The case of 17N makes painfully apparent the deep anthropological aporia of disclosure, since it brings to the level of consciousness of the ethnographer (but also into the sphere of conscience, hence that of deontology and ethics) the fundamental epistemological difficulty of our discipline: To disclose or not? To tell or not? And if to tell, to tell what? Sherry Ortner, writing on the difficulties encountered by ethnographers working on resistance, warns against a number of pitfalls that need to be avoided in resistance studies, one being “sanitizing politics” rather than preserving the danger that politics poses (1995: 177), another being “thinning culture” rather than thickening description (181). These warnings aim to further problematize an area of ethnographic research that is already heavy with its own moral and ethical aporias.
Edward Said, in his thoughtful interrogation of anthropology as a discipline, opens this painful sore when he brings to our attention the tensions present in Richard Price's and James Scott's work on ritual in secret societies and peasant strategies of resistance, respectively. Price reflects thoroughly and genuinely on whether to publish details of secret ceremonies entrusted to him, and Scott discusses “foot-dragging” by peasants as a strategy of resistance to authority. Said comments appreciatively on the wrenching questions articulated by Price and Scott concerning “publication of information that gains its symbolic power in part by being secret” (Price quoted in Said 2000 : 310) or reading peasant comportment of “footdragging, lateness, unpredictability, non-communication” (Said about Scott, ibid.: 310) as passive resistance to the authority of a distant and demanding state. He identifies it as a political problem, which positions the anthropologist in front of the “theoretical paradoxes and aporias faced by anthropology” (ibid.).
I have wrestled over what to do with nonpublic information about 17N and have decided to address only what is publicly known and transmitted by and about the organization. For an account of the organization (prior to its dismantling) see Kassimeris 2001; see also the published communiqués by the organization in Anonymous 2002. For a view of 17N that reproduces the arguments made by the Greek state, the U.S. State Department, and Scotland Yard, see Papachelas and Telloglou 2002; for a critique of Papahelas and Telloglou, see Grivas 2003. See also Anonymous (n.d.b) for an attempt to show that Alexandros Yiotopoulos was not the leader of 17N and that his trial was predetermined and politically expedient, in an effort to effect his release.