Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Visualizing Greek Identity in the U.S.



THE OSU MODERN GREEK PROGRAM 
AND THE FOREIGN LANGUAGE CENTER PRESENT
ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΟ ΓΛΕΝΤΙ –

GREEK FESTIVAL
3:30-5 PM
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 2
CRANE CAFÉ, HAGERTY HALL
OSU MODERN GREEK STUDENTS PRESENT:
LIVE MUSIC, DANCE, GREEK FOOD,
PRESENTATIONS ON GREEK LANGUAGE AND CULTURE
FEATURING SINGER PARIS GYPARAKIS
FLC RADIO LIVE GREEK BROADCAST IN CRANE CAFÉ 2:30-3:30


Φήμες


Βλέμματα υπερωρίας 
πακετάρουν
σιλουέτες στα κάρβουνα to go·
«φως φανάρι
δίκης ζευγάρι»
στάζει λίγδα το μενού
από στόμα σε στόμα 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chancellor Katehi: A Transnational Moment

«... προσέθεσε, κάνοντας αναφορά και στα γεγονότα της 17ης Νοεμβρίου του 1973 στην Αθήνα, όταν η χούντα έστειλε τα τανκς για να ρίξουν τη σιδερένια πύλη του Πολυτεχνείου. «Ήμουν εκεί και δεν θέλω να το ξεχάσω» τόνισε στους φοιτητές του Ντέιβις.»

Monday, November 21, 2011

Local vs National Bylaws

From the Salt Lake Tribune, by BY SCOTT D. PIERCE AND ERIN ALBERTY

Holladay • After death threats, litigation and a church meeting supervised by police, members of the Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Salt Lake voted Sunday against adopting the bylaws of its national hierarchy.

The seemingly technical issue has thrown the church into an ongoing emotional dispute that culminated at Sunday’s general assembly. Hundreds of people turned out, and some were not allowed in the doors of the Diamond Z. Miles Multi-Purpose Center.

“It’s very heated. People are getting upset,” said church member Mary Kontgis. “My mom [is] 90 years old. She’s just beside herself. It’s dividing the community.”

“I’ve never seen so many Greeks in my life,” said Bob Baliban. “Honest to God, they must have come from Idaho and Wyoming, too. I think the Mormons must be getting a kick out of this.”

Members of the local parish, which includes both the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Salt Lake City and the Prophet Elias Church in Holladay, have clashed over whether to bring local church bylaws in line with Greek Orthodox Uniform Parish Regulations. Opponents fear the move would take control of the local finances away from local members.

Parish council members dispute those claims, saying adopting the bylaws would only codify the way the church already makes decisions.

Church member voted on two resolutions that would have adopted the new bylaws, rejecting them approximately 60 percent to 40 percent, parish council president Jim Mylonakis said.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Mylonakis said. “We will see what directives we’re going to receive.”

Continue, www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/52956816-78/church-members-bylaws-parish.html.csp?page=1

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Greek Names, Old and New Technologies of Americanization



Η καταναγκαστική Αμερικανοποίηση Ελληνικών ονομάτων στις αρχές του 20ου αιώνα (αλλά και αργότερα, για λόγους οικονομικής και κοινωνικής επιβίωσης των μεταναστών) έχει θρηνηθεί σα μια οδυνηρή καρατόμηση. Πώς να ήταν διαφορετικά όταν στον βωμό της πραγματιστικής αφομείωσης θυσιαζόταν κάτι τόσο κοντά στον πυρήνα της ταυτότητας; Παπαδόπουλοι γίναν Παπ, Κατριπούληδες Κατρ, και Αγγελόπουλοι Αγγελοι.

Το κουτσουρεμένο επώνυμο συνεπάγεται μια απόσταση από τον εαυτό, μια αποξένωση που βιώνεται, τελικά, σα μία ανωνυμία. Έτσι ακριβώς όπως το πιάνει το τραγούδι «Αστόρια»:

«[Οι μετανάστες] Κοιτάν τη ζωή. Σιωπή στα δυο σπασμένη,
με ξένη φωνή στη μέση ακριβώς, σαν επώνυμο
πού 'χει χαθεί το μισό του μόνο είν’ ακόμα εκεί
μονάχο, μικρό και ανώνυμο»

Από την άλλη μεριά, όσοι κράτησαν το όνομα τους ακέραιο, σήμερα εκφράζουν δημόσια την υπερηφάνειά τους για αυτήν την οικογενειακή απόφαση. Η περίπτωση της Μελίνας Κανακαρίδης μου έρχεται στο μυαλό, καθώς και του Τζορτζ Στεφανόπουλου.

