Program in Hellenic Studies

Second International Graduate Student Conference in Modern Greek Studies

Modern Greek History, Culture and Society:
Space, Ethnicity, Violence, Mediation

Friday May 7,2010

Abstracts and Bios

Elena Mamoulaki

The Spatial Handling of the Memory of Exile on Icaria Island

While the experience of exile was common during the civil war of 1946-1949 in Greece, the case of Icaria was distinct in that it involved the cohabitation of local and exile communities. In a period of just a few months, more than 12.000 political exiles were sent by the Greek government to Icaria, which at that point had only 8.000 inhabitants, without any provisions for housing, medical care and sometimes even food supplies. Since there were no prisons or concentration camps on the island, the exiles stayed houses of the locals for almost two years in the. Today, the local community asserts a new identity through the memorialization of that past experience of exile and hospitality in contrast to other islands that try to repress that same traumatic past.  In this paper I focus on the different ways in which locals and ex-exiles relate their memories of the period using space as the analytic category that sheds light on the relationship between history, memory and social identity. Over the past few years, as members of the older generation pass away, we have begun to see a transition from personal/experienced memories of this period to collective/institutional histories. While experienced memory takes place occasionally and accidentally in casual social or family contexts that have a very restricted local range, institutional memory takes place in specific times and spaces, is programmed, organized and marks points in time and place that claim a broader range of acceptance and recognition.  This paper is based on participant observation and describes examples of this transition from experienced memories to institutional history that contain elements and expressions of both categories. Through an interdisciplinary study that straddles the fields of anthropology of time, history of the civil war and theory of space, I deal with the question of how the spatial handling of memory changes from dispersion and chance to a claim of stability and specificity in confirmed times and places. 


Elena Mamoulaki studied Architecture at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece (2003). She received her MA from the Interdisciplinary Graduate Programme “Design-Space-Culture” at the National Technical University of Athens (2005) and her D.E.A. in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Barcelona (2008). During her graduate studies she concentrated on the relationship of memory and space (MA) as well as on the research of this relationship through oral history and memory practices on the Island of Icaria (DEA). She has published “The Handling of Memory and the City”, “Memory and experience of space”, S.Stavridis (ed.), Athens: Alexandria Publications and “Social Discrimination in Exile: The case of Icaria”, “Critical Interdisciplinarity”, S. Dimitriou (ed.), Athens: Nisos Publications [in print].  She is a Ph.D. candidate in Architecture at the National Technical University of Athens and her thesis’ title is “Memory of Cohabitation and Exile on the Island of Icaria”.  Elena Mamoulaki has taught as visiting Assistant Professor at the Department of Architecture of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (2007-2009) and held a grant from I. Latsis Foundation in Greece (2008) and the Ministry of Education in Spain (2006-2007).

Tracey Rosen

“Chinatown” in a “Fenceless Vineyard”(Xefrago Ambeli):
Making Space and Place in the Heart of Athens


Following Greece’s adoption of the Euro in 2001, a growing number of merchants from China started moving into Greece representing the first wave of immigrants to enter, not as penniless laborers, but as entrepreneurs with capital directly competing against their Greek counterparts. These merchants began concentrating themselves in an area increasingly referred to (by Greeks and Chinese alike) as “Chinatown.” Located in the Omonia-Keramikos area of Athens, just off of Athens’ main commercial triangle, “Chinatown” consists of apartment blocks (polikatikies) that have been retrofitted to serve as wholesale shops and product warehouses. “Chinatown” is strategically located along Pireos avenue, the main road linking Athens to Greece’s most heavily trafficked port of Piraeus, and serves as an entrepôt for cheap commodities which radiate from the capital center to the nation’s periphery (and beyond). While the Chinese who visit and inhabit “Chinatown” consider it to be first and foremost a commercial center, it also takes on a diversity of other roles appealing to different needs and sentiments (e.g., a port of call, a legal sanctuary, a space of loneliness or conviviality). Likewise, “Chinatown” also occupies a number of roles in the Greek imagination, as its existence contradictorily signals Athens emergence as a cosmopolitan, European city and a vulnerable outpost of aggressive Chinese mercantilism.  The paper begins with a brief history of the Omonia-Keramikos area as a site of gentrification/ghettoization in order to demonstrate how the settlement of the Chinese commercial center fits within the wider logic of Athens’ current economic and political transformations. It then describes the daily practices and spaces of its inhabitants focusing on Athens’ first ever official Chinese New Year Celebration which took place in Kotzia Square in front of city hall. These descriptions lead to a comparison of how Chinese migrants come to recognize this space with that of long time residents who have both witnessed and participated in the area’s change. Drawing from these ethnographic descriptions, the paper ends with a consideration of how the lived space highlights a contradiction between the perceived conspicuity of “Chinatown”, and the tropes of invisibility that characterize the Chinese in Greece.

