Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Public Scholarship and Greek America: Personal Reflections, Intellectual Vocations

Journal of Modern Greek Studies (forthcoming, Spring 2015)

If public scholarship brings together one’s subjectivity, academic work, and participation in overall intellectual life, I see no other route to enter this conversation than through the perspective of my intellectual biography. I find it necessary, in other words, to link aspects of my life, research, and involvement in the world of ideas beyond the college campus. To introduce my position succinctly: I owe a turning point in my biography to Modern Greek Studies in the U.S., the institution that has enabled my work. My entry into this institution and its professional life signals my transformation from a working class immigrant with a degree in civil engineering to a humanities and social sciences academic. It represents my reinvention. In retrospect, as a scholar who also writes about American ethnicities, I am inclined to frame this transition as a quintessentially Greek/American moment: a place of Greek learning in the United States—supported in some cases by Greek American monies, let me add—puts in motion the foundational narrative of America as a place of new beginnings. If an educational rebirth redirects one’s life project, it is safe to say that my connection with Modern Greek Studies is experienced viscerally. And as an intellectual, affective, but also material affiliation that crystallizes into an organic relationship, my professional being renders the separation of scholarship, personal conviction, and public engagement alien to me. . . . 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Modern Greek Studies and Public Scholarship: Intersections and Prospects

Journal of Modern Greek Studies (forthcoming, Spring 2015) 

Public involvement in U.S. Modern Greek Studies represents both a visible and an invisible practice. Although an obvious presence among non-academic publics, it is largely absent as an object of critical reflection. The ethos of civic responsibility—of giving back to the community—has defined Modern Greek, being also consistent with the founding principle of American higher education, namely to “serve the interests of the larger community” (Boyer 1990, 21-22). But this public participation rarely merits analytical attention. It is as though a wall obscures the connection between academic work and its scholarly rendering for various non-academic publics both within and beyond university campuses. Activities that are fundamentally interconnected are artificially severed. If scholars of Modern Greek have honed the skills necessary for sophisticated analyses of various boundaries, this particular boundary still awaits serious consideration. . . . 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Re/collecting Greek America: Reflections on Ethnic Struggle, Success, and Survival

Journal of Modern Hellenism, Vol. 31 (Forthcoming, Winter 2015)

Two interrelated ideas guide this essay: the notion of history as re/collection, and history as cultural practice. A concept with a twofold meaning, re/collection captures both remembering and revisiting an archive to remember anew. Re/collection animates rediscovery and recovery. It brings into focus what earlier collecting has intentionally or unintentionally overlooked or marginalized. In this dual capacity, re/collection forestalls forgetting and expands the range and scope of remembering. It enables knowing differently.

Historical re/collection illuminates history as cultural practice. Historians recognize that the making of history is not a disinterested enterprise divorced from cultural assumptions and ideas. This is the reason why at any one time, society may privilege the telling of some pasts and the sidelining of others. Because certain voices are excluded, remembering is punctuated by absences. Thus critical historiography asks, who produces history? How and for what purpose? What pasts does a society remember and why? This approach explains the silences in the historical record, and reflects on the consequences of forgetting. In turn, reflexivity probes re/collection to produce new pasts. Re/collection is an integral component of history as cultural practice.1

To bring the idea of history as cultural practice to bear in relation to ethnic historiography: The American/immigrant narrative of success defines achievement in terms of money, status, career, entrepreneurship, and assimilation; not in terms of an immigrant’s worth as a person, ability to build intercultural bridges, creative negotiations with bicultural belonging, or selective ethnic reproduction. In the case of Greek America, for instance, history notes the divergent cultural positioning of male and female immigrants to point out that success as socioeconomic achievement refers to men, and success as civic and cultural achievement refers to women.2 In response, one could raise two questions: why does this narrative privilege socioeconomic status? And why does it present it as ethnic when the narrative essentially speaks to a gender-specific (male) experience? Critical scholarship endeavors to examine, as I pointed out, the implications of this social construction. Immigrant success as socioeconomic status legitimizes the American Dream. The mobility of newcomers asserts the inclusiveness of the nation. Demonstrating the gender inflection in this story of success would identify this story’s displacements. The framing of male history as ethnic renders invisible women’s alternative struggles and successes, and thus masks different visions of becoming an American ethnic. The practice of reflexivity in history illuminates presences and absences in a collection of evidence, and helps us think about their respective ramifications. 


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