Diaspora, Identity, and Religion: New Directions in Theory and Research

By Waltraud Kokot; Khachig Tölölyan et al. | Go to book overview

5

Past and present in the history of modern Greek diaspora

Iannis Hassiotis

Until recently most of what has been written about various aspects of the history of modern Greek diaspora has been strongly coloured by their authors' ideological or theoretical preconceptions. On the one hand, we have the older, idealistic interpretations of 'continuity', which, firmly entrenched in the style of traditional Greek historiography, view the historical evolution of the Hellenic diaspora as an inseparable, continuous and unbroken process, from the time of the ancient colonies to the present day (Dendias 1919; Fossey 1991). Of a similar type are those who seek the agents of the Greek migration phenomenon in areas like the 'nature' of the Greek 'ethnic characteristics' or - even worse - in the unique psychography and temperament of 'Ulysses the Greek'.

But a good many of those who avoid the trap of these ideological stereotypes still fall into other ideological and methodological snares, examining the functioning, integration, and ideology of some of the centres of the Greek diaspora either from a purely Marxist angle or on the basis of one-sided criteria, at best economy-oriented (Psyroukis 1974:288 ff.). Recent years have seen some as yet uncoordinated attempts at a comparative, and even an interdisciplinary approach. By and large, students of the Greek diaspora seem to be trying to co-ordinate their own stance with those of Western historians and social anthropologists, who have been trying over the last twenty-five years to conduct a holistic and universal rather than a comparative investigation of the phenomenon of migration and minority communities (Ikonomu 1991; Constas and Platias 1993; Bruneau 1995; Prevelakis 1994, 1996). All the same, despite widespread efforts towards an interdisciplinary treatment of the diaspora (which have undeniably broadened the range of our speculation and enriched our theoretical arsenal), some fundamental questions remain unanswered by either an exploration of the migrations of a specific ethnic group or - what is more - a comparative, interethnic study. However, the typological models presented in the international literature have in a number of cases proved incompatible with the historical facts of the Greek case. To take John Armstrong's 1976 typological approach, for instance, most of the Greek emigrants of the early Ottoman period can by no means be described as any kind of 'proletarian diaspora', yet nor do they share the features of a 'mobilized diaspora', to which at least some of the late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century Greek communities probably appertained (Hassiotis 1997:85ff.). The same applies to the contemporary

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