This book had its origins in less turbulent times, before 9/11, when the ascending neo-liberalism of the Clinton years gave the false impression of a placid and prosperous future, carefully obscuring politics and neutralizing dissensus. The question that I was asking then concerned the collusion of the political and the existential subject as it appears in the character of Oedipus. How can we configure the location where a person becomes a political subject, I wondered, as I was looking at the problematics raised by Oedipus in his multiple subject positions—within kinship, the state, the location of authority and sovereignty, but above all in that tattered body of his, multiply mutilated, always intentionally, once aiming at the erasure of his lineage, then attempting to inscribe onto his body accountability for acts that he had performed unknowingly. And how can we see this ethnographically?
Oedipus seemed the perfect critical metaphor for the landscape of sovereignty after 9/11, where responsibility and accountability became notions so controlled and malleable by the sovereign power that they became distorted idealities. In an environment where power refused to account for its excesses and where structures (of governance, secrecy, security) were given priority over the humanity that lay beneath them, the paradigm of Oedipus seemed more apt every day. When I read how in their memoirs prisoners and exiles tortured in the concentration camps of Greece threaded together their experiences as political subjects with the character of Oedipus, I realized that there is a kernel of mutual recognition between the myth of the political in antiquity and the realities responsible for today.
Upon further reading of the histories of the Left (or what counted as the “Left”) in Greece, rifts upon rifts, splits, heroisms and paranoia, the chasms between the Left and the Right that had seemed so clearly delineated and charged with emotions and affects that have shaped generations—all started becoming muddled and treacherous. Distinctions did not disappear, but the further I researched, the more, not less, occluded they became. Binary oppositions (if any ever really existed) exploded their binarisms into seemingly infinite layers of significance and significations, littering the landscape with inexplicable contradictions: mistrust of the state but reverence for authority; proclamations of self-determination and independence but need for the security provided by a position in the public sector; nostalgia for one's pristine home village but total disregard for the environment. But there, unspoken, was the civil war—always, everywhere present, silently brought to mind though never spoken of, wounds that never really healed.
And if anyone thought that they had, the December Events of 2008 would have proved him wrong. The uprising of the high-school students, sparked by the murder of one of them, fifteen-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos, by a Special Forces policeman after yet another demonstration against the excesses of the government, brought center stage the festering wounds of the modern Greek polity. The high-school students, along with university students, immigrants, anarchists, “antiestablishmentarians” (the best word I have found to translate the inimitable Greek term antiexousiastes, where exousia stands for sovereign power), urban guerrillas, the lumpen, the poor, occupied the University, the Law School, the School of Public Governance, burned stores and rubbish bins, overturned police cars, threw stones and Molotov cocktails, burned the municipal Christmas tree three times over, looted, wore balaclavas and surgical masks, were attacked by the police with tear gas, smoke bombs, and baton beatings, turned Athens first and Greece shortly thereafter into an ongoing demonstration for three weeks, demanding, demanding nothing in particular and everything in general. “Fuck '68, Fight Now” became the slogan of the Events; “You have destroyed our lives” was the charge by the students toward everyone: their parents, their teachers, their schools, the government, the state, society, the church.
Trying to create a cogent narrative of the experience of perpetual resistance to the state has been a challenge both because of the trenchant critique that my generation of scholars has articulated against the production of grand and seamless narratives and because of the ethical impossibilities of forcing such a narrative onto this experience. What I have tried to do, both epistemologically and ethically, is to lay open its seemingly endless layers, where what appears as stable at one level collapses under its own weight at another level. In this attempt I have turned to the wisdom of others, who have generously agreed to lend me their eyes and ears, and to act as sounding boards for my ideas. I am grateful to each and every person who has lent me his or her thoughts and criticisms in the long time that it has taken me to complete this project.
