Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Where Does "Diaspora" Belong? The View from Greek American Studies (excerpts from a scholarly article)

[T]he Greek diaspora falls appropriately within the confines of modern Greek studies as an object of legitimate study. (Petropulos 1977)

[T]he Greek experience in America is to be best understood as part of the broader canvas of American history rather than as Greeks in the Diaspora. (Saloutos, quoted in Moskos 1977)


The prefacing statements above enunciate competing conceptualizations of Greek worlds outside Greece. One acknowledges the valence of diaspora; the other negates it. This clash in positions carries over to the issue of the institutional home for studying U.S. Greeks. One advocates the inclusion of the Greek American experience within modern Greek studies, the other, evidently, places it outside the boundaries of the field. To begin historicizing this political and epistemological fault line, one could attend to the speaking subjects here, in the context of each utterance. The view of modern Greek studies encompassing diaspora was advocated by John Petropulos, the Modern Greek Studies Association (MGSA) President at the time, during the Association's first ever symposium dedicated to "The Greek Experience in America" (1976). This initiative classified Greek America as a diaspora subsequently to claim it for modern Greek studies, representing a pioneering MGSA call for the institutional convergence between Greek American and modern Greek studies. The opposition was promoted by Theodore Saloutos (1910-1980), a distinguished historian and authoritative interpreter of Greek America. His contending definition drew a sharp divide between ethnicity and diaspora to posit Greek America as an American ethnic group. Obviously a counter-position, it directly threw down the gauntlet to the MGSA, as it was also expressed during "The Greek Experience in America" symposium. Thus it represented a nascent call for the divergence between the two Greek-related academic fields, a position most forcefully advocated later on in the 1980s by prominent Greek Americanists.

The prefacing statements then capture a historical moment of radical polyphony over two interrelated issues: a) the authority to name and interpret U.S. Greeks and b) the proper institutional site to perform such a task. On the one hand, the acknowledgment of diaspora as an [End Page 74] integral component of modern Greek studies articulates an inclusive field hospitable to both area and diaspora studies. The denial of diaspora as a legitimate category, on the other hand, underlines the necessity for the operation of an autonomous Greek American studies dedicated to the study of Greek ethnicity in a national (American) setting.

Additional fault lines texture this opposition. The clash over the status of diaspora unfolded in the background of larger fractures over institutional boundaries and ideology. A powerful current within the MGSA, for instance, set as its priority the optimum placement of modern Greek studies within the U.S. academy. Its strategy was to tap into the most immediately available cultural capital, namely high literary achievements in Greece, particularly those accorded international recognition. A nation-centric orientation, therefore, was crucial in staking a claim to coveted academic territory. An alternative agenda coalesced around theJournal of the Hellenic Diaspora (JHD) in the mid 1970s, representing a leftist, often radical, project operating within a framework merging modern Greek, Greek American, and diaspora studies. Fermented by the anti-establishment movements of its era, it advocated scholarship as a venue to battle structures of domination-racism, imperialism, assimilationism, capitalism, and colonialism-and empower working class, minority, and subaltern people. In this regard it saw diaspora as a space of political dissent and cultural critique, entangling the study of global Greek worlds within an overarching emancipatory project. In this turbulent context, Petropulos's MGSA initiative represented an alternative route, redirecting modern Greek studies away from its nation-centric trajectory while abstaining from the highly politicized diaspora discourse emanating from the pages of JHD at the time.

Several developments drastically halted the 1976 vision of convergence between U.S. modern Greek, Greek American, and Greek diaspora studies. Launched in 1983, the Journal of Modern Greek Studies (JMGS), MGSA's official publication, was inaugurated as a venue primarily dedicated to the study of modern Greece. In the meantime, key figures in Greek American studies were calling for disciplinary autonomy, declaring modern Greek studies its adversary. This represented a far-reaching divergence. Each field elided the option of creating a joint space of inquiry favoring instead its respective nation-centrism. As a result, a systematic (as opposed to scattered) cross-fertilization between area, diaspora, and ethnic studies was gravely hindered. The 1976 MGSA symposium with the U.S. Greeks as its theme proved to be the first and last of its kind. Why did Greek American and modern Greek studies pursue this route? Why was diaspora an embattled category? And in view of this history of [End Page 75]institutional divergence, what are the prospects for the study of Greek worlds in the U.S. academy, now that diaspora, as well as the transnational, command overwhelming analytical attention?