Ας σημειώσω ότι η εμπειρία του να ζεις στην Αμερική με ένα «εθνοτικό» επώνυμο απαιτεί δημιουργικούς τρόπους επικοινωνίας, ένα είδος πολιτιστικής μετάφρασης.

Το παράδειγμα του Michael Kalafatas είναι ενδεικτικό:

"By conservative estimate I have spelled my name 25,000 times … the receptionist in my office, when asked to spell my name, would say, “Kalafatas: All the vowels are A’s, and it’s ‘K’ as in kiss, ‘l’ as in love, ‘f’ as in fudge, ‘t’ as in toffee, and ‘s’ as in sugar.” Somehow I never spelled it that way. In America the subtext of spelling an “ethnic” name is the act of an outsider trying to spell his way in" (The Bellstone, 192)

ή, ακόμα, το παράδειγμα του Αμερικανού ποιητή Jaswinder Molina:

«During the introductions that preface each event, even the organizers who’ve invited me have difficulty getting my name right, and in one school library, I enunciate it over and over again. I say, “Jas as in the first part of justice; win as in the opposite of defeat; der, which rhymes with err, meaning to be mistaken.” I say, “JasWINder,” lilting the second syllable, and smile as about a dozen audience members mouth each syllable along with me until they feel they have it right. When they do, they grin broadly.» (
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/article/243072)


Θα περίμενε κανείς ότι η εποχή μας, με την έμφαση στις ρίζες και το δικαίωμα αυτοπροσδιορισμού θα ενθάρρυνε την διατήρηση Ελληνικών επωνύμων. Αλλά η ιστορία επιφυλάσσει ειρωνικά γυρίσματα. Το τελευταίο κεφάλαιο περικοπών ονομάτων δεν έχει γραφτεί ακόμα. Αυτό που γράφεται (κυριολεκτικά και μεταφορικά) διαδραματίζεται με τους όρους της νέας τεχνολογίας. Παραθέτω το σχετικό παράδειγμα (χωρίς σχόλια), από το μπλογκ της Stephanie Nikolopoulos, a New York based writer:

"You Know You're Greek When... Your Name Is Too Long for Twitter"
stephanienikolopoulos.com/2011/09/09/you-know-you’re-greek-when…-your-name-is-too-long-for-twitter

«From Μπρούκληδες to Brooklynites»

«Ο Αλέξανδρος Κιτροέφ, ιστορικός που ειδικεύεται στη μελέτη της νεοελληνικής συνείδησης και ταυτότητας διαπιστώνει ότι η κρίση μας βάζει στον αστερισμό ενός νέου συσχετισμού δυνάμεων, στην Ελλάδα και σε όλο τον κόσμο. ... Ο καθηγητής ιστορίας και διευθυντής του Κέντρου Ειρήνης και Παγκοσμιοποίησης του Haverford College στην Πενσυλβάνια των ΗΠΑ μίλησε για τις διαφορές στην ελληνική ομογένεια την Τρίτη 15 Νοεμβρίου στο Αμερικάνικο Κολλέγιο Αθηνών με τίτλο «From Μπρούκληδες to Brooklynites- a Greek American History.

Κύριε Κιτροέφ μιλήσατε στην Αθήνα για την ελληνική ομογένεια, την παλιότερη και την τωρινή. Ποιες ομοιότητες και ποιες διαφορές παρατηρείτε;

