February 10, 2007
Scheide Caldwell House, Room 103
Exceptionalism: “the belief that something is exceptional in relation to others of the same kind,” OED
Exceptionalism seems to have been the dominant paradigm for Modern Greek Studies. The faces of exceptionalism vary; they can be “positive” – theory of continuity of Greek civilization and the classical undertones of Greece’s unique position in world history – or “negative” – for example post-structuralist readings of Modern Greek literature that discern an unshakable lack, gap, or belatedness with respect to other cultures, thus making Greece the exception to a general rule, or likewise post-colonial/subaltern approaches that dwell on the exceptional character of the margins. In these approaches it is rare that the object – Modern Greek culture – is studied in a truly international comparative perspective which could make precise or belie its exceptional character. In a time when Modern Greek Studies is consistently described as being in “crisis,” the need to go beyond these unreflective exceptionalisms is pressing. The purpose of this conference is to bring together scholars who approach Modern Greek culture – literature, visual arts, cinema, and history – from a perspective of the “relation to others of the same kind,” integrate their objects of inquiry with local and international contexts, and work with an interdisciplinary method. The goal is to see difference without seeking the exception, to document and analyze the particular without feeding parochialism. This conference is a call to integrate firmly the study of Modern Greek literature and culture within the fields of Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies as they have developed recently in various parts of the world.
|Coffee: 9:00 - 9:30
|First Session: 9:30 - 12:00||
Welcome: Dimitri H. Gondicas, Princeton University
|Lunch: 12:00 - 1:30|
|Second Session: 1:30 - 3:00||
Nassia Yakovaki, University of Thessaly
|Coffee Break: 3:00 - 3:30|
|Third Session: 3:30 - 6:00||
Miltos Pechlivanos, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
|Reception: 6:00 - 7:30|
Cosponsored by: Department of History, Davis Center for Historical Studies, Department of Classics, Department of Anthropology, Department of Comparative Literature
Maria Kaliambou, Princeton University
In Search of Exceptionalism in Greek Folklore Studies
From the middle of the 19th century, a new academic discipline began to emerge in almost all European countries: Folklore, . Within the ideological premises of romanticism and in the context of the constitution of the European national states, folklorists set as their priority a search for authenticity. At the time when Greece was attempting to establish itself as an independent nation, folklore played a crucial role. What was exceptional in folklore was its orality, which was thought to support the formation of identity. I challenge this exceptionalization of orality in Greek folklore and Modern Greek studies, in the spirit of Regina Bendix’s title (In Search of Authenticity, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997). How and by whom was orality defined? Moreover, what was excluded from consideration? The assumptions behind collecting oral folklore have excluded an obvious historical fact, that there has been a continual exchange between oral and written cultures. Characteristically, popular literature, which still remains an unknown area of research, has been a major channel for the preservation and adaptation of oral culture and its attendant ideology. Scrutinizing popular literature yields insight into the history of both folklore and written culture in Greece.
Dimitri Papanikolaou, University of Oxford
On Banal Exceptionalism
This paper starts by extending Michael Billig's thoughts on banal nationalism to an analysis of the logics of exceptionalism, focusing mainly on cultural exceptionalism. My main question will be: how do discourses of/n cultural exceptionalism circulate in the public domain (the everyday, le quotidien) and what is their role in the continuous building of national culture/character? I will suggest that, especially in late capitalism, banal exceptionalism's main channels of (re)production are those of popular culture, yet that this also happens in a much less straightforward way than is often assumed. In an analysis of texts by the composer Mikis Theodorakis from the early 60s, I will show how a Greek-exceptionalist discourse frames the references to national popular culture based on a logic of equivalence rather than difference (Laclau). I will then underline how this very production of the national popular reintroduces difference through a subtle imposition of internal cultural taxonomy, and how it reiifies both equivalential and differential logics through its effort to position the national cultural product in the global market.
Penelope Papailias, University of Thessaly
Media Technologies and Foreign Bodies in Contemporary Greece
In this paper, I will link “Greek exceptionalism,” or, at least a certain manifestation of this discourse, to “anti-Americanism,” which has become a dominant disposition across the political spectrum in Greece. I am interested in how the critique of U.S. foreign politics–the war in Iraq, the detentions and torture at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, etc.–has generated a moral high ground that posits “Greece” either as non-player or perennial victim of global power games. Yet, there is perhaps no better example of Greece’s implication in contemporary forms of sovereignty than the apprehension of 28 Pakistani immigrants from the courtyard of their house in Petralona (Athens) and their interrogation and torture by Greek and British agents in Greece on July 17, 2005, ten days after the 7/7 London Tube bombings. In this paper, then, I will focus, on the one hand, on “border control” (how the Greek connection to the global order of things is persistently denied on the basis of geography, history and culture) and, on the other, on how migrants have emerged in Greece, as throughout Europe, as bodies on which state sovereignty is performed. To make this argument, I will be drawing on my ongoing research about the 1999 bus hijacking by an Albanian migrant worker, which ended when he and a Greek hostage were gunned down by Albanian police snipers outside the central Albanian city of Elbasan. I will look at how the border (between forms of dispensable and indispensable life, between the “Albanian immigrant” and the “Greek hostage,” etc.) was enacted and became visible in the remarkable, by Greek standards, “live” television spectacle of the hijacking.
