Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Greek American Studies Resource Portal

The Modern Greek Studies Association's Transnational Studies Committee is pleased to announce the establishment of "The Greek American Studies Resource Portal" which anyone who is interested in this field can access from the MGSA website (

The creation of such a Resource Portal grew out of the expressed desire by academics, students and cultural producers alike to provide information on research, activities, and resources in the field of Greek American Studies broadly defined.

The Portal includes:

1) Academic publications on Greek America, including book reviews.

2) Non-academic publications on Greek America, including autobiographies, community histories, fiction, poetry, photography, painting, etc.

3) Essays, articles, and book reviews published in the media

4) Films and documentaries

5) Updates and announcements of current oral history work undertaken in academic institutions as well as in Greek American communities

6) Research queries regarding Greek American topics

We request scholars, writers, artists and other cultural producers whose work explores the Greek world in the United States and/or the connections between Greece and the United States (repatriated Greek Americans, Greek films on Greek America, Greek writings about Greek Americans, etc.) to continue to submit the full citation of their work in MLA format, including a two to three sentence description of their work. This portal will be periodically updated to highlight the most recent resources available in the field and entries will be eventually archived in the MGSA webpage under the heading "Resource Portal."

Yiorgos Anagnostou, The Ohio State University (

Martha Klironomos, San Francisco State University (
Co-chairs, Transnational Studies Committee

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Παράνομοι και Παραβάτες!

Η μετατροπή της Ελλάδας σε χώρα υποδοχής μεταναστών έχει βάλει σε διεργασία μια τουλάχιστον απρόβλεπτη εξέλιξη: έχει προκαλέσει την αύξηση ενδιαφέροντος για το φαινόμενο της Ελληνικής μετανάστευσης.

Αυτή η συσχέτιση έχει πολλαπλά πολιτικά κίνητρα. Θα αναφερθώ σε ένα: Διανοούμενοι, ακαδημαϊκοί, και δημοσιογράφοι τονίζουν τις διακρίσεις που υπέστησαν στο παρελθόν οι Έλληνες μετανάστες με σκοπό να καταπολεμήσουν το αντι-μεταναστευτικό ρεύμα στην Ελλάδα. Η ιδέα εδώ είναι διδακτικά αποτρεπτική: Ας μην υποβάλλουμε σε άλλους τις ταπεινωτικές συμπεριφορές που εμείς στο παρελθόν υποστήκαμε, μας τονίζει, και που τόσο μας κόστισαν. Ο στόχος είναι να αναπτυχθούν αισθήματα συμπόνοιας και αλληλεγγύης με βάση την κοινή εμπειρία του ξενιτεμένου. (για μια αποτίμηση της στρατηγικής αυτής δέστε ένα προηγούμενο σχόλιο μου,

Δεν είναι λίγες οι φορές όμως που οι πολίτες αντιπαραθέτουν την εικόνα του πετυχημένου, ηθικά καλού, και νομιμόφρονα 'Ελληνα μετανάστη με την εικόνα του παράνομου, αχάριστου, και εγκληματία ξένου μετανάστη, ώστε να στιγματίσουν τον τελευταίο.

Μήπως όμως αυτή η αναπαράσταση του ΄Ελληνα έχει εξωραϊστεί από την επίσημη ιστοριογραφία; Δύο πρόσφατες δημοσιεύσεις στην εφημερίδα Τα Νεα παρεμβαίνουν σε αυτήν την συζήτηση, φέρνοντας στο φως ιστορικά στοιχεία που καταγράφουν ξεχασμένες (καταπιεσμένες;) διαστάσεις της Ελληνικής μετανάστευσης. Ο συγγραφέας των, Γιάννης Η. Χάρης, δεν διστάζει να αναφερθεί στο γεγονός ότι δεν της έλλειψαν το παράνομο και παραβατικό στοιχείο, το οποίο και τονίζει. Η αξία μιας μη-κανονιστικής και πολυφασματικής ιστοριογραφίας αποδεικνύεται εδώ αναμφισβήτητα χρήσιμη στην υπηρεσία μιας συγκεκριμένης πολιτικής θέσης.

