Hyperreal Athens: Phantasmatic Memory and the Reproduction of Civic Alienation

James Faubion

Abstract


I'm very pleased to be able to be with you today. Before I begin, I must take a moment to thank the very gracious hosts who have brought me here: the evidently irrepressible Vrasidas Karalis, first of all, but also all of the other officers of the Modem Greek Studies Association. Khronia polla.

Those of you who are familiar with my past work on Greece are perhaps expecting from me a lecture about to burst with its stuffing of eclectic and impenetrable theoretical verbiage, hopelessly distant from the reality of everyday life, confusing the marginal with the central, blithely offensive to nationalist and culturally conservative sentiments and peppered to top it all off with a generous serving of minor but distracting errors of factual detail. I will do my best to satisfy such expectations, but I must confess that I can do no more than take as my initial point of departure here what any of you who have spent any time in Athens will recognise as the most familiar and readily repeated of commonplaces. The question that preoccupies me is that of why the commonplaces at issue are quite so familiar and quite as durable as they are. A ready, a commonsensical answer might be that they survive because they are true. That answer is, however, anthropologically insufficient in at least two respects. Grounded in common sense, it cannot acknowledge that common sense, which varies considerably with variations of cultural tradition and historical experience and social organisation, itself merits being put into question, being made into an object of inquiry.


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