Η Ελληνο-αμερικανική ομογένεια που αριθμεί περίπου 1,2 εκατομύρια ανθρώπους είναι πράγματι μια πολύ διαφοροποιημένη ενότητα. Η πρώτη γενιά είναι οι καθεαυτό μετανάστες που γεννήθηκαν έξω από τις ΗΠΑ και μετανάστευσαν εκεί την περίοδο 1890-1924 όπως και την περίοδο 1950 - 1974. Η δεύτερη γενιά είναι η πρώτη που έχει γεννηθεί στις ΗΠΑ και η τρίτη γενιά είναι τα εγγόνια των ελληνογεννημένων. Υφίσταται ακόμη και τέταρτη γενιά, που δηλώνει με υπερηφάνεια ελληνική καταγωγή. Η «γενιά» του κάθε μετανάστη καθορίζει την φύση της «ελληνικότητας» του καθένα. Οι ελληνογεννημένοι, (έχει εκλείψει βέβαια η πρώτη γενιά) διατηρούν μιά άμεση σχέση με την Ελλάδα – πρόκειται για έλληνες που ζουν στο εξωτερικό, εκ των οποίων οι πιο μορφωμένοι έχουν προσαρμοσθεί/ ενσωματωθεί στη Αμερικανική κοινωνία, στην επαγγελματική τους ζωή και μερικά στην οικογενειακή και κοινωνική τους ζωή, ιδίως εάν δεν έχουν παντρευτεί με έλληνα η ελληνίδα.»



Thursday, November 17, 2011

On Ethnic Writing

Here is a recent high-brow take on ethnic writing:

"First-generation American writers often have two stories to tell. There's the story of their inspiration and the quest for a discipline to give form to their imaginings. Then there's a more constricted tale: the arrival myth. How did my parents get here from Hungary or Nigeria or China, say, and at what cost? The children of immigrants sometimes feel a kind of moral responsibility to address their parents' struggle. And that sense of duty can saddle the work with a reverence that makes it feel ponderous or didactic, drained of the very thing that moved them to write in the first place: imagination. So it's especially exciting to find first-generation American artists who don't traffic in guilt or remorse, and who can laugh ..."*

Let's unpack: According to this piece, the immigrant past stifles the creativity of an "ethnic writer." The experience of family functions as a constraining, albeit moral force, bogging down ethnic writers. The excerpt above creates a normative category, ethnic writing, frames it as a handicap, and then proceeds to praise an exception that the author discovers.

But this approach hides more than it reveals. The fact that "ethnic writers" are fundamentally frustrated by the dominant society's label of them as authentic bearers of ethnicity and therefore are seen as uniquely qualified to write about it (and only about it) is never acknowledged in the above excerpt. (see,
katpaintsair.blogspot.com/2009/11/ethnicity-writing.html)

In other words, what is a mainstream expectation is diagnosed as an ethnic problem, which in turn is criticized as a symptom of its own making. The fact that ethnic writers often imaginatively deal with their immigrant past is not given due credit.

There is nothing new in this formulation, ethnic writing is routinely devalued as lesser than "mainstream" American literature. Ethnic arts are labeled inferior to national arts because of the former's ethnographic obligation to entangle the past. Painful immigrant memories demand a voice that compromises artistic freedom. Ethnic writers are "condemned," held liable for compulsively visiting this past (and criticizing the dominant society, one might add).

Such framing of ethnic writing is an artificially fragile (and ideologically suspect) category. This becomes clear once we probe any realist national narrative that takes as its subject the narrator's difficult past. Are there no examples in American art where the narrator or the artist delve into their ("non-ethnic") family's economic hardships, injustices, dislocation, eviction, despair, or displacement?

When "ethnic" writers write about a painful past are lesser artists. Does the same apply to "American" writers who feel the moral responsibility to explore their family's adversities?

To summarize in a manner that can easily be memorized, here is a template that could anchor any discussion on ethnic writing:

There is mediocre ethnic writing delving into the past and there is great ethnic writing delving into the past. There is mediocre national writing delving into the past and there is great national writing delving into the past.

And let us then proceed to interrogate the notion of an independent "ethnic arts" category, to investigate instead its permutations with American arts. For instance, is Jeffrey Eugenides's
Middlesex, a novel organizing itself around the immigrant past, a Greek-American or an American work of art? And let us consider that this might be a misleading question, as this novel, like so many others, can be simultaneously claimed as ethnic and national, not solely one or the other. Let us view, in other words, American art as an experience of border crossing, not a pure category.

* Hilton Als. "Double Talk: Two Comedies of Miscommunication." The New Yorker, Nov. 7, 2011: 86.