«Λαθραίοι, απειλητικοί και απόβλητοι»:

«και παραβατικοί»:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Greek America and the Global Cosmopolis

By Vicki James Yannias (originally published in Odyssey: The World of Greece, Spring 2010, pp. 14–15).

Yiorgos Anagnostou, professor of modern Greek and American ethnic studies at Ohio State University, and author of the just-published Contours of White Ethnicity: Popular Ethnography and the Making of Usable Pasts in Greek America (Ohio University Press, 2009) describes Greek America–and Diaspora Greeks in general–through a sobering metaphor of a city which could be allowed to decline if it is left unexamined and unexplored.

“Imagine a dazzling city, its wonders scattered throughout the urban texture. Its visitors, alas, gain only few glimpses of the city’s diversity. Lacking a comprehensive map, they are directed only to a shining main thoroughfare carefully manicured to meet their expectations, while the once vibrant peripheries of the city decline….with no maps charting the contours of the peripheries and no storytellers narrating their stories, it is as if they never existed. They eventually fade from memory, and this immensely valuable dimension of the polis is irretrievably lost.”

Like an under-explored city, says Anagnostou, multiple facets of Greek America remain largely unknown to the public. “Many dimensions of its history are not taught in community schools, many of its stories do not circulate among families, many of its cultural expressions are not explored through research, many of its accomplishments do not resonate deep enough across its social networks, and many of its heroes remain unsung.”

Contours of White Ethnicity, a product of seven years of research, explores the multiple ways in which Greek Americans create their identities. A key question that drives his work is how our identity is shaped by the past, which also helps us imagine who we want to become. “How can the immigrant experience of having been a despised stranger speak to third and fourth generation Diaspora Greeks who are greatly removed from the circumstances of immigration, for example? And how can these stories function as a compass to relate with other ethnicities? There is so much worth exploring in our museums, classrooms, editorials, media, documentaries, films, plays, arts, social sciences and the humanities.”

Seen against a historical backdrop of ethnic discrimination and disparagement, it is understandable why Greek America emphasizes the image of the Greek ethnic as a successful, innovative entrepreneur, says Anagnostou.

“For a people like the Greeks who profoundly value isotimia (to be held in equal esteem) being treated as second-class citizens was the utmost insult. Showcasing the values of the dominant society as their own provides an answer to those who doubted their capacity to meet these values,” Anagnostou observes. “In this respect Greek America has functioned like any other cultural minority, battling negative stereotypes and acting upon positive ones. This is a strategy offering protection and, occasionally, prestige.”

But positive stereotypes stifle Greek America, says Anagnostou. “They erase its complexity, caricature its people, and drown its creativity, producing a one-dimensional ethnicity. As a result, important cultural and political innovations are sidelined.” Anagnostou holds that if this neglect continues, “the Greek American polis will eventually decline into an insignificant backwater.”

Anagnostou points out that, due to multiculturalism, the time is ripe for institutions, artists, translators, and scholars to invest in charting the "vibrant fabric of the Greek American city" before it turns into "declining peripheries." "One can imagine a new Greek American identity, built on the template of competitive isotimia," he says, "not by imitating cultural models, parroting well-worn clichés, or reproducing what is embraced by the majority, but aiming to outperform rivals, challenge what is taken for granted, and break conventional boundaries."

In many ways, says Anagnostou, Contours of White Ethnicity is driven by this ethic. “The book operates within scholarly conventions to produce an account that challenges the way the academic establishment portrays American European ethics. In other words, it employs scholarship to go against the grain of dominant scholarship.”

Anagnostou underlines positive prospects for global distinction in the Greek Diaspora. “It is possible for Greek Diaspora photographers, filmmakers, documentary makers, artists, and researchers to operate along similar principles, challenging what the dominant society hold to be true and beautiful,” he suggests. “This is a new way for Greeks to earn distinction globally. The public will inevitably take notice, and it will be the Greek peripheries stealing the limelight in the global cosmopolis.”

