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Diaspora 2:1 1992 Nationalism and Oneirocriticism: Of Modern Hellenes in Europe Stathis Gourgouris Princeton University 1. Greece and the Prospect of European Kefiguration In November 1990, the Parisian newspaper Le Monde organized a symposium among a group of France's leading intellectuals with the title "The Greeks, the Romans, and Ourselves." The overall impetus of the symposium was an interrogation (with an inkling toward revision) of Greece's traditional status as the politicalphilosophical ancestor of modern European civilization; the generally proposed alternative was Rome (see Droit). If we take a quick look at the names involved (François Hartog, Cornelius Castoriadis, Paul Veyne, Edgar Morin, Jean-Pierre Vernant , Nicole Loraux among others), we see that the discussion took place not merely among "experts," but among thinkers who are consistently known to have forwarded visionary and often radical refigurations of both the ancient and the contemporary world. The focus of the topic thus becomes more crucial and its significance more revealing. For this is not just some politically expedient interrogation of Greece's relation to Europe by a handful of State intellectuals who may be orchestrating a revision of "official ideology" with an eye to policy-making. It is a representative instance ofwhat is at stake in the current refiguration of Europe under the institution ofthe European Community: the refiguration ofits origins, the recasting of the originary Myth into real History. In this respect, the contemporary refiguration of"Europe"—even if it concludes in positing Rome as its historical point of origin— nonetheless concerns the point of convergence between the notions of"European" and "[neo]Hellene." The ground ofthis convergence is inescapably contested. This is so both in the realm of contemporary politics (Greece's notorious unreliability in terms of the European Community's project) and in the realm of social-imaginary signification (Greece's status as a determinant fantasy in the history of Europe's self-conceptualization). This attempted refiguration points to an inescapable discursive contiguity between Europe and Greece, whether we identify them as two sociopolitical communities in the process of(re)signifying them43 Diaspora 2:1 1992 selves, or as the primary imaginary institutions in which (and the interrelation of which) both these communities have invested their (reSignification.1 That is, in light of Europe's imminent communal consolidation and in the face of a world whose national populations are rapidly transgressing their boundaries, the Europeans' obsession with their own originary—imaginary—boundaries returns them to the contemplation of their own "Hellenicity" (or perhaps, lately, lack ofit), whereas the masses who represent Europe's actual Otherness (the postcolonial immigrant population) are efficiently turned over to the repressive mechanisms ofits judicial and administrative infrastructure (see Webber). At this precise juncture, at the point where resistance to the Otherness of the new migrant "barbarians" leads to a réévaluation of Europe's sanctioned Hellenes, lies the odd and not easily signifiable figure of the Neohellene. Perhaps there is no better indication ofthis disruptive oddity than the persistent absence ofGreece from recent discussions concerning the various aspects of the European Community. There is a remarkably extensive cultivation of silence, reproduced even in discussions or texts that go a long way toward intelligent critical investigations ofthe Community's premises.2 We are dealing here with a lacuna ofmajor proportions, and one cannot help but recall the acerbic maxim, characteristic of the writings of Yerasimos Kaklamanis: "Greece [is] that scandalous 'secret' of modern history that no one wants to talk about" (On the Structure 222). However we may want to assess the historical disjunctures at play in this condition of absence, there is a strong sense that Greece's exclusion is a decisive mark of Europe's exclusivity. This much said, it is my contention that the (re)constitution ofEurope in the last decade ofthe twentieth century hinges on a crucial confrontation with its hellenicity—that is to say, with the legacy of nineteenth -century "Western" history, which marked coincidentally both the nascent conceptualization ofa consolidated European logos and the institution of this especially problematic entity, the discourse of Neohellenism.3 In this sense, "Modern Greece," the historical brainchild of nineteenth -century Philhellenist Europe, may be said to stand as that traumatic...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1911-1568
Print ISSN
1044-2057
Pages
pp. 43-71
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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