Ortner, Sherry. 1995. “Resistance and the Problem of Ethnographic Refusal.” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 37, no. 1: 173-93.
- Chapter 1. 1963–2008: History, Microhistory, Metahistory, Ethnography
- » (Speaking of Method)
Chapter 1. 1963–2008: History, Microhistory, Metahistory, Ethnography
(Speaking of Method)
How can fear, terror, pain, torture, and the dialectic that always accompanies them—hope for poetry, love of life, stubbornness, endurance, the desire to have children—how can they be written (of, about, against)? Where can one start writing? And if we understand this dialectic as resistance to hegemonic forms not only of power but of underwriting processes of subjectivities, how can such a resistance be written? The stakes for the anthropologist are great, Sherry Ortner tells us, when she reminds us that as anthropologists we position ourselves not only as engaged intellectually and morally but in a “bodily process in space and time” Ortner 1995: 173). Therefore the writing that will result from this bodily process called “fieldwork” ought to recognize (if not tremble in the face of) the intellectual and moral responsibility that we have in the encounter of this dialectic.
Theory seems to be a good place to start, although, as Valentine Daniel has warned us, nothing is transparent to theory, not “even ordinary life” (1996: 6), especially when the ordinariness of this everyday life contains within it the torturers and the tortured, the maimers and the maimed, the fearsome and the feared, or, as Begoña Aretxaga has put it, “people who are too close and whose lives we know, and whom we cannot disregard so easily because they form part of the intimate social framework” Aretxaga 2005: 166). And one could very well posit the legitimate question of why attempt to write about a terror that took place so long ago, why now, when the bodies of the tortured have been healed, their psyches have been soothed, now that some of those persecuted and brutally tortured for being dissident (to social order, to political submission, to normalization) have become ministers, and deputies, and full professors, directors of powerful organizations in the public sector, recognized and revered poets, novelists, filmmakers, architects, jurists, painters—who, in other words, have largely become what they were denied to be. What, one might ask, is the merit of writing a story that now has become history?
I officially started fieldwork for this project in May 2003 for fifteen months, followed by additional fieldwork in the summers of 2005 and 2006, with follow-up interviews in the summer of 2007. This was the time-frame of my experience in “the field.” But what could “the field” mean for me, a “native,” a person known among my family, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues as a “native anthropologist”? Where does the field end and where does unmarked, daily experience begin, and what can the two tell us about one another? Many different levels of identities and identifications are claimed in this book, all of them problematic and problematized simultaneously. There is no fixed identity of the “Leftist,” an identitary ascription that is as slippery as the ground of the “Left” on which it walks. At times all “Leftists” were counted in with the “Communists,” who were counted in with the “labor unionists,” who were counted in with the “anarchists,” all ascriptions used by the state in the process of legislating their persecution, although occasionally a flicker of differentiation would accompany the desire that “our” people not “really” be Communists, as oftentimes happened when people on the Right would draw a distinction between the “Communists” and the “Leftists.” Zina, a friend whose father was a chief justice for the Special Military Courts until 1963, always joked about how her father would say of Leftist members of the family: “Ah, he's not a Communist; how would he know to be a Communist? He's just a Leftist [aristerós].” Within the “Left” these identitary ascriptions become even more fraught, and the delineations among Marxists, Marxists-Leninists, “true” Marxists-Leninists, Trotskyists, Archeiomarxistés (Archive Marxists; , Maoists, Guevarrists, Eurocommunists, Revolutionary Marxists, and Fourth-Internationalists have produced not only friction within the “Left” on the level of revolutionary dogmatism but have organized the lived, everyday experience of individual Leftists throughout the history of the Left movement in Greece. At times the persecution of members of these groups by the official Party has been as fierce as their collective persecution by the state. “Is he a Stalinist?” the mother of a friend whose father, an Archeiomarxist who had lived in hiding for years out of fear of both the official Communist Party and the police, would ask in a whisper, about people she did not know. Identities of the “Right” are a little less slippery and better fixed, as they have always been associated, in many ways, with the state and its representations and self-presentations, thus have been both reified and institutionalized in ways in which any internal or external nuances have lost their force. Slight differentiations persist across the spectrum of the Right, and they distinctly separate the “Right” from what is commonly called the “extreme Right,” which, in Greece, has always been associated with totalitarianism, Fascism, and the terror of the state (it includes, for instance, the parakrátos, the paramilitaries, and armed civilian militias).
Aretxaga, Begoñ.a. 2005. “The Intimacy of Violence.” In States of Terror: Begoña Aretxaga's Essays,, ed. Joseba Zulaika, and B. Warren Kay Reno: Center for Basque Studies, University of Nevada.
The Archive Marxists (Archeiomarxistés) were a group of intellectuals within the Communist Party that appeared some time in 1918 (and were certainly recognizable by 1919) in the Communist Union (a secret group within the Socialist Labor Party, SEKE, in Greece; SEKE later became the Communist Party of Greece, KKE). When the Communist Union was dissolved, some of its members started publishing a periodical, Archeia Marxismou (Archives of Marxism). During the first years of International Trotskyism, the Archive Marxists of Greece were the largest and most robust section of the Trotskyist movement. In 1924 the Archive Marxists organized the Archeiomarxist Organization, with Dimitrios Yiotopoulos (known by his pseudonym Witte) as its leader. Yiotopoulos was a chemist by profession and Leon Trotsky's secretary. In July 1930, the Archeiomarxist Organization applied for admission to the International Left Opposition (which later became the Fourth International). In October 1930 the organization changed its name to the Bolshevik-Leninist Organization of Greece. In 1934 the organization split away from the Trotskyist movement, never becoming part of the Fourth International.
The basic project of the Archive Marxists was education and indoctrination into Marxism and Leninism, by making available the writings of Marx and Lenin. The group made these works available in a number of different European languages, some of them (badly and hastily) translated into Greek. However, reading in any language in the beginnings of the twentieth century was limited to the better-educated portions of the population, leaving the working-class and agrarian Stalinists at a disadvantage (as Margaret Kenna has pointed out, 2003: 120). The Archive Marxists, however, insisted that before the Party opened up its ranks the uneducated workers had to be educated and trained. A split with the main Party was inevitable, as the Party was heavily invested in swelling its ranks and stomping out the false consciousness of intellectuals. By the time of the Metaxas dictatorship (1936) the Archive Marxists were persecuted equally by the Communist Party and by the dictatorship. On the Archive Marxists see Kenna 2001 and 2003; Noutsos 1992 and 1993. On Yiotopoulos, see Trotsky 1978; on the Greek Trotskyists and the Fourth International, see Trotsky 1979; on Greek Trotskyism within the context of the international Trotskyist movement, see Alexander 1991.
I would argue that this is true of the international Left movement, but that falls outside of the scope of this particular project.
Except, of course, when even the identity of the “Right” was questioned from within, as during the junta, when officers of the Greek National Army who had fought against the Communists during the civil war found themselves in the same prisons and places of exile as the Leftists.