of rural Greece” could then be seen as “an exotic anachronism” (Danforth 1984: 53).

14 Discourses of ‘merit’: aspects To some extent the link has become ubiquitous. What was believed about oneself has become oneself

15 Discourses of ‘otherness’: different phases In parallel with the development of perceptions of Greek identity Times of expansion, homogenisation and acculturation: Greekness as a flexible, incorporating category. But when the state could no longer expand, how to integrate new arrivals? Lack of merging between ‘civic’ and ‘ethnic’ elements: a perception of citizenship based on ethnicity

16 Different challenges to homogeneity during Greece’s historical itinerary Reactions to different groups and ‘otherness’: The 1920s ‘Ottoman Greeks’ Minorities: Muslims and Roma. Pomachs, Vlachs, Slavo-Macedonians: most groups can be seen as having a ‘national centre’ somewhere else within then Balkan area Homogeneity vs. Invisibility 1989, New Immigrants

17 1989, The new immigrants One tenth of Greek population Mainly from Albania From being flattered to … …HAVING to be hospitable and democratic to…

18 … the impossibility of inclusion? Political reasons: maintain a minority within Greece’s northern neighbours The bogus ‘credentials of co-ethnicity’: one have to belong to the Greek Ethnos! National homogeneity as a shield against the curse of political division

19 … the impossibility of inclusion? The possibility of being different and still Greek has not been explored as if we should not be different anymore once we have become Greek. Then, the inability to deal positively with ‘difference’ and otherness in general may be further aggravated – as if ‘difference’ can be only a source of discomfort, pain or even trauma.

20 Possible way out? Even if one cannot or does not want to dispense with a stereotypical understanding of oneself, one may be able to read such an understanding differently and it is within such readings that dominant discourses of national and cultural identity may shift.

21 The Cultural Olympiad and the theatre-projects Making culture in public The challenge: Exemplify both internationality and Greekness Focus on written exchanges Focus on theatre

22 A little Bourdieu influence: Discourse about a field depends on the (at least symbolic) existence of the field, which it in turn perpetuates (following Bourdieu) Convergence around the general terms of the conversation by a multiplicity of actors Re-creation and perpetuation of a certain symbolic field, consisting in an internalised picture of the national group

23 Discourses of Greekness – Discursive manifestations Both a – Conventional (CM) and b – Unanticipated (UM)

24 Discourse of merit – Antiquity (CM 1) Time leap (performed by both outsiders and insiders) References to antiquity or mythology suffice to characterise a project as Greek enough in the present Subsuming mythology under history: “the footprints of the giant Hercules” “The Greeks”

25 Antiquity (CM) – Implications Exclusivity of ownership Greek culture is merely ancient Later phases of Greek history are rendered strangely culture-less Temporal ‘freezing’

26 Discourse of merit – Ancestry (CM 2) 1- Ancient Greece is first Greek and then belongs to the West 2- Ancient Greece is the root and thus belongs to the West ‘Rape of sanctities’ Linguistic substantiation (‘dionysian’) Implication: Reinforcement of the genealogical link between ancient and modern Greece

27 Discourse of merit – Regionality (UM 1) Regional demands National internal variation along regional axes The role of appellations and names (‘Ikaria’) Literal construction of reminders (‘the shrine of Ikarus’) Institutionalisation of symbolic events Implication: myths as regional marketing cards

28 Discourse of merit – Allegory (UM 2) The discourse as shifting prism To express different levels of concerns Not a manifestation specific to recent times The potential of blending different times Tools to approach different cultures without feeling threatened (‘the argonautic expedition’) Even personal past and identity exploration

29 Discourse of ‘otherness’ – Betrayal (CM 1) Internal, symbolic cultural betrayal Linguistic use recalls memories of earlier internal political betrayal (‘Ikarus in exile’) The danger in surrendering ownership of a national understanding of history (and mythology)

30 Betrayal (CM 1) – Implications Collective memory must be fortified Does not allow the opening up of discursive spaces for new understandings to be expressed Essentialisation of ‘Greekness’ as one true version of identity

31 Discourse of ‘otherness’ – Incomprehension (CM 2) Reluctance to address the issue of internal diversity The newcomers re-introducing a pragmatic dimension to threat Addressing the issue of immigrants in global, West-dependent terms Essentialisation of the concept of ‘otherness’

32 Incomprehension (CM 2) – Implications The ‘Western host’ approach The immigrant ‘as oneself’ Greeks abroad as foreigners as well The new image of Greece does not find easy fit with notions of ‘needy immigrants’ – either others or one’s own.

33 SYNTHESIS 1. The emergence of regional concerns: a restricted national understanding vs the more promising allegoric manifestation: allow the incorporation of other issues, peoples, areas. Important social changes do not pass unnoticed by some

34 SYNTHESIS 2. The need to keep the Greeks united against ‘symbolic threat’: negative implications for reconsideration of ‘otherness’ - The Western host approach - The immigrant as oneself - Re-qualification of otherness refers predominantly to external others as long as they stay where they are or to regional others who are still co-nationals

35 SYNTHESIS 3. Domestic familiarity with struggle/conflict rhetoric used to account for danger of being culturally dominated. Between sympathy and tension?

36 SYNTHESIS 4. However, discourses of merit DO diversify through regional and allegoric manifestations. Ancient Greek mythological material = the link between conventional and unanticipated understanding A circular process

37 A two-step approach: Investigation of the development of dominant discourses and unveiling of possible differentiated manifestations Identification of an appropriate middle field, a facilitating material, like the Greek ‘myths’, and its differentiated manipulation


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