Some Debts Can Never Be Repaid: The Archaeo-politics of the Crisis


How is the contemporary moment of crisis in Greece entangled with antiquity, in its physical form of remnants and sites, as well as in its discursive and visual renderings and evocations? In this article, I explore this archaeo-political dimension, adopting as my interpretative lens the concept of debt, not only as a financial phenomenon but also as moral imperative, as production of individual and collective subjectivities. The contemporary sovereign debt is juxtaposed to the debt owed to the ancestors, a debt that can never be repaid. In exploring this theme, I study a range of phenomena, from performative rituals to cartoons to official and unofficial media interventions. The main case study, however, is the public and media fascination with the recent excavation at Amphipolis in northern Greece, a phenomenon which I interpret as a peculiar occult economy with affinities to national treasure hunting. In the oneiric archaeology of Amphipolis, the ancestors are imagined as coming again to the rescue of their descendants in their hour of need, prolonging thus the eternal ancestral debt. Finally, I argue that both the financial debt and the ancestral debt are associated with the crypto-colonial constitution of Greece since the nineteenth century and that perhaps rupturing the teleology of ancestral indebtedness may in fact initiate the decolonial process for the country as a whole.