Dimitris Papanikolaou (Oxford), ‘Critically queer and haunted; or, how (not) to do the history of Modern Greek homosexuality’

This paper presents recent developments in gender theorizing and activism in/on Greece, and reflects on how they can (together with the inescapable context of the ‘Greek Crisis’) radically reframe a queer-genealogical critique of Greek culture.

In order to do so, I revisit arguments developed in my work in the past, including the suggestion that in Greece, especially because there is no stable and acceptable concept of a ‘homosexual past’, a certain traditional and belated narrative of gay history develops alongside its queer destabilization. Yet what we have understood very well in recent years is that the relationship between past and present is neither singular nor unidirectional. It is precisely the exigency and urgency of the present moment (including the present of queer activism in a fast changing and precarious Greece), that makes so evident the ways it is haunted by the unfinished histories, the unclaimed territories and the untold stories of the past. Greece today has become a vantage point to see the demand for history not as a parallel undertaking to contemporary queer politics, but as its inescapable hauntology.

What I will, therefore, argue is that the current predicament requires queer histories in the present to remain both critical and haunted. And this means, among other things, to fight in order to keep their claims as open processes: open towards their historical narrative and archival meddling, the political inclusivity of their demands, and the relationship to their future undoing.

Nikolaos Papadogiannis (Bangor), ‘Youth travel and the “sexual revolution” in Greece and West Germany, 1960s-1970s: the queer perspective’

This paper elaborates on a number of hypotheses concerning how tourism affected the sexual practices and identities of young non-heterosexual Greeks and West Germans during the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s and 1970s.

Stavros Stavrou Karayanni (European University Cyprus), ‘Anamnesis, affect, and queer poetics: Writing dissident sexualities into national identities’

My talk draws impetus from the conviction that the construction of queer historiographies is necessary in the process of interrogating the heteronormativity that attends national identity.  There will be specific focus on Cyprus.  From a province of the Ottoman Empire it went to British colonial rule, and, subsequently, an independent republic where nationalism tore the island into a ‘Turkish’ north and a ‘Greek’ south.  These historic turns have effected a profound crisis in modern Cypriot (both Greek and Turkish) identity. As I examine the legacies of colonial orientalism within the context of queer desire, I explore the possibility of a space where dissenting sexualities inscribe a trajectory despite the strictures that determine gender, sexual, and national performance.  By ‘space’ I am implying both the public domain regulated by state legislation, and personal space in the sense of subjective consciousness and personal imaginings.  My title deploys elements that I find indispensable in creating a queer aesthetic of narrative.  Anamnesis may not be simply remembrance, a memory, but also a personal truth that can play a significant part when writing ‘queerness’ into life.  Affect may be a psychic mechanism that works as a gauge for emotional engagement and for embodiment of sexuality and its performance.  Poetics becomes the medium through which queer sensibilities receive and process experience.  Writing queer historiography(-ies) might offer a narrative medium able to re-theorize nation, citizenship, and racial identity in terms of sexuality, challenging the heteronormativity and homophobia of nationalist discourses.

Elisabeth Kirtsoglou (Durham), ‘Free riders, or burnt out? Debating lesbian activism in a Greek provincial town’

The LGBTQI movement in Greece has made considerable progress in recent years towards the improvement of the existing legal status-quo as a result of strenuous social struggles that spanned across official and unofficial contexts, the public sphere and social media. In large urban centres, such as Athens and Thessaloniki, lesbian women become more visible as they articulate highly sophisticated political discourses against homophobia, sexism and ethnonationalism (among other issues). The richness of, and differences within lesbian politics in larger cities however is often missed in provincial Greece, where the majority of lesbian women stand ambivalent towards overt politicisation and in some ways unable to follow larger and more visible political structures. Based on new ethnographic material, the present paper discusses the lag in politicisation that characterises a certain provincial town in central Greece following the arguments of several ‘gay’ (as they identify themselves) women who debate lesbian activism. The paper wishes to investigate what constitutes an accepted form of politicisation and –ultimately- whether ‘the political’ is itself gendered.

Dimitra Georgiadou (Durham), ‘Families that matter: Queer experiences and politics of kinship in contemporary Greece’

During the last 10 years the  LGBQI politics in Greece , the ΛΟΑΤΚΙ activist movement as it is known, has strived towards and succeeded in accomplishing not only a certain degree of visibility for the members of its community but also established the beginning of a public debate on equal rights and citizenship.  A partial cohabitation agreement, non-inclusive of the issue of marriage and adoption was established by the Greek government in late 2015. While the ´rainbow families´ movement, constituted mainly by gay and lesbian couples with children, is pushing towards legal recognition of same-sex parenthood, institutional protection and equal welfare rights, more radical queer voices argue that these politics constitute homo-normative practices on the basis that they render more complex queer relationships even more invisible and marginalised. In the light of this past decade’s activism and legal developments, this paper aims to address and discuss the question of how particular queer subjects formulate their perspectives and political agendas around different familial relationships and experiences to those promoted by the mainstream LGBTQ activism. Analysing interview material from queer activists in Athens, I wish to discuss the meaning of family based on choice that certain self-identified queer subjects wish to promote through the contestation of traditional family relations in contemporary Greece. 