First of all, I owe everything to the people who talked to me about their own histories in the long twentieth century. In some cases I have promised them anonymity, so I can only thank them here in this manner, knowing that they know I know my indebtedness to them. Others allowed me to use their names, so deep thanks go to Antonis Liakos, Stergios Katsaros, Titos Patrikios, Vardis Vardinogiannis, Yiannis Papadopoulos, Mimis Beis, Giorgos Angelakopoulos, Apostolos Papageorgiou, Thymios Karagiannakidis, Mimis Gourgouris, Fotis Provatas, Yiannis Reggas, Dimosthenes Dodos, Sotiris Vogiatzis, Othon Iliopoulos, Aleksa Djilas, Hara Tzavella-Evjen, Katerina Tsoucala. How can one thank one's parents? But I do want to thank my mother Demetra Tsakalou and my late father Konstantinos Panourgias, who died in October 2007, as this book was being submitted to the publisher, having endured eleven years of cancer and other hideously debilitating attendant diseases.
I could not have asked for a more supportive department than the one created by my colleagues at Columbia University. I want to thank especially Lila Abu-Lughod, Partha Chatterjee, Valentine Daniel, Nicholas Dirks, Claudio Lomnitz, Mahmood Mamdani, Brinkley Messick, Elisabeth Povinelli, David Scott, Lesley Sharp, Michael Taussig, and Paige West, who read or discussed my work with me and provided invaluable feedback. Columbia colleagues and friends, in general, have been more than kind with their time and energies in responding to my queries and requests for comments, either institutionally or personally, by inviting me to speak at or be affiliated with the various fora that fall under their care. I have presented material from this book at the Modern Greek Studies University Seminar, the University Seminar on Memory, the Harriman Institute, the European Institute, and the Institute of Comparative Literature and Society Seminar Series (previously CCLS). I want to thank those who invited me and everyone who participated in those seminars and offered comments, especially Vangelis Calotychos at the Seminar on Modern Greek Studies and Marianne Hirsch and Sonali Thakkar at the University Seminar on Memory. At the Harriman Institute, I would like to thank Gordon Bardos, who has made possible everything that seemed impossible, and Mark von Hagen, who answered my questions about the KGB and its predecessors, put me in touch with colleagues working on Yugoslavia and Titoism, and asked questions that I had not considered until then. Karen Van Dyck, Victoria de Grazia, Janaki Bakhle, Marc Nichanian, Andreas Huyssen, Rashid Khalidi, Anupama Rao, Marianne Hirsch, Leo Spitzer, Patricia Dailey, Reinhold Martin, Felicity Scott, and Elena Tzelepis have all offered comments and critique that have honed my argument and streamlined my writing. Research for this project has been generously supported by Columbia University, through two Humanities and Social Sciences Council Summer Grants (2001, 2003), a Chamberlain Fellowship for Junior Faculty Development Leave (2003–4), a University Seminars Schoff Publication Grant, and two Harriman Institute Publication Grants (2007, 2009).
A portion of Chapter 5, “1946–1949: Emphýlios,” was published in an earlier form as “Desert Islands: Ransom of Humanity,” Public Culture 20 (Spring 2008): 395–421. The section of Chapter 8 entitled “Freud's Remnants” was published in an earlier form as “Fragments of Oedipus: Anthropology at the Edges of History,” in Neni Panourgiá and George Marcus, eds., Ethnographica Moralia: Experiments in Interpretive Anthropology (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008), 97–112.
I have profited greatly from having presented this material in various forms when I was invited to give lectures and seminars at the following anthropology departments: Princeton University, Rutgers University, New York University, Goldsmiths College, the London School of Economics, Duke University, University of California at Irvine, University of Michigan (with the Department of Classics), and the Department of History, Archaeology, and Social Anthropology (IAKA) at the University of Thessaly. I also want to thank the colleagues who invited me to present my work outside of the context of anthropology: in particular, Eleni Varikas during my stay as University Professor at the Department of Political Science at the University of Paris VIII, St Denis in the spring semester of 2007; Janet Halley and Philomela Tsoukala at the Harvard European Law Association and the European Law Research Center at Harvard University; and Ali Behdad at the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. Equally important have been my interactions with my colleagues and fellow members on the Advisory Board of the Anthropology Section at the New York Academy of Sciences, especially Jane Schneider and William Mitchell, who read parts of this book in manuscript form and offered invaluable comments. I would like to thank my colleagues at the NYAS for providing me with a most supportive and collegial environment.