In this essay I join this conversation from the perspective of Greek American studies. I focus on Greek American histories, texts, and institutional contexts, particularly those that have been instrumental in delineating, or alternatively opening up, the boundaries of the field. I build on two intersecting threads. I undertake a detailed mapping of several debates and histories of development in post-1960s Greek American studies to produce a critical assessment of the field and to chart its prospects. And I simultaneously move beyond an insular treatment of the field to illuminate interdisciplinary alliances, overlapping disciplinary domains, and battles over demarcating distinct academic territories. My interest in academic borders inevitably brings to the fore all sorts of interfaces. I identify, for example, the centrality of "diaspora" as a contested terrain for both Greek American and modern Greek studies, and recognize an ideological tension between U.S. Greek American and American ethnic studies. Along these lines I showcase two specific disjunctures: a) the institutional defeat of a nascent Greek diaspora/transnational studies articulated within the framework of modern Greek studies in the 1970s, just about when area studies were taking a turn toward diaspora and b) the operation of a dominant assimilationist strain in Greek American historiography, deployed to claim the inclusion of Greek American studies in the multicultural American university in the 1980s and 1990s while de-centering diaspora from its purview. I address this set of disconnections against the ongoing transnationalization of Greek worlds as well as of the transnational turn in the humanities and social sciences, a parallel development that invites a fundamental remapping of Greek America and consequently obliges scholars of both Greek American and modern Greek studies to rethink their spatial and cultural frames of analysis. The operation of transnational geographies associated with Greek worlds calls attention to the artificiality of the boundary between Greek American and modern Greek studies and the necessity for joining their forces for the purpose of new critical mappings.

I organize this work around three axes. First, I situate Greek American studies as an international network of academic exchanges. I adopt a historical and comparative perspective tracing several trajectories of post 1960s developments in the United States and Europe to identify specific convergences and divergences between the field and academic units such as American studies, American ethnic studies, and modern Greek studies. This entails a discussion of texts and contexts where certain research orientations, including the call for an institutional merging [End Page 76] between Greek American and modern Greek studies, were enunciated but selectively pursued. It is in this section that I outline the operation of an assimilationist thread within canonical Greek American historiography, which was present throughout the field's quest for academic autonomy. My analysis highlights those alternative visions for Greek American studies that were historically displaced and explains the current predicament of the field.

Second, I discuss Greek American studies in the context of radical U.S. academic restructuring under conditions of globalization, namely, the expansion of traditional disciplines into domains variously known as postnational, transnational, hemispheric (integrating for example South and North America), or global studies. I explore the implications for the field of this unfolding configuration, noting the growing interests of comparative literature, archaeology, modern Greek studies, and cultural and media studies in Greek America, and subsequently raising the issue of the institutional location and critical orientation that would position Greek American studies as a vital participant in contemporary discussions about ethnicity, diaspora and the transnational in the U.S. humanities and social sciences.

Finally, I identify the proliferation of state, lay, and academic discourses that employ the language of globality, diaspora, and transnationalism to constitute Greek America as a component of world wide Hellenism, commonly glossed as global Greek diaspora. This configuration calls for both Greek American and U.S. modern Greek studies to expand beyond nation-centrism, and cross-fertilize across the transnational plane "Greek America-Greece-United States-Greek worlds elsewhere." At the same time, it is of outmost importance, I suggest, that Greek American studies retains its conventional focus on difference within the U.S. context as the single most significant contribution to offer to modern Greek studies, as the latter moves toward embracing transnationalism and diaspora.1

Greek American studies as an international field

Greek American studies operates internationally, albeit on a modest scale. Scholars working on Greek America are dispersed, though highly concentrated in North America, Europe, and Greece. They teach and write in places like Ann Arbor (Michigan), Athens, Bochum (Germany), Chicago, Columbus (Ohio), Kalamata (Greece), Kariskrona (Sweden), Leeds (U.K.), New York City, Halifax (Canada), Thessaloniki, Rethymnon (Greece), San Francisco, and most lately Adelaide (Australia). Institutional locations vary, covering a wide spectrum that includes American studies, English, cultural studies, media and communication studies, [End Page 77] geography, history, psychology, sociology, and modern Greek. This represents a decentralized, multi-sited terrain, characterized by theoretical and linguistic plurality. English is the lingua franca, though important texts in Greek have not yet been translated into English. At the same time, a considerable volume of Greek American material is now available to Greek-speaking readers through numerous translations of literary and scholarly material, book reviews, journalism, and essays.

