Das and Poole (2004) have brought the margins of the state to the forefront of anthropological discourse. They focus on the notion of the state and its development in anthropological literature, and the notion of the margins of the state, especially as it complicates the relationship of the state to its margins as an anthropological problem. Daniel (1996) has specifically addressed the methodological problems that arise from ethnographic study on the margins of the state.
- Chapter 1. 1963–2008: History, Microhistory, Metahistory, Ethnography
- » Flesh and Light You Breathed into the Golden Rocks
But she certainly belongs to the new (as in modern) category of the person, which is always being dreamt up as singular, monolithic, cohesive, and coherent, all “part of statecraft that depends on taxonomies of simplification for control,” as Ann Stoler has put it in Foucauldian terms (2002: 648), thus conjuring up a governmentality with a twist. This is a state that not only wants to control its population but wants to define the resistance to its own existence, so it produces the late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century category of the dissident, the anarchist, the Marxist, the Communist, the Leftist.
Can this topology/topography be traced? Can we map the little streets and alleys, the dead ends, the secret passageways, stone arcades, overpasses, and underpasses through which she finds herself walking, crawling, slithering as she feels the breath of the sovereign on her nape? Can we map how and in what way she has been made dangerous and, even more, what sorts of daily realities, lived experiences, memories, thoughts, and speech acts this construction has produced for her? How it has organized her life, and everyone else's?
This is what this book seeks to do. It seeks to be a map of this city that is the conceptualization (by the sovereign) of the dangerous person as she becomes accountable for the collapse of political categories, right where the political sphere of engagement meets the demands of social and cultural order. There is no Baron Haussmann here; there are no wide boulevards, no direct, cohesive, unobstructed lines that lead from point to point, because the ways by which this polis has produced its own classes dangereuses are through the back alleys, dark corners, and dead ends of democracy. In these times, when dictatorships in “the West” no longer happen as a result of military coups and interventions but rather through the hyper-legalization of the minutiae of everyday existence (where the law deigns to regulate the amount of hair gel carried by passengers in an airplane cabin), the process of the gradual tightening of the juridical system that happened in Greece over the course of the first two-thirds of the twentieth century and the cultural, social, and political specificities that it has produced, the experience of history on the ground and the type of citizen that has been made possible or imperative, can help us read the experience of the citizen in the vortex of history in such times as these, when the Law becomes the skin of the state.
This is also to trace what happens to political categorical ascriptions (i.e., the “Leftist,” the “patriot,” the “traitor,” the “law-abiding citizen”) when this particular political danger is animated and “the dangerous and criminal” elements (the epikindyna kai kakopoia stoiheia of Greek legislation from the 1920s to the 1970s) are expelled from the body politic and enclosed in a (phantasmatic or actual) space of exclusion. Not what Veena Das and Deborah Poole have called “a simple story of exclusion” but what they, too, seem to be after, to try to elucidate, namely, what constitutes the margin, what passes for the margin in the story that wants to pass itself as the center, the matrix. I am speaking of specific spaces of exclusion, of camps where these citizens were concentrated, camps with names: Makrónisos (“long island,” but also, Long Island, in Yiorgos Chouliaras's felicitous word play), Yáros (or Yioúra, intimately known in that incongruity of the intimacy of terror), Trikeri, Chios, all of them names, topoi, locations known since antiquity, laden with significations independent of the project of national rehabilitation thought up in the twentieth century.
I am echoing here Clifford Geertz's critique of the discourses that have conflated the modern self (self-contained, bounded, autonomous) with the universal notion of the self as an existential, but also social, category. The critique that Geertz articulated is, obliquely, included in the “modern” category of the monolithic, cohesive, and coherent persona that I am animating here.
The significance of this legal tightening for the Left will become evident later on. For the moment I need only acknowledge that, as the state sought to place an ever-larger segment of its citizen body under tight control through the constriction of the law, the same legality allowed the Left to challenge the actions of the state and use the law as a means of resistance to the state. I am indebted to Abdellah Hamoodi, who pressed me to articulate this point.
Historically the term dangerous persons was used for the mentally ill, who were housed in special psychiatric units within general hospitals as early as the beginning of the nineteenth century in Europe. See Foucault 1978. Around the notion of the “dangerous person” spun rather rapidly an interwoven thread of risk and danger, so that the pre-emptive restriction of these persons from interaction with the general public became legitimized as the duty of the state. The term was initially formulated in Greece during the Metaxas dictatorship of 1936 as “dangerous and suspicious persons” to denote: (1) carriers of infectious diseases and (2) declared members of the Left and their kin (though otherwise uninvolved), or even persons merely suspected of belonging to the Left or being sympathetic to it. The term was employed as part of a discourse that sought to offer to the public a solution to the problem of “managing” this category of citizens, a management that took place through the establishment of concentration and rehabilitation camps.