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Modern Greek Studies Association Symposium at Stockton University

November 14, 2017

GALLOWAY, NJ – The Modern Greek Studies Association (MGSA) held its biennial Symposium at Stockton University in New Jersey. The 25th biennial Symposium took place November 2-5, in Galloway (near Atlantic City), NJ. The Symposium was hosted by the Pappas Center for Hellenic Studies at Stockton University. Professors David Roessel and Tom Papademetriou, Director of the Center, co-chaired the Local Arrangements Committee.

The Symposium keynote address, entitled “Globalization and the return to the national: Perspectives on Greece’s ongoing crisis,” was delivered by Anna Triandafyllidou. Dr. Triandafyllidou is Professor at the Global Governance Programme (GGP) of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS), European University Institute.

From 2004 through 2012, Professor Triandafyllidou was a Senior Fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) in Athens, where she headed a successful migration research team. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies.

The year 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the MGSA, and this milestone in the organization’s history was celebrated at the 2017 biennial Symposium. A commemorative retrospective was provided that highlighted 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 presented on and debated the current refugee crisis.

Dr. Triandafyllidou’ keynote address abstract follows:

“Nations are faced today with a new set of social and economic challenges: economic globalization has intensified bringing with it a more intense phase of cultural interconnectedness and political interdependence. Globalization has also further driven and multiplied international flows not only of capitals, goods and services but also of people. National states have seen their capacity to govern undermined by these processes. However, in Europe, the nation continues to be a powerful source of identity and legitimacy. Indeed we are witnessing a comeback of nationalism as public and political debates. Governments and many citizens appear to think that re-nationalizing control, erecting borders, separating from other countries will make national states more capable of addressing the global challenges of migration, asylum, or economic globalization. On the other hand, we also however witness opposed trends. Through the power of information and communication technology we feel now much more related (and are actually more informed) about what is happening in other regions of the world and on how this affects our own lives (whether through a refugee surge or through a decrease in oil prices). International terrorism and foreign fighters joining the ISIS are one side of this coin, showing how cultural and political globalization can transfer local integration problems and grievances to link up with international geopolitics breeding transnational extremism. At the same time, the various Indignados and Occupy movements across Europe, youth mobilization in support of the Arab spring and Ghezi park movements, transnational commemorations of the victims of international terrorism in Paris testify to how globalization can also reinforce transnational solidarity and mobilization for common transnational causes like peace, equality or democracy.

Taking into account these contrasted tendencies and phenomena, this paper offers a critical reflection on the current social and political situation in Greece. Indeed Greece has been for the past 8 years in the middle of a perfect storm: the Eurozone crisis together with the refugee emergency, the rise of the far Right (Golden Dawn) but also a spectacular wave of solidarity towards refugees. Greece has shown both its best and its worse face: inability to reform the economy and the welfare system, the cost of reforms shouldered by the lower economic strata, blaming the EU and ‘the Germans’ for all of the country’s misfortunes, and at the same time a remarkable resilience of citizens and families, a rise in civil society initiatives and volunteering, and a remarkable level of political stability. This lecture will discuss these contrasted tendencies and social forces, paying special attention to both the destructive and creative forces of Greek nationalism and how they are transformed in the globalizing 21stcentury.”

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