The overall Greek American academic output exhibits varying degrees of research scope and productivity, which often but not always correlates with the uneven distribution of academic resources. Scholars may work in research- or teaching-oriented state universities as well as four-year colleges and community colleges. In this highly differentiated environment, material conditions-availability of grants, teaching loads, release time for research, administrative duties, and pedigrees of training-vary considerably. Ivy League and other private colleges as well as highly ranked public universities in the United States, have traditionally shown no interest in Greek America, a neglect that attests to the lack of the field's cultural capital. In fact, some scholars have informally described themselves in the past as a beleaguered and marginalized minority within their respective departments, a sentiment that points to the field's overall contested academic value. There are signs, however, of upcoming changes.

To recognize the international dimension of Greek American studies is not to argue that the field exhibits what Benjamin Lee calls "critical internationalism" (1995:591). We cannot speak of a network of scholarly exchanges where various research projects interface to raise new questions, point to unexpected directions, and overall defamiliarize identity categories such as "Greek American," "American," or "ethnic community." Circulation of various critical perspectives across geopolitical and institutional borders does take place, but such occurrences are limited. A survey of "works cited" in recent scholarship shows that important works in Greek and in English are not read widely in some quarters; moreover, theoretical texts are received with caution within certain circles, sometimes cited out of context, often ignored, or lightly dismissed. This state of affairs hinders conversation across disciplines, limiting the scope of the field. Of course cross-fertilization takes place, but only within a few clusters that share critical interests. It does not reverberate widely and deeply enough within the terrain. Revisionist historiography, for instance, has undermined the narrative that saw Greek American history as an inexorable march toward middle class status and sensibilities. And cultural studies have critiqued reductive representations of Greek America, past and present. These threads clearly intersect as [End Page 78] they destabilize homogenizing narratives. But no robust critical tradition is at work yet to build on these specific advances and produce genuine critical internationalism.2

Greek American studies as American ethnic and cultural studies in Europe: incorporating the diaspora

The plurality of institutional and epistemological contexts in which Greek American studies is practiced, precludes any attempt to claim a single foundation for the field. Rather, one can speak of multiple trajectories in specific national and continental settings, each defined by its own truths and exclusions. A specific development in Greece, for instance, can be traced in the late 1980s, around a constellation involving at least four components: the global expansion of cultural studies, European academic interest in American ethnic literatures, departments of English in Greece with a vital American studies component, and scholars practicing Greek American studies through the lens of cultural studies within this institutional nexus. Each of these components and their interrelationships entail, of course, complex geneaologies at the intersection of which one could trace the emergence of a critical thread in Greek American studies in Greece. For my purposes it suffices to say that the field in this context developed in conversation with theoretical work on cultural politics, positioning itself in wider academic discussions on memory, subjectivity, historiography, and multiculturalism. Scholars working in English, for instance, successfully placed research on Greek America in mainstream journals and edited volumes on ethnic identity, travel, and world literature, particularly in the humanities. Significantly, the question of diaspora was not elided. Though Americanists by training, these scholars saw Greek American literature not only in relation to American, but also Greek literary histories. In fact, they explicitly resisted the treatment of Greek American texts as merely ethnic, probing to unravel both their national (American) and diasporic (Greek) entanglements. This orientation steered investigation toward the crossing of geographical, linguistic, and cultural borders, promoting in this manner a pioneering interdisciplinary project that brought into conversation American, American ethnic, Greek American, diaspora, and modern Greek studies.3

The growth of Greek American studies in Greece is inextricably linked with European scholarly interests in American society, a situation with its own complex histories that I only briefly outline. A turning point in the European study of American ethnic literatures was the establishment of The Society for Multi-Ethnic Studies: Europe and the Americas (MESEA) in 1998, out of the European chapter of The Society for the [End Page 79] Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the United States (MELUS). Founded "in response to the challenges of ethnic studies in a time of increasing globalization," MESEA keenly embraced the transnational turn in the humanities and social sciences, in full swing by then in the U.S. academy (www.mesea.org/home). Its annual conferences and publications are indicative of this alignment, stressing border crossing, and translocality.4 Most importantly for my purposes here, the Society provided an international venue for Greek American scholarship, enhancing the European ties of scholars who work on Greek America under the aegis of the Hellenic Association for American Studies (HELAAS), a member of the European Association for American Studies.5 In this context, interest in Greek American literature and culture grew beyond Greece, in European universities with no tradition in Greek American scholarship, which nevertheless accommodate, if not encourage graduate student interest on the topic.