Ελλάδα: Προς μια Νέα Μυθοπλασία

Το παρακάτω, που έχει δημοσιευθεί πριν τρία χρόνια (10/5/2008), είναι νομίζω εξίσου επίκαιρο σήμερα: 

«Εδώ καράβια χάνονται βαρκούλες αρμενίζουνε.» Με αυτή τη λαϊκή ρήση θα μπορούσε κάποιος να αντιδράσει στη συνεχιζόμενη αντιπαράθεση περί «Ελληνικότητας». Η εύλογη απορία του θα ήταν «τι συνεισφέρει τούτη η συζήτηση στην αγωνία αυτού του τόπου σήμερα, όταν η περιβαλλοντική κρίση, η χαμηλομισθία, η υποαπασχόληση, η κοινωνική παράλυση και η δυσπιστία πιέζουν για πολιτική λύση και όχι για ακαδημαϊκή ενδοσκόπηση;».

Η σύντομη απάντηση είναι ότι το θέμα «ταυτότητα» δεν είναι ανεξάρτητο από την πολιτική. Η ταυτότητα μάς προσδιορίζει και επομένως κατευθύνει τη δράση μας. Το ερώτημα λοιπόν τι είδους ταυτότητα προκρίνουμε, είναι ακραιφνώς πολιτικό. Γι΄ αυτό και διακυβεύονται τόσα στον «διάλογο» για την Ελληνικότητα.

Προς τα πού να στραφούμε λοιπόν για ένα καινούργιο όραμα ζωής, αν λάβουμε υπόψη μας και την κατάρρευση των αξιών; 

Συνέχεια εδώ, www.tanea.gr/vivliodromio/?aid=68434


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Καιροί Αυτοκριτικής


πάνω στον πάτο
πατώ έναν αφρό που
η βαρύτητα αποπλάνησε
με γλυκό κουταλιού
σε κρυστάλλινο πιάτο
ανύποπτος δήθεν 
αφήνω αποτύπωμα
στα άπλυτα των νόμων


Monday, November 14, 2011

Labada Interracial Love


Just in case corporations decide to break the inter-racial love taboo here is a background for their commercials

Σε περίπτωση που οι πολυεθνικές αποφασίσουν να αψηφήσουν το ταμπού της διαφυλετικής αγάπης να ένα σκηνικό για τις διαφημίσεις τους


Φτάνει πια η εξίσωση εθνότητας με αίμα

Τόσες πειστικές εργασίες που αποδεικνύουν ότι η πολιτιστική ταυτότητα και συμπεριφορά ουδεμία σχέση έχουν με το αίμα· τόσες περιπτώσεις ανθρώπων γεννημένων σε μια εθνότητα που για διάφορους λόγους δεν ταυτίζονται με αυτήν· τόσα ιστορικά παραδείγματα στα οποία η εξίσωση της εθνότητας με αίμα έχει οδηγήσει σε ανθρώπινα δράματα. Κι όμως η ιδεολογία αίμα = εθνότητα επιμένει να αναπαράγεται. 'Οσο πιο φυσικά εκφράζεται ο συσχετισμός, όσο αναδιπλώνεται στο όνομα του εθνοτικού συμφέροντος, όσο επιβεβαιώνει την αισθηματική αλληλεγγύη του διασπορικού με την Ελλάδα, και όσο πιο επιφανής είναι ο φορέας της, τόσο πιο ισχυρά αυτή η τόσο εύκολη αλλά και τόσο απόλυτη συσχέτιση νομιμοποιείται:

