Program in Hellenic Studies
Fourth International Graduate Student Conference in Modern Greek Studies
"Crisis and Innovation in Modern Greece"
Friday, May 4, 2012
RE-MAKING PUBLIC SPACES
THE EMERGENCE OF COMMONS IN THE CENTRE OF ATHENS
The emergence of the global recession in 2008 and the subsequent Greek debt crisis has caused radical changes to the economic, political, social and cultural environment of the country. The public spaces of the Greek cities that are functioning as spatial representations of the socio-political conditions have become the mirrors reflecting those changes. In Athens, the capital of the Greek state, the manifestation of public response has been expressed in different and contrasting ways. On the one hand the public spaces of the city centre have been the arena of an increasing number of clashes, demonstrations and insurrections that often take a violent and destructive form. On the other hand, the crisis has led to a mushrooming of social urban movements that go beyond simple rejection and confrontation in order to enter into the collective creation and metamorphosis of urban space and of everyday life in the city. Resulting from those urban movements is the creation of a new type of ‘public’ space which is the focus of this paper. They are urban plots, unused or destined for commercial uses that reclaimed by citizens and turned into open public spaces. The processes of creation, maintenance, organization, networking, communication and management that emerge from the new spaces suggest spatial definitions that are different from the statutory public spaces and could be more coherently and fruitfully described as commons. Using as a key study one of the new public spaces, the Navarinou Park, this paper will attempt to transcend the public-private dipole and explore the multiple significations of the ‘public’ and the contemporary challenges that ‘public’ faces. By contrasting and comparing the notions of common and public as embodied in the emerging Athenian public spaces this paper will investigate possible new arenas that deepen the democratic participation, work as creative and emancipating spaces amidst the crisis and extend the notion of public sphere.
BIOOrsalia Dimitriou is a doctoral candidate at Goldsmiths University of London in the department of Visual Cultures being awarded a scholarship from the Greek State Scholarship foundation (I.K.Y). Her thesis is about the Spatial Expression of Political Models in Public Spaces and she is using as key study a number of public spaces in contemporary Athens. Orsalia is focusing on the political attributes of the public space, the re-emergence of common space, the use of architectural and urban forms as definitions of citizenship and the role of design as a tool of political intervention. Her research interests include Urban Design Theory, Urban Insurgencies, Grassroots Urban Practices, Public Art, Political Art and the use of Visual Media as a Research Method. Orsalia holds a diploma in Architecture Engineering from the National Technical University of Athens and an MA in Architecture and Art from Univercidad Politecnica de Barcelona being awarded a scholarship from the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Becas MAE). She is a practicing architect and currently an associate lecturer in the BA in Interior Architecture and Design at University of Creative Arts in Canterbury and in the MA in Contemporary Art Theory at Goldsmiths University of London.
A DELICATE TRANSITION REFLECTED IN P.SOUTSOS’ LEANDER
Leander’s wanderings throughout Greece is considered to be the romantic journey of a disappointed lover, but it is foremost an attempt to adapt to a changing system of power. It is a quest for a new sense of belonging. The narration describes the transition of an old power centre, the Ottoman Empire, to a new one that overturns the traditional concept of periphery and centre. What was a periphery for the Ottoman Empire becomes the core of the New Greek state, and Constantinople, a metropolis since byzantine times, becomes a periphery, at the extremity of Europe. But what is at stake in this transition? Leander realises very early on that a new state cannot be based on the flaws that tore the Ottoman Empire apart. Nafplion, his first stop in the new born state, bears the marks of an old corrupted system and is seen as a dystopia. The hero, a product of the old hierarchic system, tries to integrate himself into the new world by adhering to the natural landscape that had once given birth to the ancient Greek civilization and constitutes the sole link to Enlightened Europe. The very same structure of the novel reflects Koraes’ idea of metakenosis, borrowing themes and style techniques from ancient Greek literature as well as from the contemporary romantic fiction to create the first novel of the new state. In this way, Leander calls on modern Greece to free itself from the despotic Orient and join the enlightened nations. In its archaistic language, we see a clear effort to dismiss recent Greek history, in order to embrace only the remote past, recognized and honoured by Western Europe. Adopting the novel form and its most famous romantic motifs is a sign of a premature effort to enter modernity as quickly as possible. The narrative’s effort to create a personal style, reflecting the new state’s aim to form a cohesive identity, is nevertheless undermined by the tension between a denied oriental tradition and the abrupt adoption of the western image of Greece.
Danai Otatzi is a Phd candidate in Comparative Literature, representing the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki at the European Phd Program D.E.S.E (Doctorat d'Études Supérieures Européennes), coordinated by the Alma Mater University of Bologna. The dissertation she is currently working on examines the relation between aesthetics and ideology in the theme of refuge into nature at the threshold of Romantic prose, following its development from Germany to France and from Italy to Greece. She holds a B.A. in Ancient and Modern Greek Literature and an M.A. with honours in Comparative Literature from Aristotle University in cooperation with Sorbonne Paris IV. She currently teaches Modern Greek language and Translation at Jean Moulin-Lyon III University. Her research interests include a theoretical reflection on the relationship between the novel and the construction of ideology, the perception of nature and culture, and the history of writing.