What is more, a growing scholarly attention to Greek America is unfolding across European cultural and media studies, anthropology, and history. Driven by the transnational turn, this development is particularly visible in Britain, whose strong tradition of cultural studies provides the rubric for research with a Greek American component. In addition, mainstream European historiography was repositioned to embrace the neglected topic of migration, a development to which we owe one of the most sophisticated treatments of transnational Greek America.6 This constitutes a major shift in European historiography, as the discipline traditionally saw migration though nation-centric lens. According to Ioanna Laliotou, "the flow of migrants was viewed as a form of loss of national capital and was thus displaced in national historical narratives that celebrated mainly the process of national accumulation" (2004:8). This explains why "both transatlantic emigration and intra-European migration is often undermined and forgotten on the level of social and historical analysis" (2004:8). But this neglect is being redressed. Britain's Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), for instance, has been funding projects on intra-European and transatlantic counter-diasporic migrations, including intra-European movements of Greek people, but also the "return" of Greek Americans to Greece (see the project of Anastasia Christou).

To summarize: in the European trajectory, Greek American studies claimed not disciplinary autonomy but negotiated space within established disciplines. It gained visibility as a subfield in conversation with the larger units within which it was practiced. Striving to assert itself within this power configuration, it developed in dialogue with wider theoretical concerns. The sheer volume of publications it managed to place in [End Page 80] "non-ethnic" presses and journals demonstrates the effectiveness of this outward orientation. Significantly, it sought to undermine the twin pair assimilation-nationalism, a posture that explains its foregrounding of difference, including diaspora. Out of this context grew a critical tradition noted for its uncompromising scrutiny of canonical Greek American texts, including the work of Theodore Saloutos and Nicholas Gage, both widely revered in Greek America. This overall trajectory in European Greek American studies significantly contrasts with the development of its U.S. counterpart.

The battle over diaspora: Greek American and modern Greek studies in the United States

In contrast to the European context, U.S. Greek American studies developed along alternative institutional routes. Its trajectory radically diverged from American ethnic studies. A product of grassroots activism associated with the civil rights movement, American ethnic studies represented the democratic openness of the U.S. academy, carving an institutional space from which to give voice to the experience of historically oppressed racial minorities. At the level of departmental territory, ethnic studies really meant racial studies. It was configured around an academic politics that set itself apart from Euro-American histories and cultures, as the latter were seen as radically different than those of Native Americans and Spanish-speaking populations (who were internally colonized), African Americans (subjected to slavery), and Asian Americans (for the longest time deprived of citizenship). White ethnics, including Greek Americans, were excluded, therefore, from the academic turf carved around ethnic studies in the 1960s and 1970s, a situation that for the most part continues today.7

This is not to say, however, that Greek America remained aloof from the battles over representation in the curriculum. On the contrary, it was intimately involved in the politics of difference from the outset, albeit unfolding in alternative academic domains. Not unlike minorities seeking entry into college curricula through grassroots pressure, Euro-ethnics mobilized community resources to claim their own inclusion in the university.8 It was the activism of the local Columbus community in partnership with The Ohio State University, for instance, that launched the fundraising project "Paideia" in 1975, leading to the establishment of the modern Greek program a year later. Interestingly, early programs gravitated toward the teaching of language and literature, not ethnic history. The study of literature, in particular, offered an apt opportunity for establishing the relevance of the newfound field beyond its ethnic [End Page 82] constituency. Artemis Leontis captures the cultural economy associated with this strategy for academic inclusion: "When in 1968 a small group of American scholars established the Modern Greek Studies Association," she writes, "literature was the hard currency of the times. Because 'the great Greek moderns'-Solomos, Calvos, Palamas, Cavafy, Sikelianos, Kazantzakis, Seferis, Myrivilis, Venezis, Elytis, etc.-had drawn the attention of powerful literati, the 'living' Hellas became a subject of interest. Literary achievement was not only its center of focus but the principal argument for its existence" (1997a:217). This cultural capital outmatched the folk, literary, and popular traditions of Greek America, which remained largely outside the research mission of early modern Greek programs.9 This neglect has not yet been fully understood, though one thing is for certain, the institutional marginality of Greek American studies within modern Greek studies-roughly between the late 1960s and, arguably, mid 1990s-seriously compromised the growth and critical valence of research on the U.S. Greek experience.10