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Oral History in Greek America (Part I)

Greek Americans self-censor their family histories! This is the discovery of historian Steve Frangos, published in an op-ed in The National Herald. The editorial, tellingly entitled “It’s Always a Wonderful Life in Greek-American Fairy Tales,” offers the following testimony: “I have been asked,” Frangos writes, “to take out the parts in the articles where eyewitness accounts or the stories told to children by their parents about when the KKK chased some ancestor into the water, when say a bank twisted the law to intentionally destroy a Greek businessman from succeeding on a level field with local Wasp businessmen, or how even years after attacks by Wasps, inclusive of the KKK, local Greek immigrants and their children wanted me to take out the names of those who once actively sought to hurt them” (, October 8, 2010).

In other words, Greek Americans consciously regulate what can be known about their past. Turning family stories into public documents entails selective telling.

This controlling of public history exercises censorship on two levels: a) it perpetuates silence about violence and injustices in the past; and b) refrains from naming those who were involved. Disclosure of these issues raises distinct ethical and legal issues. More is likely at stake when one reveals the names of the individuals or institutions who perpetrated the violence.

The editorial revisits a well-known practice: the sugarcoating of ethnic history. Exasperated in tone, it joins the voices of those who have been protesting for some time Greek America’s tendency to idealize its past. Many authors and historians have openly criticizing this sugarcoating, though their writings does not always enjoy the visibility it deserves.

There are good reasons to object to the kind of “history” that blatantly violates all rules of historical inquiry. It is justifiable to say that the sugarcoating of ethnic history entails a form of self-inflicted violence since it excises a whole range of experiences–resentments, exclusions, unrewarded toil, and loss–that have profoundly shaped scores of Greek American lives.

Of course the notion of oral history as selective telling is widely recognized among folklorists and oral historians. This is how Alison Cadbury aptly puts it: "When you live in a village … everyday life is as engaging as fiction" she writes, referring to the stories, histories and gossip people tell, of which there are "as many versions as tellers." "So common among villagers is the practice of embroidering a tale that a typical response to any story is either doubtful 'Alithia?' 'Truth?' or adamantly, 'Psemata!' 'Lies!' followed by imaginative analysis, speculation, and argument about the 'real' events, motives, and so forth" (Panigyri: A Celebration of Life in a Greek Island Village, 5).

But collecting oral histories in Greek America is an entirely different practice than collecting stories in the context of a village. In the village setting the telling takes place in the presence of an audience which shares common history but may have alternative interpretations of the narrated facts. In this context the truth of a story is negotiated in the act of telling; people contest stories, and in so doing they offer their own version of truth. As a result storytelling produces a plurality of versions about the past.

Not so in the context of the private interview between an oral historian and a story teller. In the absence of a wider audience the story teller may exercise the power of offering his version as the ultimate truth. Unlike the village, the remembering of history here is one-sided, monologic.

What can be done then to ensure that oral history does not limit our understanding of Greek America's history? What can we do to confront the picture-perfect view of Greek America the beautiful?

To be continued

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Italian American Identity

The OSU Center for Folklore Studies presents

Joseph Sciorra

February 9, 2011
3:30 pm
Denney 311

The Italian-American Imaginarium
in the Digital Era

What are we to make of the continued expressions of Italian-American identity in the twenty-first century? The standard narrative is that Italian Americans have faded to whiteness as a result of their dispersal from geographically-bounded neighborhoods, and their economic success, political power, and social integration. And yet expressions of Italian-American identity persist, not only as nostalgic memory culture but as emerging and dynamic forms that challenge the cultural politics of the white ethnic movement. These cultural practices-created virtually on blogs and social networking sites, and in situ as performance art and informal gatherings-are attuned to the possibilities of deterritorialized affiliations as they enter into a transnational dialogue of reinvented community. Folklorist Joseph Sciorra explores these new forms, many of them ironic, parodic, and self-reflective, as well as his own position as a scholar and culture worker engaged in these very practices.

