Friday, December 3, 2021

The Works of Theodoros Hyrtakenos: Rhetorical Commentary and Authorial Self-Presentation in the Corpus of an Early-Palaiologan Man of Letters

Ethan Schmidt, PhD Student, SFU



This paper examines the literary oeuvre of the Byzantine scholar and teacher Theodoros Hyrtakenos (fl. 1280-1328), with an eye to discovering the strategies both of rhetorical commentary and of self-presentation which he deployed in his work. Ultimately, first by investigating the relationship between the text and commentary within the autographed codex unicus which preserves his work, and secondly, by examining the various rhetorical personae deployed by him, this paper attempts to sketch a more complete portrait of this often overlooked but fascinating figure.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Sexuality, Tourism and Social-Political Transformations in Greece, 1960s-Early 1980s

Nikolaos Papadogiannis, an AHRC Research Fellow in History, University of St Andrews



This paper explores how mainstream Greek newspapers and magazines approached sexual changes in Greece in relation to the intensifying engagement of Greeks with tourism. It considers some of the most popular magazines in Greece: Tachydromos and Pantheon. It also scrutinizes two influential newspapers: the broadly centre-left Ta Nea and the Conservative Vradyni. In line with recent research on the history of sexual transformations in Europe in the 1960s-1980s, the presentation takes an intersectional approach, which considers interweavings of gender, “race”, and social class. It analyzes how those outlets construed the shifting sexual patterns of Greek women and men from diverse social backgrounds and how they compared them with the relevant practices of tourists from Central and Northern Europe. The paper also studies the racializing ways in which those magazines and newspapers approached the sexualities of non-Greek tourists visiting Greece. Instead of following a linear trajectory of ever-growing liberalization of approaches to sexuality, Papadogiannis’ main argument is that these outlets took what he labels as a meandering path. In that path, power asymmetries pertaining to sexuality were both subverted and reproduced. Whereas 1974 was significant for institutional changes, it was not necessarily a caesura for the meandering path that perceptions of sexual norms and practices followed in the outlets in question. This meandering path was shaped by social and political transformations, which appeared at different points between the 1960s and mid-1980s. These entailed shifting consumer cultures and the creation of new leisure spaces, the growing influx of non-Greek tourists, the emergence of the second-wave Feminist and the gay liberation movement, the increasing distance of some liberal subjects from the Church and expectations attached to Greece’s entry to the European Communities. The mid-1980s witnessed a proliferation of debates around AIDS, whose impact on sexual and travel patterns in Greece merits further study.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Icons as Goods of Self-Expression from Byzantium to Medieval and Renaissance Venice

Danai Thomaidis, Hellenisms Past and Present, Local and Global Postdoctoral Fellow, SFU



Byzantinists and art historians of the Byzantine world have examined icons under two main perspectives: their theological meaning and their artistic qualities. In this lecture, Thomaidis will focus instead on the role of icons as self-expression media. Beginning with Byzantine texts and then moving on to Venetian legal documents, she will trace the variety of ways in which icons were used in order to express one's needs, intellectual status, social position and/or aspiration. She will argue that individuals that displayed an icon simultaneously expressed their personal self as well as their social and intellectual milieu. Apart from the ownership of an icon, other elements can provide us with some clues about the significance they had and the messages they conveyed on behalf of their owners: their use, display techniques, association with other paintings, added ornaments or markings and new settings. Finally, she will explain what elements gave these sacred images the power to become objects capable of projecting certain concepts, including their formal aspects, (presumed) origin and link with particular places or people, as that which could be manipulated by the faithful to express anxieties and aspirations.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Meeting Communities Half-Way: A Launch Presentation for "Project Africanisms"

Dr. Sophia Handaka, Curator of World Cultures at the Benaki Museum, Grace Nwoke, Anthropologist and member of the African community in Athens, and Menelaos Karamaghiolis, Filmmaker

Powered by the Benaki Museum


As the landscape of attracting audiences is changing, museums are transitioning from once-hushed stewards of heritage into vibrant social, civic and participatory venues. This is not new. For over two decades, cultural institutions have been confronted with matters of relevancy, participation, inclusion and activism. More and more audiences expect to explore their identity in museums and find out more about their community through new and broad museum experiences. As visitors are moving from the position of users —passive receptors of museum content— to that of engaged stakeholders, several museums are repositioning themselves as open, accessible, and playful places of community engagement. This has become a common practice in the US and the UK as well as other European and North American museums. But what happens in Greece?

Greece has an extraordinarily rich historical and artistic heritage and an abundance of institutions researching and showcasing Greek culture. All the while, the country is gradually evolving from a mono-cultural to a multicultural society. However, little space has been given to exploring non-Western cultures. Public understanding of African cultures and people is especially limited. Afro-Greek communities face racism and report a profound experience of exclusion from society. What can the Benaki Museum do about that?

In this seminar, Dr. Sophia Handaka, curator of World Cultures at the Benaki Museum, Grace Nwoke, anthropologist and member of the African community in Athens, and Menelaos Karamaghiolis, a filmmaker, will present "Project Africanisms", powered by the Benaki Museum, which encompasses an ambitious programme of research and community engagement as well as a collaborative exhibition.

