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Modern Greek Studies Association Celebrating 50th Anniversary

October 10, 2017

NEW YORK – On December 27, 1968, a newly formed Modern Greek Studies Association (MGSA) held its first major meeting at the New York Hilton. Its members had an ambitious agenda: 1) to discuss and approve a constitution for the association, 2) to determine a theme and a discussion leader for the 1969 Modern Language Association conference, and 3) to establish a three-day international symposium focusing on Greek literature and civilization. Since that first meeting, the MGSA has grown from a handful of university scholars to a vast network of scholars and students from around the world who study contemporary Greek (and Cypriot) literature, history, and culture in the modern period. Today, the MGSA is the largest Modern Greek Studies organization in the world, providing an unparalleled opportunity for scholarly discussion among scholars and graduate students alike.

The year 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the MGSA, and this event will be celebrated at the 2017 biennial Symposium at Stockton University, New Jersey. A commemorative retrospective will be provided that will highlight the historical leaders of the organization and certain keystone events of the past fifty years. Since its inception, the MGSA has been at the forefront of scholarly debates. The first MGSA Symposium, held in 1969, had as its theme, “Modern Greek Literature and its European Background.” Since then, the biennial conferences have expanded to include a wide range of academic disciplines. Historically, one of the major contributions of the MGSA has been to break the silence on topics that have/had not yet entered the public debate in Greece. For example, the MGSA Symposium of 1978 was the first international conference to examine the Greek Civil War, a subject that was not included in the curricula of Greek public schools or universities due to the politically charged nature of that conflict. Many of the papers presented at the 1978 Symposium were later published as books that are still considered landmark studies on the topic. Collaboration, resistance, minorities, and other topics are issues that continue to be debated. Today, the biennial Symposium covers Greek topics in most academic fields and emphasizes the period from the Greek War of Independence to the present. At the Stockton Symposium, among many other topics, scholars will also present on and debate the current refugee crisis.

A noted tradition of MGSA Symposia is the open nature of their discussions. The Symposia not only attract scholars and graduate students from around the world, but also welcome non-academics. The keynote lecture, which is prepared for both an academic and a non-specialist audience, is an ideal opportunity for everyone interested in Greek Studies to gain further knowledge and exposure. This was evident in the lecture given by one of Greece’s more controversial finance ministers, Dr. Yanis Varoufakis. At the 2013 MGSA Symposium (i.e. prior to his government appointment), Varoufakis gave a keynote address that focused on the Greek economic crisis as well as on his proposed solutions for it. Other keynote speakers include leaders in their field of research who have given landmark presentations. From Nikiforos Diamandouros’ discussion of Greek identity and the European “other” to Efi Avdela’s analysis of women’s role and self-perception during the economic crisis, all presenters have shed light on critical contemporary issues. This year’s keynote address promises to be equally important, as Dr. Anna Triandafyllidou, Professor at the Global Governance Programme, of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute, will examine the intersection of migration, governance, and national identity in an era of globalization, drawing on specific examples from Greece, the European Union, and the United States.

Importantly, the MGSA has also become a powerful force in publications. The establishment of the Journal of Modern Greek Studies (JMGS) has provided a forum for Greek scholars to publish their research and contribute to wider scholarly dialogues published by the Johns Hopkins University Press, the JMGS is the premier academic journal that scholars and institutions consult on topics related to Modern Greek Studies. The journal also appeals to non-academics; its articles provide solidly researched and well-argued positions, while the book reviews help readers understand the strengths and weaknesses of new publications.

The MGSA also provides online access to The Greek American Studies Resource Portal (http://www.mgsa.org/Resources/port.html). The creation of this Resource Portal grew out of the expressed desire by academics, students, and cultural producers alike for information on research, activities, and resources in the field of Greek American Studies broadly defined. The Portal provides information to the general public about the latest scholarship but also about films, documentaries, novels, poetry, popular history, autobiographies, and blogs, among other resources, in the field of Greek America. It is updated annually. The Portal is a resource that the Association offers to those who are interested in cultural news about Greek America.

 

Since the MGSA’s inception, the Association has grown to incorporate scholarly activity from around the world. Scholars from Greece, Europe, South America, Canada, Australia, and China regularly participate in its Symposia. The interconnectedness of these scholars contributes to the continued dynamism and growth of the Association.

The MGSA Executive Committee encourages all in the greater New York and New Jersey area to attend the 2017 Symposium. Registration and membership information is available online: http://mgsasymposium.org/. Members receive a discounted registration fee as well as a complimentary subscription to the JMGS. Membership dues also help fund scholarships and grants for graduate students pursuing a career in Greek Studies, a number of prizes, and other scholarly activities.

The study of modern Greece can be traced back to 1828 when Harvard began offering courses in modern Greek language and literature. Since then, programs in Modern Greek Studies have been established in many of the leading universities across the country. As the 21st century proceeds, the MGSA hopes that Greeks and Philhellenes alike will continue to support the study of Greek language, literature, history, and culture at large. Continued community support and funding for Greek programs are critical if such worthy endeavors are to survive and flourish.

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