Tracey Rosen is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. She holds an M.A. (Social Sciences) from the University of Chicago and a B.A. (Anthropology) from Reed College in Portland, Oregon. She received a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Award to conduct ethnographic fieldwork in Greece and is currently working on her dissertation, How “Made in China” is Made in Greece, on the impact of Chinese merchants and commodities in Greece. She has served as a lecturer for the social science core at the University of Chicago. Specializing in Greece and China, her research and teaching interests include economic anthropology, global capitalism, critical theory, and psychoanalysis.

Devin Naar

‘Stones that speak’:
Debating the Jewish Cemetery of Salonica and the Articulation of
‘Hellenic Judaism,’ 1917-1942

Scholars often analyze minority-majority relations in early twentieth century Greece in terms of the impact of Hellenizing measures on religious, linguistic, and national minorities. "Scholars frequently characterize the response of the Jewish population in Salonica, one of the most conspicuous minorities in Macedonia, as one of vehement resistance to attempts to transform Ottoman Selanik into Greek Thessaloniki after 1912. In the wake of the massive fire of 1917, which destroyed downtown Salonica, the new city plan called for the expropriation of the vast Jewish cemetery to make way for new neighborhoods, a public park, and the university. The plan particularly provoked the ire of representatives of the Jewish community. Yet, as this paper will argue, the prospect of expropriating the cemetery paradoxically provided an opportunity for local Jewish leaders to recast Jewish communal identity in the terms of twentieth century Hellenism.  While recent studies focus on the ultimate and controversial destruction of the Jewish cemetery during the Nazi occupation, none have explored the extensive campaigns of the 1920s and 1930s waged by local rabbis and teachers to document and analyze the tombstones in the cemetery. Drawing on previously untapped archives of the Jewish community of Salonica (in Ladino, Greek, Hebrew, and French), local newspapers, and Greek Foreign Ministry records, this paper will investigate how participants in the campaign sought to demonstrate that the tombstones “spoke,” that they narrated the integral role played by Jews in the history of Salonica. For this reason, the campaigners argued, the cemetery must remain not only as a record of Jewish contributions to the city but also as an archeological monument of Greek patrimony. Rather than present themselves as “Jews” in opposition to the dominant category of “Greeks” (as most previous scholarship assumes), the contributors to the campaign to document the Jewish cemetery articulated a new category of “Hellenic Judaism” and sought to demonstrate that Jewish and Greek identities could be conceived as complimentary, rather than merely oppositional. Although the Holocaust cut these processes short, they nonetheless provide a significant window on the agency of one minority group to negotiate Hellenizing demands and aspirations during the interwar years.

Devin E. Naar is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at Stanford University. His dissertation focuses on the articulation of competing visions of Salonica from the end of Ottoman rule through the consolidation of Hellenic sovereignty with a particular emphasis on the Jewish population. He received his B.A. in History from Washington University in St. Louis. On a Fulbright fellowship to Greece, he curated an archival exhibition at the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki.  He has presented papers at symposia of the Modern Greet Studies Association and Association of Jewish Studies, and has published about the creation of a Salonican Jewish diaspora in American Jewish History, Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora, and in an edited volume, Itinéraires sépharades.

Dimitrios Varvaritis

Between a Rock and a Hard Place:
Jews in the Midst of the Greek War of Independence


The period since the end of the Cold War has witnessed a considerable historiographical trend and indeed growth in the study of Greece’s various ethnic and religious minorities. It is not surprising then that within this general trend there has been an analogous output, both historiographical and memoir, concerning the history of Greek Jewry and, less so, antisemitism in Greece.  Apart from a small number of specialised studies on relatively well-known events, such as the ‘pogroms’ in Corfu and Zante (1891) and the Campbell ‘riots’ in Salonika (1931), the pertinent output has tended to concentrate either on the Holocaust or on the diverse – culturally and historically – Jewish communities the Greek state absorbed in the context of its gradual territorial expansion. Consequently, antisemitism in the broader political and cultural contexts of both nation-state building and the perception of Jews as the ‘enemy within’ are issues that have not been adequately examined.  This paper will seek to address, in part, this gap by providing a contextualised examination of the events affecting the Jews of Central Greece and the Peloponnese during the War of Independence, with a particular emphasis placed on the precariousness of the Jewish communities’ survival during a period of immense social and political upheaval.  The research questions that I wish to pose include the following:  a)  Were the massacres of the Jewish element of locales such as Tripolitsa and Vrachori religiously motivated?  b) Were they informed, if at all, by the tenets/principles of the Neohellenic Enlightenment?  c) To what extent were these events purely localized phenomena?  D)  What was the legacy, as per Greek state practice in relation to its Jewish element, of these events?