Along the long way that this book has followed, I have been very fortunate to have the ideas in it hammered out in discussions with many friends and colleagues, both from within and from outside the fields of anthropology and Modern Greek Studies. We did not always agree; I did not always convince them; and they did not always convince me. But I learned from their comments, and I hope that I have reciprocated. My deep thanks go to João Biehl, Carole Browner, Elizabeth Ann Davis, David Sutton, Constance Sutton, Antonio Lauria, Yopie Prins, Edmund Burke III, Webb Keane, Maria Couroucli, Michael Herzfeld, George Marcus, Vassilios Lambropoulos, Artemis Leontis, Thomas Gallant, John Iatrides, Margaret Kenna, Kirstie McClure, Susan Slyomovics, Sherry Ortner, Vincent Crapanzano, Michael Wood, Yael Navaro-Yashin, Dimitris Papanikolaou, Steven Reyna, Nina Glick-Schiller, Steven Lukes, Maria Koundoura, William Ayers, Bernadine Dorn, Chris Fuller, Harold Evjen, Rashid Khalidi, Dimitris Vardoulakis, Ilias Nikolakopoulos, Hagen Fleischer, Abdellah Hammoudi, Sondra Hale, Dusan Bjelic, Obrad Savic, Andreas Kalyvas, Kath Weston, and the late Begoña Aretxaga and Clifford Geertz. Adam Liptak, the Supreme Court correspondent for the New York Times, tracked down articles and information that had appeared in the paper and discussed with me the implications of the Welch assassination by 17N for the enactment of legislation protecting covert agents in the United States. Lawrence Downes, of the New York Times, was kind enough to discuss with me the production of Oedipus Rex by the inmates at Sing Sing. David Binder, the New York Times correspondent to the Balkans, talked to me about his meeting with Markos Vafeiades and his experience of Greece and the Balkans in the 1960s. Dorothy Lauterstein Doppstadt read the manuscript and offered me her critical journalistic eye.
In Greece, I want to thank the Collective of the Journal Historein, especially Antonis Liakos, Efi Gazi, Ioanna Laliotou, Polymeris Voglis, and Yiannis Papatheodorou. Eleni Papagaroufali has tirelessly discussed anthropology with me. Vasilis Karydes made certain contacts possible and gave me a way to look at the complexities of police surveillance. Dimosthenes Dodos helped me understand key concepts in the legislation concerning political prosecution. I want to thank the director and staff at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens for their generosity and hospitality during my tenure there as Senior Research Fellow in 2003–4. Special thanks are owed to the Head Archivist, Ms. Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan, who helped me look through the papers of Oscar Broneer in pursuit of any material pertaining to Broneer's visit to Makrónisos in 1948. The staff at the Society for the Preservation of Historical Archives (EDIA) and its director, Mr. Vardis Vardinoyiannis, gave me invaluable material. Thanks of the same order go to the Secretary General of the Association of Imprisoned and Exiled (SFEA), Mr. Protopsaltis, and the President of the Association Yáros–Historical Memory, Mr. Kostas Katsimbinis. Similar thanks go to Nota Pantzou and (my old student) Katerina Stefatou, at the Museum of Political Prisoners Ai-Stratis. Mss. Aliki Tsirgialou and Eirini Boudouri, at the Photographic Archive at the Benaki Museum in Athens, made the archive available to me. I thank them for granting me permission to publish some of the photographs from the archive. Leslie Morris, Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts at Houghton Library at Harvard University, found the unpublished Upton Sinclair note to The Nation with the letter on “The Greek Dachau” and granted me permission to publish them. Susannah Verney, at the University of Athens, sent me at lightning speed photocopies of obscure and forgotten articles that I needed and that she managed to find for me, often having only one name as a lead. Christina Agriantoni encouraged me in my political reading of Oedipus. Iason Handrinos read the entire manuscript for inaccuracies (and found many). The remaining ones are my responsibility.
Apostolos Papageorgiou gave me more than I can count and thank him for; he talked to me about his imprisonment during the junta, found books that had been out of print for three decades, photocopied them and sent them to me, sent me articles, photographs, videos, and accounts of the visits to Yáros by survivors, talked to me about the most obscure details that occupied my mind. The same is true of Nikos Karagiannakidis, who, in addition, read the manuscript more than once, combing through it for missing items and hanging arguments, and made his father's unpublished manuscript available to me.
