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  • Κωνσταντίνος Καζαντζής: Ιστορίες της Πατρίδος μου. Επιμέλεια—Εισαγωγή: Γιώργος Καλογεράς
  • Yiorgos Anagnostou
Yiorgos Kalogeras. Γιώργος Καλογεράς, Κωνσταντίνος Καζαντζής: Ιστορίες της Πατρίδος μου. Επιμέλεια—Εισαγωγή: Γιώργος Καλογεράς . (Edited with an Introduction by Giorgos Kalogeras). Athens: Typothito Giorgos Dardanos, 2001. Pp. 290.

This book addresses a persistent tension in the cultural politics of Greek America, namely, the co-existence of strikingly opposite narratives of identity. Immigration engenders multiplicity in one's identifications, its author shows, by situating autobiography, travelogue, and fiction written by immigrants. But dispersal and resettlement also generate narratives of a singular identification, Kalogeras observes, pointing to nationalist accounts, racist tales, and absolutist ethnic stories representing immigration. In pointing out this poignant discrepancy, the author explains how the former position advances the notion of identity as an open-ended process of becoming, and how the latter brings identity to a closure. This inconsistency and its ideological underpinnings drive Kalogeras's work.

Κωνσταντίνος Καζαντζής: Ιστορίες της Πατρίδος μου (Konstantinos Kazantzes: Stories of my Homeland) visits these tensions as they were played out in the United States between 1880 and 1924, an era of fierce debates over immigrant political loyalty and belonging. Transnational in his approach, the author discusses these contestations both at the macro-level of discourses and the micro-level of texts. He never loses sight, for instance, of how American and Greek nationalisms shaped the terms of the debate, and he takes into account sources published on both sides of the Atlantic. This study's center of attention is the life and work of a single intellectual, Konstantinos T. Kazantzes, who was born in Ioannina in 1864 and died in Corfu in 1927, as an example of a person's multiple identifications in the diaspora. [End Page 245]

Now largely forgotten, Kazantzes was a distinguished politician, essayist, and fiction writer as well as a lawyer, political agitator, and merchant. This extraordinary individual led a peripatetic life. His birth in Epirus under Ottoman reign placed him in the periphery vis-à-vis the national center, which he never tired of criticizing. He spent a considerable part of his life in the West, notably in France and Germany, where he studied law, and in the United States, where he spent 25 years from 1889 to 1914. From this experience he described himself as being in "self-exile," which he attributed to the failures of the Greek kingdom to modernize. Upon his return to Greece, he was twice elected to the Greek Parliament (1915) before his exile to Naxos (1917–1920) by Eleftherios Venizelos, his political adversary. He returned to political life and held appointments as Governor of Florina-Kastoria from 1920 until 1921 and subsequently of Samos in 1921.

The book is a hybrid of sorts, for the reader will find not only what one expects from an academic book, but also a reprint of Kazantzes's collection of short stories. Entitled Ιστορίες της Πατρίδος μου this five-story compilation lends its name to the title of Kalogeras's own text. Originally printed in 1909 as a series in Chicago's Greek language newspaper, Ελληνικός Αστήρ (Greek Star), the stories were subsequently re-published in a single volume in Chicago in 1910. In the current reprint, the coexistence of academic analysis and literature makes possible a unique reading experience, as the reader can swing back and forth between a story and its scholarly commentary. This oscillation is particularly fruitful when the author dissects these stories in Chapter Three.

In Chapter One, Kalogeras situates Kazantzes in a wider context, discussing how scholars, journalists, and travelers wrote about mass Greek labor immigration, a novel phenomenon at the time. Prominent writers in the United States and Greece alarmingly demonized and pathologized both the proletariat and small business owners, questioning either group's fitness for American democracy and cautioning about the detrimental effect of emigration on the Greek nation. For scientific racists, these populations represented the undesirable dregs of Europe, and for cultural evolutionists, these people occupied a lower place in the linear journey toward the pinnacle of progress, (American) civilization.

Immigrant elites were successful in reconfiguring this stigmatized identity, eventually consolidating it into a hegemonic, post-ethnicidentity, that of the American Hellene. This was a class-based identity, associating immigrant mobility with fitness for American modernity. It organized itself around the complete identification with the political, economic, and cultural status quo of the new homeland, an articulation...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 245-249
Launched on MUSE
2008-06-20
Open Access
No
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