"Τα τελευταία χρόνια ο Αλεξάντερ Πέιν νιώθει «όλο και πιο Eλληνας». Oχι ότι δεν ένιωθε πριν, στο κάτω-κάτω Eλληνας της Διασποράς είναι. «Ακούγοντας όμως πια σε καθημερινή βάση τις ειδήσεις ή διαβάζοντας την εφημερίδα, ή μιλώντας με τον κόσμο, νιώθω μέσα μου να πονάω για τα όσα γίνονται στην Ελλάδα και αυτό υποθέτω συμβαίνει γιατί το αίμα μου είναι ελληνικό» λέει σήμερα. Ο Πέιν είχε αρκετά χρόνια να έρθει στην Ελλάδα και το βρήκε ειρωνικό που ήρθε στην «πιο τραυματική εβδομάδα της σύγχρονης ιστορίας της». Αυτό όμως που τον σοκάρει περισσότερο είναι τα όσα μαθαίνει μιλώντας από εδώ και από εκεί, όχι από τις εφημερίδες: «Δεν διαβάζεις στις εφημερίδες για τις αυτοκτονίες, ούτε και για τους μαθητές που δεν έχουν μαθητικά βιβλία, ή που λιποθυμούν στην τάξη επειδή δεν έχουν να φάνε στο σπίτι. Ολα αυτά τα πράγματα σε κλονίζουν, σου ραγίζουν την καρδιά». Συν τοις άλλοις, έχει πιάσει τον εαυτό του να υπερασπίζεται την Ελλάδα σε συζητήσεις: «Ναι, νιώθω κάπως πιο προστατευτικός απέναντι στην Ελλάδα. Οταν ακούω να κριτικάρουν με μια φοβερή προχειρότητα την Ελλάδα εξοργίζομαι και τους λέω “αν κάποιος έχει το δικαίωμα να κριτικάρει την Ελλάδα αυτός είμαι εγώ που είμαι από εκεί και όχι εσείς”». Ο Πέιν θέλει να εγκατασταθεί κάποια στιγμή στην Ελλάδα και να γυρίσει μια ταινία στη χώρα μας. Μεγαλώνοντας στην Ομάχα άκουγε τη μητέρα του να μιλά ελληνικά, αλλά τα δικά του είναι «ελληνικά νηπιαγωγείου. Είχα αυτήν την αόριστη ιδέα να μετακομίσω στην Ελλάδα για ένα εξάμηνο, να μάθω καλά τα ελληνικά μου και να ζήσω σαν Ελληνας. Εχω την αίσθηση ότι η ελληνική γλώσσα θα ξεκλειδώσει το DNA μου. Η γλώσσα είναι το σημαντικότερο κλειδί της ταυτότητας, της γνώσης και του χιούμορ. Και κάποια στιγμή θα ήθελα πάρα πολύ να γυρίσω μια ταινία στην Ελλάδα»."
(www.tovima.gr/culture/article/?aid=429875&h1=true)


Friday, November 11, 2011

Dr. Bouzouki – Μαύρη γυναίκα μάγισσα ή η αλληλομαγεία της υβριδικότητας


Εθνομουσικολόγος για να σχολιάσω την ποιότητα και τα μουσικά κόλπα της μείξης του Σαντάνα με το μπουζούκι δεν είμαι. Αυτό όμως που μπορώ να πω με κάποια νομιμότητα είναι πως η παραπάνω εκτέλεση αποδίδει την χαρά του πολυπολιτιστικού ατόμου που συμβαίνει και το μπουζούκι να αγαπάει και τη μουσική του Σαντάνα να λατρεύει. Είναι η στιγμή του φλερταρίσματος δύο ειδών και της ευφορίας που αυτή η εμπειρία συνεπάγεται, η στιγμή που η διαφορά μεταφράζεται σε κέφι που διαλύει σε τελική ανάλυση τη διαφορά, η στιγμή που η επιθυμία για (δήθεν) πολιτιστική καθαρότητα βάζει τρικλοποδιά στον εαυτό της, η στιγμή που η ερωτική επιθυμία για το άλλο εκφράζεται στη «μητρική» γλώσσα, τραγουδιστά, η στιγμή που η λάμψη της πολιτιστικής συνύπαρξης μόνο με χορό σπινθηροβολεί, η στιγμή που η ευρυχωρία παρελαύνει με τα μεγαλοπρεπέστατα μάξι της· είναι η στιγμή που το διασπορικό κλείνει το μάτι στο άλλο να αλληλομαγευτούν. 

Some "London Greeks"



Thursday, November 10, 2011

– Αμέeriκα!

This is how she said it,
she who spoke no English.

– Αμέeriκα…

This is perhaps how she said it,
a wrinkled imprint in her deathbed.
...
Continue, http://dspace.flinders.edu.au/jspui/bitstream/2328/25512/4/America%21.pdf

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"Attracted to Astoria Again"


"Greek-Americans and their children began moving out of Astoria decades ago, abandoning the Queens neighborhood that once boasted the world's largest population of Hellenic immigrants for the suburbs or their homeland.
But amid the political and economic turmoil that has shaken Greece this year, that tide may again be shifting. The evidence—only anecdotal so far—can be seen in the clientele at Immigration Advocacy Services, an Astoria-based nonprofit where many "older clients are coming in with questions like, 'How can I get my nephew here from Greece?'" said director Debra Gilmore...."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Defining Greek-American Identity