The poet and graphic artist Dimitris Kalokyris created the artwork on the cover, based on a series of paintings by Eleni Kalokyri. The haunting faces on the tiles of the series Ostraka convey perfectly the ghostly lives lived by people under persecution for so many decades in Greece. Marios Pontikas graced me with his Laius. Yiorgos Chouliaras kept sending me poems, read the manuscript, and kept telling me stories. Constantinos Tsoukalas has been a constant inspiration in my life, and Fotini Tsalicoglou, a constant source of friendship. Eleni Varikas and Michael Löwy made a home for me in Paris, discussed Hannah Arendt's theory of totalitarianism with me, and talked to me about the Stalinist persecution of the Trotskyists in prewar Greece. Athena Athanasiou, ouk ea me katheudhein.
Throughout the writing of this book, ever since its inception, my students in my graduate seminars at Columbia were astute co-thinkers and unsparing critics. In the seminars “The Culture of Oedipus,” “Dangerous Citizens,” “Other Tribes,” “Death, Terminable and Interminable,” and “Exiles, Enclosures, Dystopias,” but also outside the context of the classroom, Adriana Garriga-López, Dejan Lukic, Rodney W. J. Collins, Richard Kernaghan, Ronald Jennings, Christina Sornito, Morgan von Pelle-Pecelli, Shahla Talebi, Khiara Bridges, Ana Miljanic, and Patrick Higgins engaged with the ideas that I presented and offered me their intellectual jouissance.
There is a constellation of people whose intellectual agility, commitment to thought, and passionate engagement with ideas is only paralleled by their ethical position in life, and I am in their debt for their willingness to share both with me. Gil Anidjar, James and Olivian Boon, Carlos Forment, Virginia Jackson, Allen James, Martin Harries, Lawrence Hirschfeld, Antonio Lauria-Pericelli, Saloni Mathur, Meredith McGill, Aamir Mufti, Nauman Naqvi, Andrew Parker, Anupama Rao, Kitty Ross, Nermeen Shaik, Ann Stoler, Connie Sutton, Joel Whitebook, and the late Edward Said have all been with me when I wanted to discuss anything and debate everything. It is a rare privilege to have friends who never tire of moving deeper, to the core of an idea, a position, an argument, late into the night with the certainty that the morning will still find the friendship intact and the exchange inexhaustible.
Helen Tartar, my editor at Fordham University Press, stands in a category by herself. Her vision for the project, her perseverance when the text seemed to be getting impossibly large and complex, and her constant encouragement brought the book into existence. It is the ultimate fortune to have an editor who is an intellectual and understands the depth of a project from beginning to end, and who is willing and unafraid to push harder for the best possible expression, the most precise word, the clearer formulation of an idea.
I have dedicated this book to my most beloved son, Petros Konstantinos, and his friends, Telemachus Christopoulos (who bears the nom de guerre of his partisan grandfather), Thodoris Pappas, Hector Klonaris, and Alexis Verney-Provatas. These children, whose parents and grandparents have found themselves caught in the political web of Greece, in some occasions on opposite sides, share a deep friendship that transcends space and time. This book is a gift to them, with the wish that through it they may acknowledge that life is worth nothing without friendship and the sense of responsibility that makes it possible. To Petros goes my deepest gratitude for having endured and thrived in years when the most common response to his utterance “Mommy” was the locution “Not now, I am writing.” My nephews, Orestis and Iason Charchalakis, have shared their lives with me and have shown me the bankruptcy of the grand political narratives and the new meanings of autonomy that make life possible for their generation.
Nothing would be possible without the brilliance, friendship, camaraderie, love, and devotion of Stathis Gourgouris, my fellow traveler in life. There has not been an idea, a claim, an argument that appears in these pages that has not been argued, fought over and about, discussed exhaustingly and passionately from morning until late into the night between us. I cannot thank him for this any more than I can thank him for his existence, again.
New York City
January 29, 2009