Yiannopoulos, D. Yiorgos. 2001. Makronissos: Martyries Enos Foititi 1947–1950 (Makró?nisos: Testimonials of a University Student 1947–1950). Athens: Vivliorama.
Chapter 5. 1946–1949: Emphýlios
“Behind the ravine he had been tortured cruelly, they did phálanga on him and he couldn't walk… Why did they hit him so much? When the 'polite' lieutenant asked him, 'Well, child, will you sign the declaration?' he responded, 'Why should I sign, and stay out of solitary, with the thieves?' In this way he transgressed every boundary of… politeness and the lieutenant decided to repay him by making him King Oedipus [Vassiliá Oidipoda]” Yiannopoulos 2001: 154–55).
It is instructive to look at the discourses that make the processes of constituting an “other” as such possible, especially in the case of the Leftists, who, being the target of biomedical metaphors, have been termed “pestilence [miasma]” and the “internal danger [esoterikos kindynos]” or the “internal enemy [esoterikos ehthros],” but also, in curiously psychoanalytic terminology, “undesirables [anepithymitoi].” How is the ascription of this “otherness” mobilized to denote actors who had hitherto been included in the social and political body? What sorts of discourses and practices allow this transference into otherness to become possible and permissible? The articulation of this question, both by the state and by citizens, is not a new one, and it was certainly one that helped spark the construction of concentration camps to intern the Jewish populations of Europe. What I am pointing to, however, is not only the history of the camps but also the processes that made the conceptualization of the camps as a place of internment possible, as well as the classification of “self” as “other” (who can be exiled, interred, exterminated). Examining narratives about state violence and terror, Aretxaga hoped to “raise questions about the ways in which the state is imagined and produced as a subject” (2005: 51). In her footsteps, I look at narratives about state violence and ask, rather, how the subject of the state is re-produced as alien, as a radical other impregnated with the certainty of danger. (See also Foucault 1978.)
Agamben has, as I mentioned earlier, posed an unanswerable question to Foucault: Why does his analysis of biopolitics not include the concentration camp? Here, I think, it serves us well to distinguish between the notions of biopolitics (in its Foucauldian formulation) and of thanatopolitics. Biopolitics applies to the rehabilitation/re-education camp (which becomes an extermination camp only de facto, accidentally), and thanatopolitics applies to the extermination camp (where no one exists under even the faintest pretense of “reformation”). In that sense, biopolitics becomes, indeed, the paradigmatic space where (as Andreas Kalyvas has noted) the sovereign rules “over brains and bodies, politicizing and policing human nature, producing, administering, and managing life itself, and ultimately deciding on its value or non-value” (2005: 109). We see that, although this description of biopolitics resonates for the rehabilitation camps (where brains were, indeed, the object of sovereign intervention), it does not in the case of the extermination camps (where the intervention was on the level of life itself, as Yiannopoulos and Agamben have pointed out). The question, then, demands to be rearticulated and readdressed: Why does Agamben not note the fundamental difference between extermination and rehabilitation, wherein the notion of biopolitics really articulates itself?
Foucault, Michel. 1978. “About the Concept of the Dangerous Individual in Nineteenth-Century Legal Psychiatry.” Trans. Carol Brown. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, Vol. 1: 1-18. Later published in a new translation by Alain Baudot and Jane Couchman with the title “The Dangerous Individual,” in Michel Foucault: Politics, Philosophy, Culture, Interviews and Other Writings 1977–1984, ed. Lawrence D. Kritzman (London: Routledge, 1990), 125–52..
Phálanga (in the feminine) is the term used in Greece for bastinado, the practice of strapping a prisoner to a bed or a plank and, with shoes on or off, hitting the bottom of the feet until they swell and bleed and the flesh becomes pulp, so that the person cannot walk or even stand, sometimes for weeks. When it is done by an experienced torturer, the damage is not permanent, and, after the tortured has recovered, there are no detectable traces of it. In the hands of less experienced or careless torturers, however, the damage is often permanent and ranges from swollen feet to fractured or shattered tarsal bones.