In a recent talk I gave at the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago, the audience raised urgent questions of concern to all of us who care about Greek America and its future. In the hospitable setting of the museum, the question regarding Greek identity in the U.S. came up repeatedly: Who is a Greek American? What is it that makes us Greek Americans? What does it mean to be Greek in America?
A powerful impulse drove some in the audience to define Greek Americans as a homogeneous group. There was the conviction that defining ourselves around a fixed cultural core–say language, dance, food, and a common understanding of history–is the most secure path to ethnic preservation. According to this view, the sharing of cultural practices and ideas translates into ethnic strength and vitality.
Others doubted this premise. What if one does not speak Greek but nevertheless self-identifies as Greek? What if one is not drawn to dance but finds alternative Greek expressions meaningful? What if one interprets history differently? This line of thinking encapsulates the multitude of ways in which Greek-American identity could find expression today.
Though seductive in its cultural focus, the idea of defining Greek America as a homogeneous group inevitably works via exclusion. It erects a wall banning a vibrant sector of Greek Americans who do not conform to any single definition. It certainly alienates a pool of valuable human resources from our communities. The relentless pursuit for sameness will stifle those who do not conform. Is this a desirable vision for Greek America? Can we afford to exalt America’s embracing of diversity while insisting on a Greek-American monoculture?
The issue of homogeneity raises practical issues as well. Let us admit this: We are a fragmented community, linguistically and culturally. Some families visit Greece often, revitalizing diaspora connections; others do not. Greek Americans living in close proximity to Greektown Chicago have at their disposal a rich gamut of venues to experience ethnicity, unavailable in, say, suburban Columbus, Ohio. Interethnic marriages add to our internal diversity. Competing lifestyle options as well as ideologies contribute to our heterogeneity. There are millionaires in Greek America, a visible middle class, and a toiling working class, each pointing to fundamentally different experiences. And rival interpretations of our history and culture animate scholarly debates. It is simply impossible to excise heterogeneity when one tries to define Greek America. Those who have ventured to portray us as a single culture have managed to produce only monstrous caricatures.
Let us pause for a long moment and pose the question afresh: What if we see this heterogeneity as a resource rather than a weakness? What if we see it as a source of enrichment rather a cause for despair? What if we embrace the notion that there are many ways of being a U.S. Greek?
I anticipate a legitimate concern. Diversity threatens to dissolve community and dilute communal values. It encourages privatization of identities, compromising collective belonging and modes of action. It is a force that pushes toward the critical point at which all cohesion breaks down. It enables those who make no effort to reach out to the group to see identity as a pursuit of personal discovery in the colorful pool of American ethnic selfhood. In this scenario the obligation to support ethnic institutions weakens or even evaporates.
These concerns help to reframe the question of interest here: How can we maintain a collective that is spaciously inclusive while also maintaining a functioning degree of cohesion? In other words, how do we sustain cultural democracy under the collective banner “Greek Americans”?
It is possible to imagine an alternative definition of Greek-American identity, one that is centered on active participation in and support of specific events, initiatives, and cultural projects that cultivate Greek cultural connectivity and learning. Let us conceptualize this kind of involvement as the creation of a “public square,” a thriving space hospitable to broad-minded and informed exchange of ideas. In this respect, I see my talk at the National Hellenic Museum as a quintessential Greek-American moment. A collective came into being on the basis of a shared interest in a specific issue, namely the relevance of the past for our identities today. There was agreement within the audience on several issues as well as disagreement. Most importantly, however, we participated in a common problematic within the context of a welcoming institution fostering this dialogue. If this is not cultural democracy at work promoting Greek learning, what is it?
Similarly, Greek-American collectives can materialize around specific interests, namely dance, food, education, cultural activism, and literature, for example. This network of cultural affiliations produces knowledge and comprises the building block of institutions. It may animate local heritage organizations, sustain dance troupes, promote ethnic food, inspire regional societies, and support centers of Greek learning, museums, journals and presses promoting Greek letters and scholarship, among others. Thinking of Greek America as a network of cultural exchanges, an idea proposed by scholar Artemis Leontis, promises an inclusive vision of Greek America, a view of ethnicity which welcomes internal diversity as a resource that ultimately contributes to a richer self-understanding.
Still, one pressing idea preoccupies me after my visit in the museum: The importance of Greek-American cultural literacy. Raised by the audience, the idea of cultural literacy inescapably points to the importance of creating a learned Greek-American public via Greek and Greek-American education. This is a project of enormous complexity that I cannot possibly do justice here. It calls for a multifaceted dialogue and in-depth discussion. Yet one could safely argue, it seems to me, that cultural education could anchor the future of U.S. Greek identity. How many of us know of Helen Papanikolas, George Pelecanos, or George Economou, for instance, and why are they important to know? We cannot sustain a meaningful network of connectivity without knowledge of Greek America’s literature and history.
Seriously addressing the issue of Greek literacy in all levels of Greek-American education is long overdue and one of the most important issues for our institutions to address. Working toward inclusive literacy in both Greek-American and Greek culture is precisely one commitment that could define us as U.S. Greeks. In this context we will have to think hard about what must be taught and how, what must be exhibited in museums, or portrayed in documentaries, and how, what civic values must be highlighted, and how. This is a particularly challenging prospect that requires enormous resources, political will, and open-minded intellectual engagement.
In closing, it is only appropriate to evoke the motto in the National Hellenic Museum: “Connecting generations through Greek history, culture, and art.” In Chicago at least, a Greek institution holds the promise of producing identity through cultural literacy. The more inclusive this literacy the richer we will be becoming. What is holding us from undertaking comparable initiatives in various cities across America?

