Topographies of Hellenism: Mapping the Homeland

By Artemis Leontis | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3 Topos: From Revenant Nation to Transcendental Territory

Hellas, language blind in Geography Hellas, empty lot and colony.

--From the song Γεννήθηκα στη Σαλονίκη (I was born in Thessaloniki), by Dionísis Savvópulos

On the map of Europe you search to find your mark, but Stelios the superb and the "Minor Mode of the Orient" confuse you. Nowhere and to no one does your heart belong. . . . And when you become anxious about the path our race is taking, you walk the tightrope on a bouzouki string, trying to find a way out of this dead end.

--From the song To αδιέξοδο (Dead end)

The nineteenth-century European encounter with the Acropolis systematically disregarded views of local residents while it created its own topography of Hellenism. On the Acropolis, a topos of modernity simultaneously reconstructed and dismantled through the dream of recovering lost origins, Europeans reproduced the unequal power relations played out in politics and trade. By some twisted logic, they put themselves on their maps as Hellenism's aboriginal occupants; they made themselves official curators of the classical Greek past. Greeks could assist them in their role of preserving the culture of ruins provided they did not get in their way. Yet Neohellenes did not passively accept this ancillary role. One should not forget that knowledge and power are best understood by their enabling effects. Once disciplinary technologies were deployed in Greece, venerated sites like the Acropolis became places where power was immanent for Greeks as well as Europeans, to whom Greeks now found themselves vitally tied. In the

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