Counter-Diaspora: The Greek Second Generation Returns "Home" by Anastasia Christou and Russell King (review)
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by
Anastasia Christou and Russell King, Counter-Diaspora: The Greek Second Generation Returns "Home". Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 2014. Pp. vii + 295. Cloth $75.

Counter-Diaspora: The Greek Second Generation Returns "Home", by Anastasia Christou and Russell King, collects personal narratives about the relocation of Greek diaspora individuals—intended to be permanent—to their historical homeland. As the title indicates, the subject is the second generation's aspiration to start life anew in urban Greece. Based on a multisited ethnography (New York, Boston, Berlin, and Athens, as well as other cities in Greece) [End Page 252] conducted between 2007 and 2008, this comparative study juxtaposes Greek American and Greek German life narratives. The book organizes itself around the notion of "homing," the "continuous process of transition from one's previous home towards one's ideal or future home" (318), an aptly open-ended approach. As the authors show, certain experiences during the resettlement of the returnees may subsequently prompt yet another relocation, a "return from the return" (235).

Where is home for the second generation whose biographical trajectories connect with two countries or more? What social experiences and imaginaries construct Greece as a home for the diaspora? What issues does the second generation confront in the historical homeland? Counter-Diaspora charts this transnational terrain of mobility and the problem of homing it engenders. Three "results chapters" (38) take up these questions, while the two opening chapters address theoretical issues and methodology, respectively. The conclusion reflects on both the study's findings and Greek diaspora mobility in the era of the unfolding debt crisis in Greece.

A work that places ethnographic narratives at the center of its analysis, Counter-Diaspora reflects on narrative as a source of knowledge, analytical utility, and methodological challenge. Christou and King are keenly aware of narratives as sources of unstable and ultimately partial knowledge. There may be intimate facets of one's life that interviewees are unwilling to share. Memory, of course, is selective. There is also the matter of the interview serving as a stage for a participant's conscious narrative performance of the self. Still, life narratives offer a discursive tool to situate a person's biographical arc in concrete times and places and, in this manner, locate the question of return through time and across space.

Mikhail Bakhtin's concept of the chronotope is valuable for the authors, as this notion renders life narrative a key method for illustrating interconnections between the here and elsewhere, as well as the past and the present. This serves one of the book's main aims: to identify correlations, themes, and patterns associated with diaspora's return. Chapter 3, for instance, explores the social factors that shaped the early lives of the interviewees (that is, religion, language and education, family views on marriage, among others) to establish a positive correlation between the participants' decision to return and their pleasant "memories of childhood visits to the parental homeland" (121). Through this latter experience, the "homeland becomes dreamland" (133). Conversely, chapter 5 discusses a range of returnee negative experiences to eventually identify a pattern of reversing the return: "more often … relocation transforms into a process of adjustment, compromise, frustration, and [End Page 253] disillusionment" (169). The initial journey of "hope and anticipation" (169) turns into feelings of "non-belonging and reverse transnationalism" (223). It even escalates into trenchant critiques of Greek people, an "anti-Greek-Greek" stance (204). Experiences associated with a particular place and time shape a person's trajectory of homing.

The aim of the book, as the authors make clear, is not to explore subjectivities in their cultural and psychosocial depth. Instead, the overall interest is to create a sociology of return. The collection of narratives—a total of 163 participants were interviewed, producing "nearly 1,500 pages of single-spaced transcripts" (73)—provides the empirical corpus to understand return in relation to dominant themes and patterns. This sociological lens enables the authors to move from the particular (a personal narrative and its biographical specificity) to the general (pervasive themes or distinct patterns). Once this "thematic analysis" is accomplished through close reading of ethnographic transcripts—the authors call it "bathing in...