Exhibiting an African collection of/by/for the African community will allow the Benaki Museum, as a public space and a driving force of society, to play a central role in shaping an intercultural dialogue, connecting communities with different traditions, religious beliefs and values. Our work will establish solid foundations for the permanent and meaningful presence of world cultures in Greece, using art and the museum environment as a medium and an amplifier.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Come to the Cabaret: Where to Look for Cosmopolitan Egypt

Raphael Cormack, award-winning editor and translator

Co-spinsoered by the Department of World Languages and Literatures (WLL) and the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies (GSWS), SFU


The conventional history of cosmopolitan Egypt has its traditional heroes - Lawrence Durrell, Constantine Cavafy, E.M. Forster - and is usually based in Alexandria. This talk tells a different story of Egyptian cosmopolitanism, one that took place in Cairo's Arabic-speaking nightclubs, theatres, and music halls. Here, Egyptians, Greeks, Armenians, French, and more, all came together to put on the shows that came to define this golden age of Egypt's entertainment industry. This talk looks at some of the characters of that period and attempts to reconceptualize our image of "Cosmopolitan Egypt".

Friday, September 17, 2021

The Rifle and the Pen: Paramilitarism, Patronage and Nation-Building in Civil War Greece

Spyros Tsoutsoumpis, Associate Lecturer, University of Lancaster (UK) and Friedrich Schiller University



This presentation explores the intersection between paramilitarism, organized crime, and nation-building during the Greek Civil War. Nation-building has been described in terms of a centralized state extending its writ through a process of modernisation of institutions and monopolisation of violence. Accordingly, the presence and contribution of private actors has been a sign of and a contributive factor to state weakness. This talk demonstrates a more nuanced image wherein nation-building was characterised by pervasive accommodations between, and interlacing of, state and non-state violence. This approach problematises divisions between legal (state-sanctioned) and illegal (private) violence in the making of the modern nation state and sheds new light on the complex way in which the ‘men of the gun’ interacted with the ‘men of the state’ in this process, and how these alliances impacted the nation-building process at the local and national levels.

Friday, March 5, 2021

The Ionian Islands and British Intervention in the Greek Revolution of 1821

Sakis Gekas, Associate Professor and Hellenic Heritage Foundation Chair in Modern Greek History, York University



During the Greek revolutionary war of the 1820s, the British protectorate of the Ionian State (the ‘United States of the Ionian Islands’) was the catalyst for several developments: the formation of a pro-British faction, the arrival of the first loans to the provisional government, the protection of refugees from the Peloponnese and Roumeli, and the deeper involvement in the resolution of the ‘Greek affair’. The British-Ionian administration provided information that reached London and beyond and shaped British policy in the region, as Ionian State authorities followed the war closely. This talk will argue that the history of the revolution from an Ionian and British imperial vantage point allows us to make sense of British engagement with the making of Modern Greece within a global context and understand how the revolution affected Ionians in the islands and beyond.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Women, Philanthropy and Nationalism in Mandate Palestine: The Greek Ladies' Union of Jerusalem, 1924-1948

Angelos Dalachanis, Researcher, French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS)



The point of departure for this article is an unexploited source: the minutes of the Greek Ladies’ Union covering the last ten years of the British mandate period. For that period in Jerusalem, women’s voices are rare. By creating this Union along ethnic and national lines in 1924, the ladies also formed a place for philanthropy, social gatherings and the exchange of views on communal and other issues. The minutes of their gatherings bring to us unheard voices of Jerusalem and the Greek community of the city in particular. An analysis of these minutes gives us the opportunity to understand the reasons behind the creation of this association, the different strategies women developed to make their views known within their community, to examine their philanthropic activities within the charitable universe of the holy city and, most importantly, to deal with multiple political developments at different levels during a period which is sensitive regarding the future of the Middle East, the Christian communities of Jerusalem and the Greek presence in the region.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Clementine Literature: A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Christian

Sergio Basso, Hellenisms Past and Present, Local and Global Postdoctoral Fellow, SFU


Under the name of Clementine literature, we can read today a 4th-century romance, the adventurous journey that the young, boisterous Roman Clement makes to Palestine in search of spiritual enlightenment. Over the course of his presentation, Sergio Basso, this year’s Hellenisms Past and Present, Local and Global Postdoctoral Fellow, will try to persuade you to read it. Basso will argue that sometimes we put too much secondary literature between us and the ancient texts. When it comes to the Clementine Romance, he recommends picking up the book and immersing yourself in its mind-blowing odyssey, whose plot boasts twists worthy of a John le Carré novel. After introducing the book’s main events, he will present the influence of the ancient, rhetoric-centered school programs on the structure of the novel; the Syriac contribution to the imagery of the author; and some underrated comical aspects of the story. It will be an intrepid journey into the writer’s cabinet and his audience, in the Greek-speaking Near East of the 4th century.