Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Directions (once again) in Greek American Studies (I): Response to a Critique

A colleague privately raised several questions in response to my recent posting “New Directions (once again) in Greek American Studies (I).” He pointed out that Greek American studies (GAS) but also modern Greek studies (MGS) scholars have a significant intellectual presence in U.S. academic journals, literary magazines as well as in the media. He requested, furthermore, that I clarify whether U.S. modern Greek programs currently support GAS. An explanation, therefore, is in order.

Those who follow my published writings would know that I will be the first to agree about the key importance of our public intellectuals. I have repeatedly written about Dan Georgakas’s revisionist historiography, Yiorgos Kalogeras’s critique of Greek American canonical texts, Artemis Leontis’s case for cultural activism, and Helen Papanikolas’s vision of interracial solidarity, among others. In fact, my forthcoming article in the Journal of Modern Greek Studies specifically identifies the contributions of pioneer researchers in GAS; it recognizes the historical importance of the Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora in supporting young scholars, featuring critical diaspora scholarship, and disseminating academic knowledge to the lay public; it acknowledges the burgeoning interest in Greek America among both GAS and MGS scholars; and it demonstrates the immense relevance of GAS in an era when transnational and diaspora studies are becoming academic trends.

My article also underlines the support GAS is currently receiving by MGS programs and institutions. It is now a well-known fact that MGS programs in the U.S. regularly offer courses on Greek America, maintain oral history projects, support research, and host lectures on this subject. Thus for the sake of absolute clarity, the question I posed in my original post should be, “Why have modern Greek studies historically speaking neglected Greek America?” We will have to wait for the publication of this article to revisit this productive dialogue.

Immersed as I have been in this knowledge, I took all these developments for granted. I should stress therefore that the entry was written as an afterword, as a restless call for more critical scholarship, more daring research, more probing projects, more engagement with difficult and controversial issues, more rigorous presence in the public sphere. It must be read in this spirit, as an invitation to move beyond our gains and intensify our effort to cover the lost ground, compensate for missed opportunities, and chart new research frontiers.

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