Constantinopolitans and the View from the City: on Greek Diaspora, National Homeland, and Cosmopolitan Identity

Event time: 
Wednesday, February 16, 2022 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
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Event description: 

The Evolution of a Nation
In light of the anniversaries of the 1821 Greek revolution and the end of the Greco-Turkish war in 1922 the Hellenic Studies Program proposes a lecture series focused on the historic demographic shifts which have shaped the current state of the Greek nation. The series addresses the manner in which the introduction of Greek communities from the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea into the Greek polity expand and complicate our understanding of the evolution of the Greek nation. In doing so, the lectures contest and disturb the linear narrative of a pre-existing nation unfolding wings to its present diverse forms from the mythical origin of a Peloponnesian heartland.
Foremost among the critical language we employ to address the diffusion of the Greek nation is the term “repatriation” (επαναπατρισμός), which fails to account for the geographical origins of the alleged repatriated communities into the Helladic domain of the Greek state. For the communities in question (Asia Minor, Black Sea, and Egypt) the Greek mainland was never their homeland and their mostly forced transplantation to Greece was a form of exile. As these communities took root in the urban centers of Greece, they also developed strategies and institutions explicitly aimed at preserving traditions that testify to the rich diversity of Hellenic identities and their adoption of and contribution to the wider cultural canvas of their lost and new homelands.
The series, titled “The Evolution of a Nation,” will also extend to more recent demographic shifts since the early 1990s by a parallel but related discussion of the ways and tactics by which second generation Greeks from immigrant communities balance the dynamic and constructive tension between assimilation and a potentially hyphenated Greekness that also acknowledges and fosters their families’ ethnic origins.
Ilay Romain Ors is an Associate Professor in Social Anthropology based in Athens, Greece. She earned her BA degrees in Sociology and Political Science & International Relations at Bogazici University Istanbul, studied at the MSc program in Social Anthropology at the University College London, and received her PhD in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. Her dissertation project on the Rum Polites, the Constantinopolitan Greek Orthodox community, was revised and published as Diaspora of the City: stories of cosmopolitanism from Istanbul and Athens (Palgrave 2018). Her other research interests, teaching, and publications center on urban studies, social movements, minority identity, migration, multiculturalism, food, sports, and everyday life in Greece and Turkey. Currently, she is engaged in a multi-sited project on overlapping migratory waves in the Aegean based on research in Athens, Lesvos, and Leros, which is funded by the Independent Social Research Foundation. Ors is an Associate Lecturer at the American College of Greece, Deree College, and holds a Research Affiliate position with the University of Oxford.