The term originally referred to the wooden contraption that held feet during the beating, and, according to Greek historian Kyriakos Simopoulos, it comes from the Arabic falaq, through the Turkish falaqa. Simopoulos has traced the use of phalangas (in the masculine) to the Ottoman Empire, where it was used as early as the seventeenth century as a means of either punishment or extracting information and confession. The first mention of the torture is attributed to a scholar from the Morea (the Peloponnese), Christophoros Angelos, who was accused of espionage in Athens in 1607 and was subjected to phalangas. According to Simopoulos, Angelos described the torture in a book that he published ten years later in England. Angelos later became a professor of Greek at Trinity College, Cambridge. He used to show his scars from the phalangas there. When phalangas was administered as a punishment, it was given as a set number of strokes, and it required both an executioner and a colleague who would count them. The person being punished would then have to pay both the executioner and the counter.
Scattered accounts of the use of phalangas are found in various travelers' accounts from the Cyclades, Athens, and Constantinople. Simopoulos states that during the Greek War of Independence phalangas was the mildest form of torture, applied to swindlers and disobedient soldiers. It was the preferred punishment for professionals in the service of the public (such as bakers, grocers, and millers) who were discovered to have weighted scales. It was also occasionally announced as a possible punishment for anyone caught throwing household rubbish into the street. After Greek independence, with the advent of banditry, phalangas was often used by bandits as a form of torture and extortion. The oncologist and medical folklorist Gerasimos Rigatos (2005) has published an etching attributed to the late-nineteenth-century artist and illustrator Gustave Doré in which a group of Greek bandits submit one of their hostages to phalangas.
Phalangas was used, both during the Ottoman Empire and during the War of Independence, to punish students. Nineteenth-century Greek literature is replete with examples of the use of phalangas (or pheleka, or phelekoxylo) by teachers. Simopoulos mentions a school rhyme collected by the folklorist Georgios Megas (quoted in Simopoulos 2003: 460n348) that refers to phalangas as a disciplinary measure:
Arxon, heir mou agathê
Grápson grámmata kalá
Mê dartheis kai paideutheis
Kai ston phálanga valtheis
Start, my good hand,
Write good letters,
Lest you be beaten and tortured
And put on the phálanga.
Another poem, found in a codex from Epirus dated 1815, was recited in chorus by the students:
Afēsé mas, kyr Dáskale,
Na páme eis ton oikon mas
Kai aúrion tachý
Opoios mên érthē glêgora
Tha fágē eis ta pódia
Kai to mikró pros dôdeka
Let us, Teacher, Sir,
Go home tonight
To have a good evening
And tomorrow [we return] in haste
Whoever does not come early
Will receive twenty-four hits
On the feet
And the youngest of all
Close to twelve (in Simopoulos 2003: 459, and n346)
Simopoulos mentions that phalangas was abolished as a punishment for children in Greece at the end of the War of Independence by Edict 2210, August 28, 1829 (460).
In the twentieth century the term phálanga (in the feminine) was synechdochically used for the beating itself, done by policemen or military personnel, since the phalangas (the instrument, in the masculine) had fallen into disuse. The feet now were usually bound by the strap of the torturer's gun and beaten with a bamboo stick (or often with a metal rod or pipe). One of the people I interviewed, who had been tortured by Special Security during the junta, mentioned that at times the pain from the strap became as excruciating as the pain from the bamboo.
The pain from phálanga is so deep that it can efface intense pain that follows it. One of the students who was arrested during the junta for belonging to an antijunta student organization reported that after he had been tortured with phálanga “upstairs” (a small shed on the roof of the Security building, where torture took place during the first years of the junta), he was dragged downstairs to his cell, since he could not walk. On the way, the wardens hit him so hard in the mouth that they broke all his front teeth. He said he did not realize that his teeth were gone until much later, because the pain in his feet was so intense that he did not feel the pain of the broken teeth. The connection between swollen feet and Oedipus is painfully obvious (even if it had not been made by Yiannopoulos). On the history of phálanga, see: Simopoulos 2003; Rigatos 2005: 356–57. For references on Christophoros Angelos, see Simopoulos 2003: 452.
Nicos Poulantzas has noted that concentration camps are a particularly modern invention in the sense that they concretize the same “spatial power matrix” as the national territory, thus making possible the notion of the “internal enemy” by internalizing “the frontiers of the national space at the heart of that space itself.” Poulantzas correctly identifies the fact that concentration camps are constructed in order to hold “antinationals” within the national space (Poulantzas 2000 ). Poulantzas's position further underlines what Gil Anidjar has explicitly pointed out and convincingly addressed, namely, that we don't have a theory of the enemy. See Anidjar 2003 and 2004.