Joint SFU / Rutgers University - Newark workshop wraps up in Molyvos, Greece

June 18, 2019

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies at SFU and Rutgers University–Newark completed a workshop on the island of Lesvos, Greece, entitled "Sovereignty, Space and Aesthetics: Greece and Europe in the World."

From June 15-18, a diverse group of scholars from North America and Europe and affiliates from nonprofit organizations gathered in the village of Molyvos on Lesvos to critically engage in discussions on pressing global challenges. Presenters also examined how literature, film, and art engaged with refugee movements, environmental issues, and economic crises.

The workshop was conceptualized by Eirini Kotsovili, a scholar of Modern Greek literature and culture and lecturer at Simon Fraser University; Dimitris Krallis, an associate professor at Simon Fraser University and historian of Byzantium, and acting director of the SNF Centre for Hellenic Studies; and Sadia Abbas, an associate professor at Rutgers University-Newark who specializes in postcolonial literature and theory; the culture and politics of Islam in modernity; early modern English literature, especially the literature of religious strife; and the history of 20th-century criticism and runs the Postcolonial Questions and Performances Series. The event was co-organized by Kotsovili and Abbas. The spatial organization came out a of a decade and a half long conversation between Krallis and Abbas regarding the potential of Molyvos, Lesvos to enable complex, place-sensitive, respectful and reciprocally transformative responses to global challenges. All three were thrilled by the results, which far exceeded their expectations.

Participants included Sadia Abbas (Rutgers University-Newark), Maria Boletsi (Leiden University and University of Amsterdam); Vangelis Calotychos (Brown University); Faisal Devji (Oxford University); R.A. Judy (University of Pittsburgh); Phevos Kororos-Simeonidis (Goldsmiths, University of London); Eirini Kotsovili (Simon Fraser University); Nikos Papadogiannis (Bangor University); Eleni Takou (HumanRights360); Jini Kim Watson (New York University); and Gary Wilder (City University of New York). 

Event organizers selected Lesvos because of its layered history and its function as a crossroads between Europe and Asia. The island still bears traces of Classical, Byzantium, Ottoman occupations, with a populace reconstituted by population transfers following the Balkan Wars and formalized by the Lausanne Conference of 1923 and the wars that led up to it. The island is also significant for its cultural production. Lesvos is associated with celebrated authors and artists from Sappho to Patrikios. Moreover, since the economic crisis of 2008, the subsequent Greek debt crisis, and the refugee influx of 2015-2016, many of the effects and contradictions of present planetary crises have converged in Lesvos.  Participants were profoundly appreciative of the space and the conversations it enabled and are eager to return to continue the conversation.  

The workshop was conceived as the first, in what organizers hope, will become an annual event for, at least, the next two to three years that will foster the creation of a network of scholars and activists dedicated to connecting theoretical work to contemporary social, cultural, and political issues. At this time, the Office of the Chancellor at Rutgers-Newark has pledged support for the next two years. In the meantime, a website is being created to collect details about the workshop, which will host a video of the event to share with a wider, international audience.

The event was made possible with support from Simon Fraser University’s Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies and Office of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences as well as Rutgers–Newark’s Office of the Chancellor, School of Arts and Sciences, Graduate School, Department of English, and Postcolonial Questions and Performances-RU-N.

For more information about the SNF Centre for Hellenic Studies and its programs, please visit our Media page.

Information about Rutgers University – Newark, can be found on their website.