Saturday, June 4, 2011

Be Greek for the Weekend!



The invitation to be an ethnic for a weekend underlines the manner in which identities are thought in postmodernity: malleable and situational; fleeting, disposable and shallow. Pleasurable activities like dance and eating serve as readily available venues where ethnicity is shared and ethnic belonging is experienced. Forget language! Let us join the kalamatiano to experience the kefi/mojo as a warm up before heading for an eclectic nightclub featuring retro disco later in the night.

But this condition of identity fluidity presents a prospect that was not available to American ethnicities before multiculturalism. It makes possible a fantasy of power reversal. The context of the festival offers a space where a cultural minority becomes the norm into which the dominant assimilates, albeit momentarily. It is no wonder that unlike films such as Achilles' Love (www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xN0LyXAOpg), where the Greek festival is crucial to the plot, My Big Fat Greek Wedding does not bother to feature it. This is because the film enacts the fantasy of becoming Greek in a much larger scale, certainly beyond the demarcated ethnic weekend of the festival.

How does this embodied experience of performing ethnicity in a Greek festival shape the American public? How does it shape the subjectivities of Greek Americans, young and old? It is wise to postpone any light dismissal of ethnic festivals until we know the answer to these questions. As we keep in mind critiques of the festivals as cookie-cutter cultural expressions let us also reflect on how they contribute to ethnic empowerment.


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