CHINESE ENTREPRENEURIAL MIGRATION IN ATHENS:
PRACTICES AND NEW PERSPECTIVES DURING THE RECENT ECONOMIC CRISIS
The Chinese migration in Greece is a very recent and dynamic phenomenon. Specifically, Chinese presence in Greece, which today is estimated to number a population of approximately 20.000 people, becomes mostly visible after the Olympic Games of 2004. Their majority is from the southeastern province of Zhejiang and their main economic activity is the wholesale and retail business. From 2000 until today Athens has become the social and economic core of the Chinese living and working in Greece. Specifically the Chinese area is located in the city center, in Metaxourgio neighborhood, and is characterized by a strong commercial function. The recent economic crisis has an important impact on the Chinese entrepreneurial activities. In fact 30 % of the wholesale stores located in the Chinese area have very low economic profits in comparison with the years before. During the field work, it seemed that the Chinese migrants follow different practices in order to cope with this new economic situation. On the one hand, the well established businessmen restrain their expenses by running their enterprises only with the unpaid help of their close family and by following more tight commercial strategies. On the other hand, the newly arrived migrants, but also Chinese migrants who remain outside the established networks, seek different opportunities and consider the possibility of returning or re-emigrating. Even though the crisis affects their majority, a closer look at different families demonstrates that the economic difficulties are not equally shared among the Chinese. The methodology is based on the field work conducted for my doctoral dissertation which is still in process. Through qualitative interviews and in situ observation, I analyze their commercial practices, their interactions with the area of establishment and their future perspectives within this particular economic context. Furthermore, I participated at the National Census of 2011 and so I had the possibility to observe closely a number of Chinese households. In addition, this research is completed through quantitative data, collected by the Chamber of Commerce of Athens and the Greek National Confederation of Commerce.
Iris Polyzos is a doctoral candidate in thesis co-supervision between the National Technical University of Athens and the University of Poitiers. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Crete and an M.A. at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in the department Territory, Space and Society. She is currently studying the Chinese presence in Greece and focusing on their specific patterns of economic and spatial localisation. The main approach of the thesis is the socio-spatial study of the recent transformations in the city centre through the establishment of the transnational and entrepreneurial Chinese Diaspora. Polyzos was awarded with the modern and contemporary scholarship from the French School in Athens (EFA). She is a member of Migrinter and she completed her first teaching semester in the field of urbanism at the National Technical University of Athens.
LEADERSHIP ELECTION BETWEEN CRISIS AND INNOVATION IN GREEK PARTY POLITICS
Almost two years have passed since Greece was forced to seek a bailout from its fellow euro partners and the IMF, but accomplishments have in general fallen short of expectations. As the recession is deepening, so does the on-going debate among the academic, political and media elites, focusing mainly on two interrelated issues: Who is to blame and which the proper way-out of the crisis is. Popular explanations regarding the causes of the crisis juxtapose politics to economics; political actors to institutions; populism to liberalism; an underdog culture to a reformist one; the EU structural weaknesses to the national ones and so on. To our mind, the Greek crisis is mainly an institutional one and it is in the interplay between institutions and significant political actors that both the causes and the remedies should be searched for. Among political institutions, there is no doubt that political parties have dominated the political and social life during the 3rd Greek Republic. However many scholars have argued that parties have invaded the state and the society (partitocracy), we will challenge the strong character of Greek parties by supporting that in terms of organization, they constitute weak structures ruled by strong leaders. We will argue that leadership election constitutes a moment of innovation, which generates crises, in the two most important political parties, PASOK and New Democracy. Our main hypothesis is that every leadership election is marked by an innovative process which is creating a new crisis, due to the low level of institutionalization and the predominance of the leaders vis-à-vis the party structures. The intra-party debate focuses mainly on the rules that should be followed and less on the candidates’ programs. That said, the context and the intra-party power correlations play a crucial role in the rules that prevail. The everlasting change in the rules of the game causes new crises, which the party overcomes once the new leader imposes his authority on the organization. Because the person is always stronger than the institution, the old and new structures are weak, which re-generates the crisis. Last but not least, the paper will discuss the impact of this interplay on the parties’ physiognomy and on the quality of democracy in contemporary Greece.
Lamprini Rori is a Phd Candidate at the University of Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne). She holds a BA in International and European Studies from the University of Macedonia, an MA in Political Sociology and Public Policy from Sciences Po Paris (Institut d’Etudes Politiques) and an MA in Political and Social Communication from the University of Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne). She is currently finishing her thesis on the impact of the professionalization of political communications on the physiognomy of socialist parties in Europe. She has worked as a political communications expert in the private sector (Agence Verte, Paris) and in public administration (Ministry of Press and Mass Media, Ministry of Citizens Protection, Ministry for Regional Development and Competitiveness, Athens).