Elisavet Pakis (Manchester), ‘Queer and feminist archives of feelings: Eleni Bakopoulou encounters Dora Rosetti on the border of the nation and belonging’

In this paper I address an archive of Greek-speaking lesbian writing, and the archive of feelings (Cvetkovich 2003) or ‘structure of feelings’ (Williams 1977; Muñoz 1996, 1999, 2009) it contains as marks and traces of lesbian subjectivity, memory, history and possibility. More specifically, Ι engage with lesbian and feminist activist Eleni Bakopoulou’s recent publications ‘My Friend Mrs Dora Rosetti’, ‘Paraleipomena Doras Rosetti’ (‘Dora Rosetti: What Has Been Left out’), and ‘Like Sacred Ancient Mysteries’ in Odos Panos Journals 132, 133, and 134 in 2006 (republished as a book ‘My Friend Mrs Dora Rosetti’ by Odos Panos in 2012). These publications record Bakopoulou’s search for the disappeared 1920s author Dora Rosetti, who wrote the queer novel ‘Her Lover’ in 1929 (re-published in 2005 by Metaihmio/ed. Dounia). ‘My Friend Mrs Dora Rosetti’ is an account of Bakopoulou’s encounter and queer friendship with Rosetti in 1984 and Rosetti’s testimony to her about her life and her novel. My focus is on queer structures of feeling, and on appearing and disappearing, shadowy lesbian subjectivities on the margins of the nation and belonging. I approach the queer archive, drawing on José Muñoz’s methodology of looking at past queer works in ‘a backward glance that enacts a future vision’ (Muñoz 2009, p. 4). I look at moments of (im)possible lesbian subjectivity, borders and belonging. I also focus on Rosetti’s queer encounter and friendship with Bakopoulou and her testimony, as a moment of queer possibility, lesbian inter-subjectivity and connection, and history-making.

Spiros Chairetis (Oxford), ‘The (In)Visibles: Lesbian characters on Greek TV comedies’

The last decade has witnessed a veritable proliferation in the number of studies on lesbian representations in the American and European popular culture. Yet, such studies examining depictions of lesbianism remain largely unexploited in Greece, particularly in relation to television. In order to address this scholarly gap, this paper analyses a number of Greek TV series featuring lesbian (major and one-appearance) characters and considers the ways in which lesbian and straight bodies act and interact with each other. Drawing on feminist and queer theory and taking the codes and conventions of the comedy genre into account, this paper demonstrates how the series in question employ humorously erotic misunderstandings, (re)produce certain cultural stereotypes about lesbian identity, and in general terms, situate the lesbians outside a LGBT network of people and in the centre of a heteronormative context. The paper finally concludes that the Greek TV lesbians appear in comedies only to become symbolically extinct, thus rending their “invisibility” the most salient, if not visible feature of their cultural representation.

Saffo Papantonopoulou (Arizona), ‘Between Genos and Gender: Transgender thoughts on “Greekness” from the diaspora’

In this presentation I will discuss a few thoughts on gender and “Greekness,” from both a personal as well as historical and ethnographic perspective. As a transgender woman from the diaspora, conducting historical-ethnographic research on transgender issues in Greece, I am exploring the intersections of gender and ethno-national identity, and their relations to various forms of state and societal violence. My goal in this presentation is not to present any definitive answers, but rather to present some of my personal experience and also propose questions for further research.

Marios Chatziprokopiou (Aberystwyth), ‘Queering the archive of Greek laments: a selfreflexive account on the lecture-performance Pustia Ke Ololygmos: Selections from the Occult Songs of the Greek People’ [pre-recorded Skype intervention]

Laments from rural Greece have been conceptualized by folklorists of the nineteenth and the early twentieth century as directly connected to ancient tragedy and/or to Homeric odes, and therefore as proofs of continuity between ancient and modern Greeks. Yet, as it has been convincingly argued (see indicatively Herzfeld 1986; Politis 2011), the archives of oral poetry have been extensively edited, but also partially constructed, by nineteenth-century scholars, in order to serve ideological purposes related to the construction of national identity, but also to the promotion of the nation’s image to the West. Furthermore, it was not unusual for these scholars to create themselves quasi-demotic songs, in the manner and style of oral tradition. This was the case, for instance, of Georgios Tertsetis, whose quasi-demotic song Fair Retribution raises issues regarding desire between men, but also upon the impossibility of the subjects of such a desire and to be mourned and lamented.

Taking up this poem as a point of departure, this paper offers a self-reflexive account on the lecture-performance Pustia Ke Ololygmos: Selections from the Occult Songs of the Greek People I created in 2014.  In the existing archives, there is a complete silence regarding issues of non-heteronormative desire and mourning, as if these aspects were fully absent from social life. Moreover, and with very few exceptions, this silence has not been hitherto addressed in the relevant scholarship. In order to address such a lacuna, Pustia Ke Ololygmos asks: if the archives of Greek oral poetry in general, and of laments in particular, have been to a great extent scholarly constructs, could a silenced archive of songs that address issues of queer desire and mourning be possible? Furthermore, if such an archive has not been hitherto ‘discovered’, can it be possible to invent it? And how? 

Closing performance: Stavros Karayanni, ‘When the Body Re-members’

This is a dance performance that explores a space where orientalism and postcolonial subjectivity encounter Judith Butler’s theories of gender and Leo Bersani’s questions on masculinity.  Informed by theoretical discourse, the costumes and choreography of this piece evoke rites of transformation and re-membering, crossing and transcending.   The moves are powered by a paradox in the body’s experience of gender embodiment: while the performance of a certain identity yields a life-giving force, at the same time it yields to the sorrow of loss.  The dancing body assembles memories that inflect gesture and compose an anxious but gratifying, even rewarding, sense of being en-gendered.  Through its course, this dance performance attempts to weave into its material the numinous dimension of kinaesthetic experience while engaged with its theoretical and embodied dimensions.

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