- Το πρόσφατο μέλλον: Η κλασική αρχαιότητα ως βιοπολιτικό εργαλείο (Δημήτρης Πλάντζος) [Recent futures: Classical antiquity as biopolitical tool] by Dimitris Plantzos
In 2008, when the economic crisis broke out in Greece as a result of the wider economic and fiscal crisis in the United States and the greater part of Europe, a fierce debate over who was to blame erupted within the Greek public sphere and the international media. Did the fault lie with the economic and political elites of the country, who over the decades failed to reform the economy while also engaging in rampant corruption? Was it the ancien system of clientelism that bound the government and the people into a relationship of increasing codependence and led to the creation of a hydrocephalus, dysfunctional state? Or did responsibility lie with the leadership of the European Union, with international financial organizations, such as the IMF and the World Bank, and with the world’s investment banking system? After the lengthy discussions and biting debates, and once the dust kicked up by thousands of protesters and the [End Page 416] smoke and teargas in the streets of Athens settled, the question “why Greece?” may still haunt our imagination for some time to come.
Το πρόσφατο μέλλον: Η κλασική αρχαιότητα ως βιοπολιτικό εργαλείο (Recent futures: Classical antiquity as biopolitical tool) is certainly not a book about the economic crisis, yet it attempts to delineate the crisis’s cultural history, as Dimitris Plantzos suggests in his introduction (15). The book outlines narratives about violence, civil society, the right to Europe, and the ways these intersect with understandings of the past as both a mechanism to control the present and a disciplining apparatus to regulate public sentiment. Western modernity’s political and cultural imaginary is inextricably tied to ancient Greek civilization, while Modern Greece owes its existence precisely to this dialectic between the West’s imaginary and Greek classical heritage. Before it was even politically constituted as a nation-state, Modern Greece had been grounded on a series of imaginary significations directly tied to antiquity. The literature on the subject is quite rich. Rarer are the studies that bring questions of Hellenism into the present in order to explore its effects and the ways it informs our aesthetic, moral, political, and social life today. Hellenism in this sense has a dialectic relationship between Western and Greek modernity and the classical past. Plantzos’s book is a very welcome contribution, especially as it addresses a wider readership beyond academia.
Το πρόσφατο μέλλον is largely based on some of the author’s most thought-provoking articles and studies available until now only in English. Following a roughly chronological order, the book covers the decade between 2004 and 2014. It starts with the opening ceremony of the Olympics in 2004 and interprets the event as both a coming-of-age ritual for the Modern Greek state and as a farewell to the traumatic twentieth century. It ends with the events surrounding the rediscovery of the monumental Amphipolis Tomb. The book moves gradually from a discussion of biopolitics to an analysis of thanatopolitics—by now the central agenda of the West, according to Giorgio Agamben (1998)—and an analysis of the European politics of the crisis. All four chapters critically approach rituals and public performances of local, national, or international appeal that have been orchestrated either by the Greek state itself or by the general public. Habituated to archaeolatry and the worship of ancestors (προγονολατρία), these rituals reproduce familiar narratives about the nation, patriarchy, heterosexuality, and racial purity while often changing and recolonizing them in the process. The first chapter analyzes in depth a series of heterotopian technologies—the Olympics opening ceremony, campaigns by the Greek National Tourism Organization (Εθνικός Οργανισμός Τουρισμού, EOT), Greek filmography, vernacular architecture—and offers a [End Page 417] genealogy of the scientific, literary, and artistic grounding of Hellenism. Historians, folklorists, archaeologists, poets, and artists at large took it upon themselves to Hellenize Greek history or recover the singular essence of Hellenic art. The internalization of the relationship with ancient Greece would be central in this process of the constitution of the national subject and archaeology, to which Plantzos, a classical archaeologist himself, pays particular attention...