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Opening event of the Decolonize Hellas initiative



Opening event of the Decolonize Hellas initiative


16 April 2021


Τhe bicentennial of the Greek Revolution coincides with contemporary world revolts and renewed struggles against the colonial legacies of white supremacy, nationalisms and racial capitalism. A new initiative, Decolonize Hellas prompts an urgent (re)viewing of the place of modern Greece in relation to geographies and genealogies of European colonialism. To decolonize Hellas means to expose the colonial genealogies that ignite the phenomena of Orientalism, Balkanism, xenophobia, racism and sexism and which are expressed in its name.

By “Hellas”, we denote an assemblage of ideologies (various Hellenisms) and institutions, materialities and imageries, policies and technologies, bodies and populations, identities and affects, within and beyond the timelines and borders of the Greek nation-state (Ellada).

“Hellas” as the West’s construction of an idealized image of Ancient Greece has been central to shaping European modernity – as well as to legitimating the existence of a “Modern Greece”. Classicism’s values, aesthetics and evolutionary hierarchies have been used to justify Western superiority and rationalize European conquest and enslavement around the world. Today, the “cradle of Western civilization” and “birthplace of democracy”, functions as a buffer zone, cultural frontier and bulwark between Christianity and Islam, East and West, capitalism and communism, “civilization” and “barbarism”.

In this sense, Greek national independence thus marks not only a break with the Ottoman Empire, but also the beginning of a long process of appropriation of narratives and practices already in the service of the European “civilizing mission”. The establishment of the new state set in motion multifarious acts of ethnic cleansing, creation and policing of minorities, denial of identities and violent homogenization.

The Decolonize Hellas initiative aspires to become a nomadic platform for researchers, artists, activists and civil society representatives and to contribute to the global colonial movement, in dialogue with similar movements in the Balkans, the Middle East and the Global South, and to develop an ongoing, open and productive discussion on the long-term consequences of colonialism, racism and xenophobia in Greece and the world, as well as its association with the global movements for indigenous and refugee rights.

We aim at the emergence of new research horizons, innovative activist methods and the organization of events while we seek to correlate the forthcoming bicentennial anniversary of the Greek revolution with the current global debate on colonialism, orientalism/Balkanism, eurocentrism, white supremacism, patriarchy, racial capitalism, the international circulation of capital and world governance. These discussions will culminate in the International Symposium entitled Decolonizing Hellas: Imperial Past, Contested Presents, Emancipated Future in October 2021.

The members of the collective will participate in the discussion:
- Nikolas Kosmatopoulos, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
- Penelope Papailias, University of Thessaly
- Despina Lalaki, University of Amsterdam
- Fotini Tsibiridou, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki
- Sissie Theodosiou, University of Ioannina

And members of the advisory committee:
- Yannis Hamilakis, Brown University
- Vangelis Calotychos, Brown University

The discussion will be moderated by:
Konstantinos Poulis, ThePressProject

Supporting Institutions:
- Rosa Luxemburg Foundation–Office in Greece
- Pelion Summer Lab for Cultural Theory and Experimental Humanities (PLS)
- Floating Laboratory for Action and Theory at Sea (FLOATS)
- The Decolonial Initiative at Brown University
- Culture–Borders–Gender Lab
- Australian Migration History Network

(Edited and translated description, as it was published on the event’s Facebook post by the organizers: Decolonize Hellas, Rosa Luxemburg Foundation–Office in Greece, The Press Project)

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Decolonizing Hellas: Imperial Pasts, Contested Presents, Emancipated Futures, 1821–2021

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