This de-centering is closely linked with power struggles over the boundaries of modern Greek studies in the U.S. academy. Central to this battle was the question of diaspora as a political and epistemological category. Who possessed the authority to define it, where did its study belong, and for what purpose? At least three positions advanced competing answers in the tumultuous 1970s and 1980s. They were politically incommensurable, one building on leftist ideology, the other on an institutional initiative within the MGSA, and yet another on ethnic Americanism advocated by Greek American studies scholars.

The first position was advanced in a manifesto-like, programmatic essay in the 1974 inaugural issue of the Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora: Critical Thought on Modern Greece, penned by its editor Nikos Petropoulos, a sociologist of minority groups and social movements at Indiana-Purdue University. Audaciously outspoken, it laid out a politically committed program for Greek scholarship in the post-junta era, promising at the same time to expose oppression anytime it saw it and extending its solidarity to "Third World Movements and minority movements within the U.S." (1974:3). In this regard it challenged the United States to remain true to its professed ideals, announcing a list of "Bicentennial demands" for "revolutionary changes," which included "social and economic justice for all Americans, blacks, Indians, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, and other minorities." Equating critical thought with a leftist political agenda, it saw itself as an alternative public forum of "constructive dialogue and criticism within the left," though willing to accommodate centrist positions (1974:5). In what could be seen as an early critique of globalization, it lashed out against multinational corporate aggrandizing, demanding "an [End Page 83] end to executive privileges and loopholes . . . [and] an end to the double standards of justice-leniency for the rich and severity for the poor." True to its radical edge, it boldly took to task the CIA for counter-revolutionary activities. It didn't mince its words either in critiquing dominant Greek American institutions. And it promised to retain the revolutionary strain that defined its predecessor, the Journal of the American Hellenic Society (JAHS), a resistance periodical against the Greek junta.11

In tune with the politicized, anti-colonial, and minority academic discourse of its times, this text represents a pioneering project on at least three counts: a) in gesturing toward a conversation between modern Greek and American ethnic studies; b) in advocating scholarship accessible to the public; and c) in proposing the joint study of Greece and Greek America. These boundary crossings were expressed unassumingly, with no theoretical elaboration. Declaring modern Greece as its focus, the editor nevertheless invited comparative work on Greek America and Greek diasporas without fanfare. Potential research included "The politicization of resistance organizations in Greece," "The impact of the Agnew resignation on Greek opinion," "The ancient Greek stoics and cynics and the modern counterculture (hippies, beats, etc.)," "The socialist movement among Greeks in the U.S.," "Greek Americans and the civil rights movement in the U.S.," "Greek Americans and the women's rights movement in the U.S.," "The involvement of Greek Americans in the Watergate scandal," and "The anti-junta movement in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Europe, the socialist countries, etc." (1974:6-7). One witnesses in this list the seeds of what would today qualify as a transnational research agenda.

The second position, contemporary with the first, was devoid of radicalism, yet was equally visionary in its proposal to include the diaspora within the scope of modern Greek studies. For a long moment during the 1976 MGSA Symposium on "The Greek Experience in America," the promise of a convergence between modern Greek and Greek American studies appeared to crystallize into institutional policy. Speaking from the dual position of someone with "the cap of an MGSA president who happens to be a Greek-American and the cap of a Greek-American who happens to be president of MGSA," historian John Petropulos saw "the first MGSA symposium to focus on the Greek diaspora" as the inauguration of a new era. "If one of MGSA's functions is to point out areas in modern Greek studies which need and deserve attention," he remarked auspiciously, "this Symposium has helped us to perform that function." "[T]he Greek diaspora falls appropriately within the confines of modern Greek studies as an object of legitimate study" (1977:26).12

But this new mapping of the "proper domain" for modern Greek [End Page 84] studies never materialized institutionally until, arguably, it was revisited in the mid 1990s. Though articles and book reviews on Greek America did appear in the official periodicals of the Association-Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies (BMGS) and the Journal of Modern Greek Studies (JMGS)-they did so infrequently, and certainly in the virtual absence of public reflection on Petropulos's vision of convergence.13 While the field invested enormous energy reflecting on how to keep (re)positioning itself within the U.S. academy, the topic of diaspora never warranted, for instance, a special issue of JMGS.