PROSPECTS OF SURVIVAL:
CONSTANTINOS DOXIADIS AND THE MINISTRY OF RECONSTRUCTION (1945-1951)
In the aftermath of the Second World War Greece was shattered and politically divided between the leftist resistance groups and the political elites of the Centre-Right, effectively backed up by the British and American allies. While most of the European countries were licking the wounds, the political and social chasm in Greece deepened. The “hidden war” compounded the devastated rural areas intensifying the migration of its population that flocked to the cities in search of a shelter and a job. Moreover, Greek economy was in imminent danger of collapse: hyperinflation rendered the drachmae a useless currency, infrastructure and approximately three-fourths of the merchant fleet tonnage were destroyed, and Nazi looting had seized the Greek treasury. Paradoxically, after the liberation there was little hope for recovering. Being a matter of survival, the first postwar years became one of the most critical periods in the Modern Greek history. Against this background, Constantinos A. Doxiadis undertook the efforts for the Reconstruction of the country. Initially as Undersecretary and Director-General of the Ministry of Housing and Reconstruction (1945-48), and subsequently as General Director and Coordinator of the Greek Recovery Program (1948-51), Doxiadis reinvented and orchestrated the administrations that devised the economic policies for the reconstruction of the settlements of Greece, effectively collaborating with foreign agencies and the Marshall Plan aid representatives. This paper will examine the manifold interventions promoted by the Ministry of Reconstruction as an integrated program of economic recovery and regional planning. The Ministry’s programmatic actions comprised the restoration of damaged buildings, the construction of new settlements, and the provision of building materials and technical assistance as aided self-help programs that actively engaged the future inhabitants in the reconstruction process. Beyond any doubt, international and local politics highly conditioned the Reconstruction and the postwar development of Greece that defied every planning effort and eventually, against all odds, took off in the 1960s. Interestingly, Doxiadis’ initiatives set guidelines for the modernization of the country, while his discourse evinced the unification of Europe and emphasized the stance of Greece in the geopolitical Cold War game.
Lefteris Theodosis is a doctoral candidate in Theory and History of Architecture, at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, in Barcelona. His doctoral thesis focuses on the work and theory of the architect-planner Constantinos A. Doxiadis (1913-1975) and the redefinition of planning and design in the Cold War era. Graduated as an architect-engineer from the National Technical University of Athens, he holds an M.A. in Theory and History of Architecture from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) and the Metropolis postgraduate program degree in Architecture and Urban Culture, organized by the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB), the Pompeu Fabra University (IDEC) and the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (FPC). His research interest cut through the areas of Urban Planning, Housing Policy, Cold War Politics and Decolonization in the Middle East.
INNOVATION IN MODERN GREEK FICTION:
THE CASE OF NIKOLAOS EPISKOPOPOULOS
This paper explores the issue of innovation with respect to Greek literature of the nineteenth century. Its main purpose is to examine the variety of ways in which Greek men of letters assimilated Edgar Allan Poe’s works for their own creative purposes; a process that led to the creation of innovative literature. My aim, here, is to offer a review of Poe’s reception in Greece during the late nineteenth century. The purpose of this historical approach is to give an idea of when was Poe first introduced to Greek readers and the effect he had on literary figures and movements in Greece. Poe’s influence in Greece has been extensive and profound; Poe’s presence in Greece goes back nearly 135 years, during which time numerous Greek authors fell under the spell of his artistry. After providing a brief account of some authors who, allegedly, have been influenced by Poe’s oeuvre, I focus on Nikolaos Episkopopoulos (1874-1944). Even though he is often overlooked in anthologies of the Modern Greek Literature, this Greek writer deserves credit for his short fiction hinges on his attention to refined language and the peculiarity of his story lines. Being an avid reader of European and American literature, Episkopopoulos has proved himself a willing user of themes, ideas, plots and methods of foreign literatures. As such, his juvenilia set Episkopopoulos apart from the rest of the Greek authors, who professed the principles of “genre” writing, and brought him close to the European cosmopolitan standards and to certain foreign authors and poets such as Guy de Maupassant, Villiers de L’Isle Adam, Charles Baudelaire, Gabriele D'Annunzio and of course Poe. The body of work, that I chose to discuss, reveals unmistakable Poe-esque characteristics and provides an excellent example of the fluidity of Poe’s imagination as it ranges across the Episkopopoulos’ canon.
BIOEleftheria Tsirakoglou is a doctoral candidate in the Department of American Literature and Culture at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. She holds a B.A. in English Language and Literature from the Aristotle University and an M.A. in Interpreting and Translation Studies from the University of Leeds. She is currently working on her doctoral dissertation which deals with the first translations and the overall reception of Poe in Greece. Her research interests include comparative literature, popular literature, intercultural and translation studies.
Last updated 4/16/12