A Conference on the Greek Crisis:11th Biannual Conference in Modern Greek Studies, University of Sydney, 6-9 December 2012

Conference on Greek crisis: open to all

Conference on Greek crisis: open to all

A conference on the current crisis in Greece will be held between 7-9 December, through the Modern Greek Studies Association of Australia and New Zealand and the Department of Modern Greek Studies at the University of Sydney.

This is the university’s 11th biannual international conference and they have dedicated this year to the most current and most disastrous event in recent Greek history. The main topic is how the current is expressed and manifested in various aspects of Greek social, political and cultural life. Speakers from all over the world will discuss the issues in a dispassionate and detached attempt to understand how such a profound collapse in political authority and social cohesion took occurred.

One must be reminded that until 2006-7, Greece presented the appearance of a “successful integration” in the eurozone, with high growth rates and as it seemed back then minimal external debt. The conference however addresses something deeper than the actual collapse of economy; it explores the crisis of authority that we see at the moment as the ultimate consequence of the failure of the Greek political order to renew itself.

It investigates how such loss of authority is expressed in issues of historical awareness, issues of social democracy with the rise of neo-Nazism and finally issues regarding the conceptual frameworks that Greeks used in the past to talk about themselves. In such an investigation literary and artistic representations are also found to suffer under the current crisis; the euphoric and innocent images of Zorba the Greek have all but vanished and for the first time we start talking about historical errors, lack of transparency and structural deficiencies.

Indeed we are at a very strange point in modern history that we can actually confirm that the existing cultural symbols are not sufficient any more to encompass the complexity and the confusion of contemporary Greek experience. As one of the organisers of the conference I think that the pillars of modern Greek culture continue to be, unfortunately, isolated individuals, who instituted patterns and representations of self-awareness either in opposition to the dominant culture in the country or in the diaspora.

Theodoros Angelopoulos and C. P. Cavafy seem to dominate most of the discussions. Language remains one of the most critical areas of investigation while the gray areas of historical knowledge also become central. Modern writing and contemporary art are also discussed because they are the first that illustrated the approaching earthquake that destroyed the immoral practices of the post-Metapolitesfi period. An interesting aspect of the conference is that most contemporary scholars are indeed post-ideological; indeed from the point of view of the left, they reject almost all practices of the left parties and see them as part of the overall problem in the country.

Another, unhappy, realisation from the conference is that Modern Greek studies have shrunk dramatically in Australia. The great centre of Hellenism, Melbourne, is spectacularly absent as academic life has all but collapsed there. Indeed most academics who deal with Greek issues do not belong to Modern Greek studies and this is a tragic impoverishment for the discipline.

We tried to bring people from other areas, artists, thinkers and writers who explore contemporary Greek experiences in order to cover the loss; we also want to investigate new forms of expression (such as opera) and new forms of interpretations such as post/post-modernism or approaches based on critical rationality. After so many decades of Greek studies in the Antipodes we have the privilege to celebrate our achievements and at the same time to assess our losses.

The Conference is open to anyone who would like to participate and address some of the issues we want to discuss; maybe in the diaspora, we are able to retain and enhance the democratic element in modern Greek social life which suffers greatly in the Metropolis. For the complete program of the conference visit http://sydney.edu.au/arts/modern_greek/about/events/index.shtml?id=1797

 

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