The brewing rift between modern Greek and Greek American studies burst open in the 1980s, when sociologist Charles Moskos (1934-2008) blamed academic elitism as one of the major sources of the problem. "Greek-American studies, with their focus on immigrants, are déclassé among most scholars who deal with contemporary Greece," he wrote unequivocally (1989:188). In the antagonism of his steadfast position-"Greek-American studies will remain undeveloped unless they are separated from modern Greek studies" (Moskos 1982:58n66, 1989:188)-the vision of convergence fumbled, and the division took the hue of a bitter divorce. What transpired, precisely, between 1976-the moment of the pioneering convergence-and the 1980s-the moment of the radical divergence? This is territory for future inquiry.14 But the dual implication of this arrangement is undisputable. U.S. diaspora studies suffered a serious setback, as both Greek-related academic fields displaced it from their respective centers. This also meant, inevitably, that the radical component associated with the politicized diaspora discourse of JHD was conveniently kept at bay.

The move toward institutional autonomy underlined the struggle over the authority to interpret Greek America. Were Greek Americans an element of the "Hellenic Diaspora" or were they "American ethnics"? Moskos asked in the 1989 expanded edition of his Greek Americans: Struggle and Success. "The intellectual quandary of Greek-American studies is its relations to modern Greek studies," he wrote. "Two versions of the Greek experience in America compete. One is that Greek Americans are part of a homeland extension, an homogenia, an Hellenic diaspora. The other is that Greek Americans are entrants and then participants in American history. Which of these-to be sure overstated-versions are we to accept? There is no simple answer, for each contains part of the truth" (1989:144). Here, Moskos cast Greek America in terms of a duality, which for a moment he appeared to transcend. But in fact he ended up asserting this polarity to subsequently order it hierarchically: "I believe that this interpretation of the Greek experience in America [as American ethnics] is more valid than the other" (1989:146). [End Page 85]

Moskos justifiably criticized the reified dismissal of Greek America as a "pale reflection of an old country culture," recognizing ethnicity as a dynamic process, and rightly wishing to frame it in the context of its historical specificity (1989:148). In fact, as Charles Stewart suggests, Moskos resisted the Helladic disparagement of Greek America as a creole, that is a degenerate cultural entity, inferior to homeland culture (forthcoming). But his approach relied on a too narrow definition of diaspora. To mention an example close to his institutional base: as a professor at Northwestern and a scholar, it is most unlikely that he failed to register the operation of the Greek Cultural Center of Chicago in the 1970s. The Center posed a direct challenge to his binary model. Mostly consisting of immigrants, intellectuals, and university students, it was grounded in the Greek political culture of leftist dissent. The fact that members of the Center exhibited a taste for the politics, literature, and the arts of Greece certainly made it fit the traditional paradigm of diaspora, the notion that "one's roots and political sensitivities . . . [are] nourished by a responsiveness to contemporary Greek realities-even if at a distance" (Moskos 1989:145-146). But, as Nikos Petropoulos reported in his sympathetic profile in JHD, the Center was also enmeshed in Greek American and American national politics (1975a). "The Cultural Center, and other organizations like it throughout the U.S. and Canada, should be supported and strengthened," he pled. "They represent a long-awaited challenge to the established Greek-American organizations who have uncritically swallowed the American Dream ideology about immigration." And, "their willingness to work with other subordinated racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. dispels the stereotype many people have of 'white ethnics' as reactionary racists" (1975a:35). Representing both a diasporic and an American ethnic orientation, the Center stood for a politics outside the stated binary. Yet it was denied representation in Moskos's model, written off as a viable option. In other words, the "false distinction between homeland and diaspora" in this model cancelled an alternative location-the deployment of a specific diasporic Greek political sensibility in the context of the U.S. civil rights movement (Jusdanis 1991:216). This articulation of the diasporic, the ethnic, and the national represented a third space outside an "either/or" polarity.15