This essay was originally published under the title "What Exactly Does it Mean to Be a Greek American?" in the National Herald Online, November 3, 2011

Alexander Payne: Visit to Greece revitalizes diaspora connection


"Looking at the dire straits that Greece is in, is 'horrifying, heartbreaking and frustrating,' said Payne, who is in the country during one its most intense political crises this weekend, 'and there doesn't seem to be a solution.'

'I have to tell you I've been very touched to be here; it's been meaningful for me to be here, even for three days, to talk to people, to feel it, to feel a little more solidarity,' added Payne. 'We Greeks of the Diaspora read the paper every day, scratch our heads, very heartbroken, but feeling very much in solidarity. I'm American and I have a much different life than if my grandparents had not emigrated – I'm not saying better, just different – but it's in situations like this that my Greek DNA and my Greek heart are reawakened.'"

www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite4_22743_05/11/2011_413421

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

An Analysis of George Economou's poem "An Evening in Kingfisher"

   I begin the analysis by reflecting on the poem "An Evening in Kingfisher," a thinly disguised autobiographical piece by noted scholar and poet George Economou. Structuring the poem in dialogic form, the poet recalls an ordinary conversation between two strangers of different class and, as it turns out, cultural backgrounds. "Huck" Rice, the old guard at the Elks Club in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, and George, the visiting professor with a Greek surname in his tag, engage in a conversation of "odd sincerity," excerpts of which I provide below:
He ["Huck" Rice] squeezes [the handshake] harder,
—"But that's not an American name."
—"Sure it is, from Greece. (And making a good guess)
When did your people come over here from Germany, Huck?" [End Page 281]
Easing up on the squeeze,
—"Oh hell, we bin here forever."
—"You mean you're Native American?"
—"No, no Indian. What d'yuh do at OU?"
—"I teach English."
—"With a name like that, yuh teach English?"
—"I run the whole show in English, Huck.
I'm chairman of the department . . .
. . .
—"I like yuh, George, I'd like
to talk
to yuh 'bout your beliefs."
Remembering Roy Rogers' characterization of Reagan when he was nominated in 1980,
—"Why, I'm 'a fine Christian gentleman,' just like you. Only my kind is the oldest, Huck. Greek, you know, right back to the language of the New Testament (making another good guess) while you Lutherans are pretty recent."
Shaking his head,
—"Greek, and yuh teach English and don't even have an accent."
—"No, no accent, Huck, perfect English. You've got the accent. . . .
A representative of the assimilated "old stock" Americans, Huck deploys a nativist argument regarding the right to authentic national origins. According to this position, only people with Northern European ancestries can lay claim to true Americanness. This is to say that the hyphen, signaled by the Greek surname, is deployed here as a distancing device, a marker holding the "ethnic American" "at hyphen's length," in Daniel Aaron's (1964) apt metaphor. It may function to deny national membership, the poem cautions, at least in certain contexts such as rural America, where the narrative takes place.
Hyphenated identity in this text is contested identity, and the contest is a high-stakes one about national belonging. To frame the two competing voices, so at odds with each other, the poet adopts a dialogic form, a narrative practice conducive to featuring dissenting perspectives, to activating contestation and the repositioning of opposing views. This serves the narrative purpose exceedingly well. Following the work of Mikhail Bakhtin, dialogism in the novel, but also poetry, functions to disrupt the voice of authority in the text by the presence of a plurality of interacting perspectives (see Piñero-Gil 2002:97). The dialogue in the poem juxtaposes two competing definitions of American identity and delves into the ensuing negotiation that ultimately subverts nativism.
