Saturday, April 3, 2010

New Directions (once again) in Greek American Studies (III)

Transnational Networks, Virtual Communities, Material Effects

Addressing family, friends, and members of the local community, a Greek-born resident of Columbus, Ohio, recently posted an electronic newsletter featuring photographs of a family reunion in Crete, his visit with his son’s family residing in Mexico City, his family’s travels to California, Texas, and elsewhere, and his business trip to Singapore, a country to which he has been connected for a good part of his professional life. Collages and photomontage are also included in the newsletter, visually dramatizing the density of his extended family spanning at least three generations.

This kind of popular chronicling brings attention to two kinds of phenomena: a) the operation of worldwide kinship, ethnic, and professional networks, a practice that has historically defined the experience of ethnic Greeks outside Greece (the Pontian people for instance) but seems to proliferate in scale and intensity in the age of globalization; and b) the use of electronic technologies to produce a public archive centered on the transnational experiences of family and personal life.

Significantly, transnational networks further mobilize to produce archives about communities and localities. “The world–wide Kytherian community” (www.kythera-family.net/) is an example. A website about the island of Kythera, it produces a rich visual and audio archive of its landscape and inhabitants, local and transnational family histories, interviews, gravesites, cultural events, as well as environmental activism. Seeking to shape local life, this initiative is the result of transnational collaboration as its team of producers, managers, and consumers is distributed all over the globe.

This kind of transnational networks of cultural affiliation and heritage production are bound to proliferate. The ongoing exodus of young people from Greece for university studies abroad–the infamous brain drain; the pursuit of careers, and the making of families outside Greece; increasing rates of inter-marriage across nationalities; the nomadic scattering of Greek professionals under conditions of globalization; economically secure families splitting their time between their home country and Greece; the importance of ethnicity, roots, routes, and heritage globally; they all contribute to the creation of transnational Greek networks.

The question of how participants in this process cultivate their ties; how they negotiate biculturalism; the place of culture and ethnic institutions in the socialization of children; their relations with host cultures and peoples; the nature of connections with Greece; transnational activism shaping localities in Greece in relation to global discourses in their national inflections (U.S. environmentalism, individualism, and feminisms, for instance), and the nexus of competing interests surrounding this activism. This is a fertile terrain for a transnational research framework to address the political and social implications of these unfolding phenomena.

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