Thus the "diaspora-ethnic" duality performed the ideological work of canceling its two rival interpretations regarding the institutional location and political valence of Greek American studies. First, in construing diaspora solely after the template of Greek nationalism (as an organic extension of the nation; i.e., Greek Americans as Greeks abroad), it placed diaspora outside the domain of Greek American studies. In this [End Page 86] manner, John Petropulos's call to include Greek America within the orbit of modern Greek studies was neutralized, clearing the space to advocate the autonomy of the field. Second, the leftist project emanating from JHD in the mid 1970s, notably by the editorial pen of Nikos Petropoulos, was waived off through two interrelated moves. Moskos abstained from seriously probing into the implications of contemporary leftist initiatives-such as the Greek Cultural Center of Chicago-which promoted ethnic activism to effect social change. And it did so while elevating social conservatism as the Greek American norm, shrinking even further the discursive space for political and cultural alternatives. Once again, canonical representations of Greek America sacrifice ethnographic complexity, erecting in its ruins a shrine to homogeneity.16

In 1991, the revisionist volume New Directions in Greek American Studies grew out of a 1989 conference tellingly titled, "The Greek American Experience," held to honor Saloutos posthumously. The anthology, co-edited by Moskos and Georgakas-former rival interpreters of Greek American history-represented a consensus on two counts. First, as Eva Konstantellou originally noted, the "conciliatory position" entailed expanding the range of the field (1994:143). It advocated scholarship on a number of topics-the experience of women, the working class, non-Orthodox Greek ethnics, and the immigrant left-which Greek Americans: Struggles and Success downplayed or even neglected. Second, the text sealed the editors' joint advocacy for the institutional autonomy of Greek American studies. In other words, New Directions accommodated agendas long-fought by each editor; Georgakas materialized his vision for a more inclusive ethnic historiography, and Moskos saw his earlier position for separating Greek American from modern Greek studies reproduced intact.

True to its revisionist orientation, however, New Directions took a most important step to move beyond the hierarchical polarity "ethnicity- diaspora." It literally and conceptually removed the privileging of the "American ethnic" position. Moskos's original line in his Greek Americans, "the Greek experience in America [as American ethnics] is more valid than the other" (1989:146) was not included in New Directions. The project showcased instead the orientation of Greek American studies away from ethnic Americanism toward a self-reflexive location from which the field "must accept debate about . . . [its] own nature as part of [its] recognized subject matter" (Georgakas and Moskos 1991:15; but see also Moskos 1982:62). If "[t]he competing interpretations of the Greek American experience . . . [are] still barely researched," the task of the new Greek America studies is to make empirical and critical inquiry an [End Page 87] integral component of its practice (Georgakas and Moskos 1991:14-15).17 It is in this inclusive ethic of critical self-reflection that New Directions anticipates, and it simultaneously inspires, this work.

Notably, however, New Directions denounced the privileging of American ethnic position via a profound contradiction, indicative perhaps of its emergent scope. Its definition of Greek American studies as the scholarly, critical, and artistic investigation of "the manifold and ongoing experience of Americans of Greek ancestry" unambiguously places ethnicity in relation to the political, national, and cultural categories "American," categories that the definition blurs (Georgakas and Moskos 1991:9). No matter how generously one reads this designation, one cannot miss a number of partialities. This formulation leaves out Greek immigrants and students who are not American citizens, and concomitantly does not account for "non-American" Greeks who have resided in the United States but discontinue doing so. It provides no space for those Greek Americans who take issue with the category "American Greek." In addition, it shows no interest in including non-ethnic Greeks who happen to connect either through marriage or cultural affinities with both Greece and the United States, further delimiting the boundaries of the field. And in staying with its narrow definition, it bypasses a fertile field of representations produced through the movement of people and ideas between Greece and the United States. Are we to conclude that authors such as Maria Sarantopoulou Ekonomidou or Yiorgos Theotokas-none of whom fits the "American Greek" classification but all have discursively marked the transnational plane "Greek America-Greece-United States-Greek worlds elsewhere"-do not belong to the purview of Greek American studies? In this respect, New Directionsbears traces of the "American ethnic" model that it originally set out to decenter. 