The poem's dialogic structure unequivocally frames a recurrent historical reality: inhabiting the hyphen requires rhetorical skills to counter national exclusion. The poetic persona deploys all the resources at his disposal—institutional position, knowledge of American and Greek-Orthodox cultures and histories, wit, educated guesses, and good English—in an exchange that turns into a battle of positions. The speaker displays his credentials and qualifications to establish full membership to the nation, opting for a tactic that defamiliarizes the nativist [End Page 282] logic, turning it on its head on several key matters. First is the matter of English: it is not only that a Greek professor holds a chair in an English Department, but also that his English has "no accent," while Huck's Oklahoma English is the non-normative, accented one. Second is the matter of religion: it is not only impossible for an American of Northern European ancestry to claim nativity, it is the "foreign" Greek Orthodoxy that reaches back to a more ancient Christian history than that of Huck's Lutheran faith. This "hyphenated ethnic" performs assimilation, speaking out indeed "uninhibitedly as an American" (Aaron 1964), certainly reproducing linguistic hierarchies (standard vs. regional English), but also appropriating the hyphen to reverse hierarchies entrenched in dominant society (native vs. ethnic).
The speaker then reclaims the hyphen. From a marker of inferiority he recasts it into a badge of superiority; from a device separating the national from the ethnic, he turns it into a tool leveraging the position of the "ethnic" within the national. But what are the conditions enabling this reversal? We may begin answering this question by registering the speaker's tentativeness in crafting the argument. Guesswork, unmistakably, operates in the identification of Huck's ancestry and the history of language in Greek Orthodoxy ("making a good guess," "making another good guess"). It is plausible here that the poetic persona winks at the reader, establishing an ironic distance from the discourses that define the conversation: naturalizing certain facial characteristics with specific ancestries, and claiming origins to establish legitimacy. This recognition only amplifies the rhetorical dimension of the exchange. The speaker is set to exploit any argument that is required to empower his position embattled by nativism, unabashedly offending his interlocutor.
Tentativeness builds tension in the poem; what if Huck claims native Indian ancestry? What direction would the dialogue take then? Once again, the rhetorical aspect of the poem is highlighted. But tentativeness also marks a point of instability in the effectiveness of the argument; it is marked by the second "good guess," which indicates the dimming of knowledge about ethno-religious ancestry. In contrast to the confident familiarity about American society ("Remembering Roy Rogers' characterization of Reagan," references to national history, and the chronologies of migration histories), knowledge of the hyphen seems fickle. But given the high stakes in this kind of exchange can the hyphen afford uncertainty about its history? A misplaced argument could tip the scale against the speaker's agonistic performance. The poem seems to bring contingency to the fore not merely for the sake of plot dramatization but also for pedagogical purposes: to highlight the importance of cultural literacy about both components of the hyphen.6 If the hyphen is seen as a divide by the dominant society, linking it requires a rhetoric that draws from bicultural education. The link asserts itself at the level of knowledge about both American and Greek worlds.
Putting the hyphen on trial is a political issue. Just recall country music celebrities ridiculing Michael Dukakis's foreign family name during the 1988 presidential election campaign. There will certainly be situations that will interrogate the hyphen, and aggressively at that, as the poem makes unmistakably clear ("and definitely name him [Huck], / to my first team offensive line"). A [End Page 283] hyphenated identity cannot take anything for granted. It means readiness to enter an argument, equipped with all the rhetorical means at one's disposal. The poem is asking, "how should one be positioning himself as a hyphenated American?" to point to biculturalism as a prescriptive answer. It offers to Greek America a normative template of cultural becoming.
[Excerpts from my essay "Reading the Hyphen in Poetry," Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Vol. 29(2), 2011: 279–290.] (muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/journals/journal_of_modern_greek_studies/v029/29.2.anagnostou.html)

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