Nassia Yakovaki, University of Thessaly
Greece and Europe: An Exceptional Bond Revisited
The aim of this paper is to highlight and investigate the special relationship that links Europe with Greece, so that the exceptional bond - a bond of European provenance and imprint - may be addressed and understood in historical terms. The objective is to re-examine the concept of Hellenism as formulated since the 19th century, which tends to be seen by contemporary scholarship as the basis of a specific discourse on Greece lending itself to critical analysis from different perspectives. The premise of this paper is the perceived lack of historicized approaches with regard to the understanding of this exceptional bond, which is either taken as self-explanatory or denounced as an offshoot of Eurocentrism. Contrary to these sweeping generalizations, the reconstitution of the historical terms through which this exceptional bond was formed in concrete conditions, broadens the field of observation beyond the uniqueness and special-case status ascribed to Greece, and calls for a deeper understanding of the specific contexts that engendered it: among these, the formation of the modern concept of Europe emerges as the most prominent topic of the investigation.
Lidia Santarelli, Columbia University
War, Occupation, and Civil War: Rethinking Greek History from a Transnational Perspective, 1940-1949
This paper will concentrate on Greek history during the 1940s, with a focus on the distinct but deeply interrelated processes of war, foreign occupation, and civil war. Greece was the only European country which after the Liberation experienced a large scale civil war. The Greek Civil war in fact lasted as long as the previous period of Axis occupation, and provoked tremendous consequences on social, political, and cultural levels for decades to come. In contrast with the prevailing historical paradigm of Greek exceptionalism, which has generally identified wartime Greece as an anomalous case in relation to its contemporaneous European context, this paper will stress how Greece stood as a conspicuous observatory for analyzing the crisis which fractured European societies during the transitional period from World War II to the Cold War. From this perspective, this paper will discuss the major issues concerning Greek history in the 1940s in relation to the wider context provided by the contemporary debate of European studies and War and Society studies.
Miltos Pechlivanos, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
The Anxiety of Influence: The Burden of the Comparison and Modern Greek Literary History
The need to go beyond exceptionalism seems to be the first aim in the agenda of the discursive practices of Comparative Literature from its very beginnings. Rethinking the history of the discipline in its Modern Greek institutional context from the viewpoint of the proposed answers to the question of Greek exceptionalism has become a conditio sine qua non for the disciplinary location of Modern Greek Studies and/or Modern Greek Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies. As a preface to such a project the preliminary readings of this paper focuses on the theoretical framework about the “belief that something is exceptional in relation to others of the same kind” in the three leading historians of Modern Greek literature: K. Th. Dimaras, Linos Politis and Mario Vitti.
Constanze Güthenke, Princeton University
Running with Scissors: The (Dys-)Functionality of Greek Romanticism
In this paper I aim to look at the imagery and rhetorical strategies of self-description used by writers usually classified under 'Greek Romanticism'. My overall question is that of how aspects of a highly self-conscious European literary movement, such as Romanticism, are assumed to be functional or dysfunctional in a literature that thinks of itself as joining this movement. Whether it is in the "antechambers of the mighty", or as "comets and revolutionary firebrands", the self-positionings of Greek Romanticism are particularly catalytic in light of Romanticism's own reliance on the pairing of the individual (and exceptional) and the relational. What is more, the writings of Greek Romanticism and their attempts at situating themselves also coincide with the first Greek historiographies of literature, often by the same authors.
Effie Rentzou, Princeton University
Ruling the Exception: Modernism and Avant-Garde in Greece
Over the last twenty years a lot has been said about Greek modernism. The critical discourse developed, inside and outside Greece, regards modernism as an offspring of nationalism and is quick to dismiss its innovative output. Within the same logic, the avant-garde is considered to be either completely absent, or nothing more than an “aesthetic trend” that does not keep up with the goals and scopes of the European historical avant-garde. I propose a view on Greek modernism that reconsiders recent critical assumptions about the exceptionalism of Greek modernism as a, basically, nationalist movement overly preoccupied with Greek identity by addressing the issue of nationalism within modernism in general. A comparative view that takes into account modernism outside Greece shows that historical debates over literary and artistic modernism were often articulated within nationalist frames. Furthermore, I will discuss the possibility of an avant-garde in Greece, by revisiting the leading theories of the avant-garde (Peter Burger) and questioning their analytical value for cases outside the “central” European occurrences of these movements. In other words, the method adopted will operate on two levels: first, a rethinking of the prevalent literary history narratives on international modernism and the theoretical accounts of the avant-garde; and second, a discussion of the selective reception and appropriation of these narratives by Greek criticism in order to construct, finally, a positive or negative exception out of the Greek case.