Dimitrios Varvaritis is a PhD candidate in History at King’s College London. He holds a BA in Law and Modern Greek Studies (University of Sydney), and a MA in International History (London School of Economics). He is currently working on his doctoral thesis, provisionally entitled ‘The enemy within? Antisemitic “moments” in the Greek nation-state 1820s-1931’. His research interests include antisemitism in European nation-states and especially within Ottoman Balkan successor states, the history of Greek and Balkan Jewries, and the relationship between poverty and emigration in the historical evolution of the Greek state.

Stefan Papaioannou

Southeastern European Violence:
Armed Force and Non-combatants in Macedonia, 1912-1918


The First World War in the region of Macedonia can be considered in diplomatic terms as a sort of sequel to the two Balkan Wars that preceded it by only two years.  Beginning in 1915, Bulgaria went to war against Serbia and then Greece for the territories it had lost to them in 1913.  This paper will show, however, that the forms of violence experienced by the region’s non-combatant populations during the Great War were markedly different in comparison to what had come before, suggesting in some ways a sharp discontinuity in local experience between the two wars.  During the Balkan Wars, Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian armies and paramilitary groups had often used tactics of terror and chaos against civilians perceived to be unfriendly to their respective causes – apparently snap decisions to burn villages, murder, rape, and imprison.  Such methods resembled those of nineteenth century wars in the area, and yet also showed striking similarities to German actions in Belgium in the summer of 1914.  During the First World War, military abuses in Macedonia shifted towards a novel, distinctly bureaucratic method of dealing with ostensibly untrustworthy or burdensome populations that came to mark broader European wartime violence in the twentieth century.  Authorities operating in Macedonia organized mass deportations for categories of civilians deemed suspect, sometimes to labor camps with harsh working conditions, as well as large-scale evacuations of civilians from frontline areas.  Such policies wreaked massive economic havoc and caused episodes of mass starvation.  Western European (especially German and French) military personnel in Macedonia were involved in such actions on both sides and this was reflected in accounts and complaints of affected civilians.  Both the abuses of the region’s civilians that marked the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 and the novel features introduced during the First World War bespeak a dark side to the modern integration of the Balkans with the rest of Europe, while calling into question notions arising during this period of a uniquely ‘Balkan’ brand of violence.


Stefan Sotiris Papaioannou is a Ph.D. candidate in History at the University of Maryland and holds a B.A. in Economics from Williams College.  His doctoral dissertation reconstructs the experiences of Orthodox Christian populations living in the geographic region of Macedonia as the area was contested by Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia during the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 and in the First World War.  Stefan has presented his work on urban social history, Western images of the Balkans, and historiography of irregular violence at conferences in the United States and Europe.  He is the recipient of several grants and fellowships, including the International Research and Exchanges Board Individual Advanced Research Opportunities Fellowship (2007-2008) and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens Cotsen Traveling Fellowship (2007).

Dimitrios Antoniou


Defining and Measuring Crime and Violence in Early Othonian Greece:
A Preliminary Assessment

This paper examines how both the subjects and the authorities (royal government, law enforcement bodies- police and gendarmerie- and the judiciary) defined crime and illegitimate violence during the formative years of the Greek state (1833- 1843). The latter have introduced an impressively detailed and rigorous legal framework, full of complications and technicalities, which was destined to consolidate the power of the m`onarchy in the newly born state. The former found themselves confronted with the criminalization of a great variety of routine up to that day practices, which used to be tolerated, if not regarded as legitimate; it would seem reasonable to support that they developed an increasing distrust towards the law and a reluctance to abide by it.  This harshness of the law was very quickly tempered in practice, because of the inefficiency and the impuissance of the mechanisms assigned to eradicate crime and delinquency: ultimately, the authorities became mostly concerned about violent crimes that challenged directly the royal authority (local rebelliousness) or prevented the efficient control of the territory (brigandage), while interpersonal offences among the peasants did not seem to perturb them seriously.  This paper explores the concrete crime trends during this period, by means of a reappraisal of the available statistics, which include figures of indictments and convictions. Although a large proportion of the infractions committed went undetected or unreported to the administration, thus resulting in a “dark figure” of criminality, these data do provide a guide to deviance. There is enough evidence to suggest that there is a gradual decrease of the crime in the countryside, whereas crime rates in the (few) urban areas remain more or less unchanged; for the dark figure of crime only vague estimates can be drawn. As a conclusion, the paper explains why the study of crime during the era of absolute monarchy is critical to understanding the long process of modernization of the Greek state throughout the 19th century.

Dimitrios Antoniou is a Ph.D. candidate in History at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He works on the creation and the evolution of the criminal justice apparatus in Greece during the absolute monarchy (1833- 1843). Born in Larissa, Greece, in 1979, he holds an LL.B. from the University of Athens and a Master Recherche (M. A.)  in History and Civilisations from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. His Master dissertation focused on the modernization of the Greek armed forces under the Tricoupis administration. His research interests include aspects of the formation of the Greek state and he has published on the reception of the byzantine law in early modern Greece.