Joseph Sciorra (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) is Associate Director of the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute at Queens College, City University of New York. He has written extensively about Italian, Italian-American, and New York vernacular culture in such work as R.I.P.: Memorial Wall Art (with photographer Martha Cooper; Thames & Hudson 2002) and the co-edited Italian Folk: Vernacular Culture in Italian-American Lives (Fordham 2010). His website in search of a "new Italian American identity" can be found at

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tryfon Tolides – Three Poems

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Γιώργος Κατσαρός, «Μάνα μου Είμαι Φθισικός»

Για βιογραφικά στοιχεία και μια συνέντευξη δέστε,

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Greek American Identity in Greece – "Schizo" – A Poem by Constantine S. Sirigos

I hold a new white sheet of paper.

As pure and light-filled as the virgin blocks of marble

that became the Parthenon.

My hands, lacking the skill or vision of Iktinos and Kallikrates

yet they seek the same perfect symmetry

I fold it once, carefully creased, like the perfect cuts in stone Socrates must have made.

I have the idea of the perfect shape. How close can I come?

A lovely rectangle.

Is it the right proportion?

The golden ratio?

I call the Greek statistical service.

One point 62 to 1. Is that correct?

Oh! They no longer care about that ratio;

they have other numbers on their mind.

“We gave the Europeans lovely books with beautiful math.

They thanked us for them,” the man across the Atlantic said.

“Now they say they are ugly, that they are lies,”

the man across the Atlantic said.

“Beauty is not truth any more.

We have ripped up those books.”

I understand, I said, offering sympathy.

Good luck with the reforms.

“Stick it with your reforms Amerikanaki!”

[tear folded paper in half]

We are Greeks.

We feel divided.

We have always felt that,

we Amerikanakia.

Not Greek enough for the homeland, not really sure of our place in the land of our birth.

We feel torn.

Part Greek, part American.

Torn like this. [tear paper again]

We can choose, however, sometimes,

who and where to be.

When we go to Greece, some of us can be Greek.

My accent is pretty good, and my relatives love me,

but their friends are not too polite.

Even our family’s living rooms we are torn.

“You are a capitalist. You are all evil agents of globalization.”

They are socialists, even the conservative party.

The real ideology of all the Greek parties is “let’s party!”

The real ideal of the Greek Americans is let’s make money.

work work work – not in the arts or philanthropy – give you parents a heart attack will you?

The business of America is business said a failed president

Money money money.

They like that word.

“We are not Germans,” they say.

Neither are we I respond.

We party too, but we work.

Work work work our words reek to the Greeks

I feel another split [tearing paper in half again]

We’re all praying for Greece I say,

hoping to spread some good will.

“Pray?” my uncle said, to whom?” “We don’t pray anymore” said one.

“We pray to Zeus” said a third.

Another blurted “We don’t pray with priests.”

In America, we still go to church.

It may disappoint us but they usually don’t disgust us.

Try to stay away from those monasteries.

Another direction to decide about during my trip to Greece.

Another fork in the road to the true Greece.

The forks tear at us

[tears again]

I go to church anyway.

I have other relatives.

People do still go to church in Greece.

Happy nameday Ilia!

What are you telling me” It’s not my nameday!

That’s in two weeks. Live by the real calendar!

We are the true church.”

Another division. Old calendar, new calendar

My Greece is disappearing.

I’m losing the whole for the parts.

Let me leave my relatives and make some new friends.

Here’s a nice lounge.

Geia sou!

I’m Ntinos. What’s your name? Geia sou Mihali!

Oh, sorry. Yes I have an accent. Oh - you think I speak well?

I’m from New York. You love New York? Great!

When you visit call me we’ll get together with my parea.

I’ll introduce you to my sister.

Wonderful! A new friend!

I feel Peace, healing, brotherhood.

Ellada lives after all!

Where is your family from? Nice! I can’t wait to go there.

Mine are from Siphnos.

Very green. Known for its cooking and its pottery.

Um, Yes it’s an island.

What do you mean

we islanders think we are better than mainlanders?

Aren’t we all Greek?

Aren’t we all human beings?

Wait, what soccer team do you like?

Uh oh!

[Tear up the rest of the paper into bits and toss them in the air]

Originally Published in The National Herald, January 27, 2011