In lieu of conclusion: global and transnational contours of Greek worlds

As we reflect on academic contestations over Greek diaspora, social discourses presently multiply the frames of our reference. Greek America is increasingly discussed not merely in terms of diaspora, but also the transnational and the global. Even a brief survey of popular, state, and professional sources demonstrates the ubiquitous use of these categories. Occupational associations utilize them copiously, as in the Global Hellenic Medical Network, and the World Hellenic Biomedical Association. U.S.-based websites like Daily Frappe address a "global community," "scattered by geography but united by heritage." Greeksunited.com, which organizes its site around the purpose of "uniting Greeks world wide," commonly includes Greek America. This is also the case with magazines fully devoted to "Greeks abroad," such as Global Hellenism, published by the Association for the Research and Recording of Hellenism Abroad (EMKAE). Surveys on global Hellenism are conducted by such research centers as the one sponsored by the Greek Institute Kapa-Research and supported by the Greek ministry of Foreign Affairs. What is more, The Next Generation Initiative, a U.S. based non-profit educational foundation established in 2002 "by an independent, collaborative network of global Greeks," mediates the social, cultural, and professional interests of young people of Greek ancestry in terms of "the skills and experiences their careers will demand-and the global perspective that future leadership will require" (www.hellenext.org/Initiative.htm). And non-profit, non-governmental organizations with global reach such as the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE)-established in 1989 and implemented in 1995-frame their platform around the ecumenical relevance of Greek culture and World Hellenism as a "national entity" (www.saeusa.org).

The academy also participates in this discourse, as evidenced by conferences like "Globalization and the Hellenic Diaspora" (Rethymnon 2007), and "Centers of Globalization: Greek America-An Interdisciplinary Approach" (Chicago 2008). Remarkably, an interface also emerges between the community and the academy under the rubric of the transnational. The centennial celebration of a regional association-St. George Hellenic Benefit Society of Tsamantas-"100 Years in America: 1908-2008, Tsamantas-Worcester" is a case in point. In a startling initiative, [End Page 102] as a part of its celebration, the Society sponsored an academic conference, "100 Years in America: Historical Determinants and Images of Identity and Culture of Diasporas from Southeastern Europe," held at Hellenic College in Brookline, Massachusetts in 2008. The aim of the conference, as described in the Friends of Tsamantas newsletter, was to "examine issues of identity and belonging, and the relationship between past and present in the context of cultural globalization. Papers dealing with all aspects of migration, re-migration, and trans-national and cross-cultural interconnections that shape the identity of diasporic communities will be presented" (www.100yearsinamerica.org/). This is a case of a regional society producing translocal consciousness and doing so in the idiom of globalization.

Several forces drive this process. Multicultural democracies, such as Canada and the United States, among others, encourage popular interest in ethnic roots, motivating Greek hyphenated populations to connect with ancestral places in Greece and Greek worlds elsewhere and inviting, therefore, the use of the widely circulating terms global, diaspora, and transnational. Moreover, globalization makes possible real time communication, intensifying cultural links across borders. The opening up of global markets multiplies educational, artistic, and career prospects internationally for Greek-born professionals. What is more, state and ethnic organizations promote ecumenical Hellenism-glossed as global or worldwide Hellenism, "diaspora Hellenes," or "Panhellenic diaspora" (see Voutira 2006)-harnessing the political and the economic power of the "diaspora" in the post-cold war era as they assert "the supraterritorial nature of the nation" (Venturas 2009:135). These conditions inevitably accelerate the circulation of capital, images, information, artifacts, and people in relation to Greek cultures spanning geopolitical borders and nurturing a global imaginary. They may be producing, at least in some, a sense of belonging and connectedness with "a global Greek ethnos" (Panagakos 2003:231).

Globalization brings disparate cultural geographies into a network of exchanges. This is why the examination of Greek cultural worlds requires analysis beyond the nation-state of two related yet not identical processes-transnationalization and diaspora. This development can no longer sustain the institutional divide between Greek American and U.S. modern Greek studies, calling for a fundamental rethinking of our spatial and cultural frames of analysis. What is more, the remapping ahead will necessarily encounter additional boundaries to negotiate, certainly those separating all sorts of fields interested in Greek worlds (Greek Australian studies, European Greek studies, Greek diaspora studies in Greece, etc.), but also other disciplinary divides, such as those among American, [End Page 103] American ethnic, Greek American, and U.S. modern Greek studies. If Greek worlds are entangled in webs of transnational relations, their study requires a concomitant network of exchanges across conventional academic boundaries. Finding ways to promote this research agenda presents one of the most urgent issues confronting Greek scholarship in the age of the transnational.

[The article was published in the Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Volume 28, Number 1, May 2010. By Yiorgos Anagnostou]


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.