Friday, November 22, 2019

Greek/American Identifications, Personal Routes

Words, practices, ethos, performances, material culture, rhythms, and rhymes pulling me into affective and political identifications with Greek/America

• Ethos (Devotion, Determination, Hard Work, Writing and Cultural Activism as Vocation)

     Greek American scholars and authors working
     well into their youthful old age contributing to 
     the understanding of Greek America (Thomas
     Doulis, Dan Georgakas, Helen Papanikolas, 
     Harry Mark Petrakis, Elaine Thomopoulos)

• Family

     I never loved my father the way I loved him at
     that moment (a paraphrase, until I locate the
     exact statement)
     [Johnny Otis about his Greek immigrant father
     attending Otis’s wedding ceremony (amidst his
     mother’s resolute opposition) with Phyllis
     Walker, an interracial union.]

• “Folk Heritage”

     “Every argument has a rebuttal (O logos ehei
      antilogo)” [frequent saying by a woman in a
      family connected with Greek/American
      migration, early 1910s] (1)

• Labor

     Immigrant waiters and dishwashers in U.S.
     Greek restaurants

• Memoir / Personal Recollections

     “Unfortunately, the occasional experience of
      even the best of Greek folk life isn’t enough to
      constitute an identity or a way of life. If that 
      was all there was to it, it would have been
      better to get away and leave it all behind as
      many did. …
      One day, when I was in my early teens, I went
      into a bookstore and saw a book entitled The
      Greek Passion sitting next to the cash register.
      It was the first time I’d seen a book with the
      name of a living Greek on it. The clerk told me
      a Greek priest had ordered it but hadn’t come
      to pick it up. Our priest, the only one for all of
      Montana, had died of a heart attack a few
      weeks earlier, so I offered to buy it. It’s hard to
      explain the effect the novel had on me. I was
      actually in contact with a real Greek author,
      someone at least as well educated as the
      people who taught me in school. And the book
      was a lot more interesting and relevant to me
      than most of the literature we were assigned to
      read” (2).

• Music

     “I Rather Set Myself on Fire,” Anna Paidoussi
      and Acroama – at 4:00

• Poetry–Bilingualism–Translation

Poet George Economou performs his translation of Michalis Katsaros' poem “Those you see”/Aftous pou vlepeis.

• Politics of Religion

     “What our struggle for theosis most demands is
     a politics of empathy. What can this look like?
     … In imagining what it is like to be in the body
     of a Black person in the USA, perhaps we can
     see more clearly the structures in place that
     facilitate the inequality among persons. Those
     Orthodox Christians who say that Blacks
     should just “improve their culture” (yes—I’ve
     heard this), do not have a sufficiently
     theological understanding of sin and its
     insidious and lingering social effects. Is it
     really that easy, as an example, to will a better
     life for those who find themselves judged
     unemployable for a job or unworthy of a
     promotion because of their skin color–much as
     some Orthodox Christians in a not so distant
     past?” (3).

• Scholarship

     “Good literature requires good criticism, which
     combines an appreciative grasp of an author’s
     gift with a critical understanding of its effects
     on readers and a probing eye for what lies
     beyond” (4).

• Translation

     “First the shipyards in New York gave way, fell
     to their knees and dragged into their effluence
     two and a half thousand workers, the books
     couldn’t be balanced unless new orders came
     in, and whatever the wartime industry had built
     with zeal during those years of conflict and
     unrest was quickly destroyed by the popular
     demand for a new world, a better, more
     peaceful world, and a year or two later, after
     Nixon assumed the reins of power, the RCA
     Victor plant closed, too, and that music-loving
     terrier set its sights on Mexico and cheap labor,
     with management blaming the unions, which
     had been on indefinite strike seeking better 
     wages, and the unions blaming management for
     putting profits above everything else, and the
     whole city was left bereft of jobs, five thousand
     people fired in a single week in a city of ninety
     thousand, and thus in the mid-70s the diner that
     had been renamed 'Ariadne,' with the name
     Mickievitch still visible underneath, and the
     off-white columns painted above the colorful 
     Greek Salad and the mouthwatering Gyro
     Plate, stopped being what it was and promised
     to be, as the decline in free enterprise and the
     continuing war in Vietnam drove the city into
     crisis and residents in the jumble of
     neighborhoods became distrustful, and
     whoever remained in the recently thriving city
     moved to the burgeoning suburbs, first the
     Jews, then the Italians and Greeks, while her
     parents, her very own parents, remained
     immutably optimistic, and in their optimism
     immutably unmoving, sunk their heels in like
     mules and watched as their savings blew away
     on the wind, and their dreams vanished once
     and for all” (5)

• Writing

     “Or so the oppressive elements in Greek and
     Greek American circles would have me
     believe. For in fact I have much more—as a
     Greek, a Greek with the gift of an education, I
     have great riches, and access to a long tradition
     of Greekness that has a very colorful history of
     gender dualism and hybridity, one that was
     eliminated from the tired single story. What I
     do not have is the right to cede to nationalists,
     and to essentialist discourses, all power over
     what it means to be Greek. It is my
     responsibility to help keep alive the memory of
     that richness, keep the definition of Greekness
     wide.” (6)

• Photography

     Spaces of Greek America, by ARC,

• Material Culture

     Louis Tikas, in Colorado


(1) Efthalia Makris Walsh. 2000. Beloved Sister: Biography Of A Greek-American Family, Letters From The Homeland, 1930-1948. Tegea Press. P. 43.

(2) E. D. Karampetsos. 2005. “Preface.” Charioteer: An Annual Review of Modern Greek Culture, Special issue, The Greek American Experience, Guest Editor, E. D. Karampetsos, No. 43: 5–8.

(3) Aristotle Papanikolaou, “Racism: An Orthodox Perspective,” Public Orthodoxy, January 18, 2018, accessed March 5, 2018,

(4) Artemis Leontis. 2003. “‘What Will I Have to Remember?’ Helen Papanikolas’s Art of Telling.” Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora Vol. 29 (2), 25.

(5) Karen Emmerich. 2017. Excerpts from the novel Dendrites [by Kallia Papadaki]. 28 December. Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters.

(6) Joanna Eleftheriou. 2019. “Black Stone.” 25 August. Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters.

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