Maria Kyriakidou

Watching the World Through the National Lens:
Mediated Discourses of Distant Suffering in Greece


The media coverage of disasters and human suffering around the world has been at the centre of a broader debate about the role of the media in surpassing the national imagination and, in the process, fostering a global public. Modern media in their global reach have rendered the visibility of the suffering of distant others more possible and prominent than ever before. Events such as 9/11 and the Southeast Asian Tsunami, or currently the Earthquake in Haiti, have at times monopolised media attention, becoming part of a series of traumatic events that the world has come to experience through their global coverage. The consequences of such visibility, it has been argued, are the fostering of relations of responsibility towards distant others and the emergence of post-national or cosmopolitan solidarities.  Drawing upon sociological theories of globalisation and cosmopolitanism as well as media literature on distant suffering and audience studies, the paper will address the above discussion in the context of modern Greece. Empirically based on focus group discussions with members of the Greek audience, the paper will explore the ways cosmopolitanism as a mediated sense of global belonging and solidarity is expressed in audience discourses. The empirical material, mainly focused on three major disasters, namely the Tsunami of 2004, Hurricane Katrina and the Kashmir Earthquake in 2005, will be presented in terms of the ways people discursively construct their concepts of space and belonging when talking about distant suffering.  The focus here will be on the interplay between national and cosmopolitan discourses within the audience discussions. In this context, universalistic ideas about the commonality of human pain and the responsibilities it encompasses for its witnesses are juxtaposed to Greek national and cultural stereotypes, attitudes and beliefs, such as anti-Americanism, civic disengagement and a broader culture of mistrust. As such, the cosmopolitan imagination of Greek audiences is not an impartial global perspective but rather a rooted, locally and nationally, openness to the world.


Maria Kyriakidou is a PhD candidate in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of economics. She holds a B.A. in Media and Communications from the National Kapodistrian University of Athens and a MSc in Social and Public Communication from the London School of Economics. Her PhD dissertation focuses on audience discourses of media representations of distant suffering in Greece, exploring the concepts of cosmopolitanism, witnessing and memory in relation to the media. Her research interests include the fields of globalisation and the media, cosmopolitanism, representation and its politics, audience research and discourse theory and she has published both in media and sociology journals.

Toby Lee

Festival, City, State:
Negotiating Cultural Citizenship in the Space of the Thessaloniki Film Festival


Leading up to its much-anticipated 50th edition in 2009, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival – one of the most established and high-profile cultural institutions in Greece, and in the Balkans more generally – found itself facing a public boycott by a group of over 200 Athens-based Greek filmmakers, including some of the most celebrated directors in Greece.  Calling themselves Oi Kinimatografistes stin Omichli, these filmmakers refused to participate in the 2009 Festival unless the government created a new, comprehensive film policy that addressed what they saw as corruption and incompetence in the state’s handliPng of film-related affairs.  For the Festival, such a boycott was potentially disastrous, as it faced the possibility of a 50th anniversary celebration without Greek films, especially in a year distinguished by Greek filmmakers’ success at important international festivals abroad and at the domestic box office.  The FOG filmmakers insisted that they were protesting the state and not the Festival – legally autonomous, but politically connected and funded in large part by the Ministry of Culture – but public debates surrounding the boycott nevertheless centered on accusations that the Athenian filmmakers were attempting to undermine the Festival and the city of Thessaloniki itself.  In the end, no new law was passed, and the 50th edition of the Festival took place with only a handful of mostly undistinguished Greek films.  At present, the FOG filmmakers are boycotting the upcoming Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, and public opinion on the matter remains highly divided.  Through an ethnographic study of the boycott and the public discourse surrounding these events, this paper examines how the Festival and the city of Thessaloniki function as a public platform and a space of the state.  Specifically, I ask how the protesting filmmakers use the Festival to redefine their relationship to the state – how does an institution like the Festival allow these filmmakers to articulate notions of local, national and European cultural citizenship?  And how does the traditional rivalry between Thessaloniki and the culturally dominant capital of Athens play a role in public debates over the relationship between the state, its citizens, and notions of national culture?


Toby Lee is a Ph.D. student in Social Anthropology, with a Secondary Field in Film and Visual Studies, at Harvard University.  She received a B.A. in Anthropology and Modern Greek Studies at Columbia University, and an M.Phil in European Literature at Oxford University.  Her research interests include cultural institutions, the anthropology of space, urban studies, and visual culture. Her dissertation, “The Thessaloniki International Film Festival: Public Culture and the Production of Place in Modern Greece”, is an ethnographic and historical study of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival and its relationship to its host city, exploring how public culture and its institutions mediate between the local, the national, and the global in the collective experience of place.



Last updated 5/3/10