Monday, January 25, 2016

My Karkavitsas Year 2016

The rural landscape of Greece was articulated as a literary category by the demotic writers of the 1880s. Before them, the landscape was monopolized by the thick lenses of the western travelers. Obsessed with the classical polis, new Greece spent its early energies in building an enlightened cosmopolitan metropolis. Greek intellectuals made a very delayed discovery of their rural culture. In contrast, European Romanticists had made folk culture a prime subject of research half a century earlier. Paradoxically, French antiquarians recorded Greek folk songs in advance of the native intellectuals. The systematic turn towards the peasantry in the 1880s was more than an aesthetic maneuver, but an ideological historical world-view rooted in a new scientific discipline. The writing of fiction, short stories in particular, was integrated into an ethnographic methodology. The short story emerged as a genre whose mission was to capture the psychology of this newly discovered rural Greece. The journal Estia issued a short story competition in 1883 with the objective of capturing the psychology of the this other undiscovered rural Greece.

The intellectual history of 1880s demoticism and its relationship to genre writing and ethographia has been well written (see Roderick Beaton, Introduction to Modern Greek Literature; Gregory Jusdanis, Belated Modernity and Aesthetic Culture; Artemis Leontis, Topographies of Hellenism, and others). Beyond the better known Generation of the Thirties, the generation of the 80s is the most noteworthy moment in literary history. 

I've always wondered how this generation of realist writing intersects with the contemporary landscape and architectural reality. If the short-story writer of the 1880s was also a hybrid scientist, then fiction becomes partial recording. But even if those factual recordings are completely fictional, they are worth a second look because they constructed the literary imagination that informed the ethnograhic work carried out by a well-knit group rallying around the cause of a demotic language.

For a long time, now, I've been thinking about reading Modern Greek fiction systematically to extract the particulars of the 1880s idyllic imaginary of the Greek landscape. As I try to reconstruct that late-19th-century landscape archaeologically, the literary excursus would be an interesting comparison. The interplay between fact and fiction, or base and superstructure, might achieve in modest ways what Raymond Williams accomplished in The Country and the City (1973). Williams demonstrated that the British's novel's representation of an idyllic landscape was integrally connected with the exploitation of that landscape, particularly the shift from agrarian to capitalist economies. Literary historians have tended to see the Greek landscape more statically, as a simple binary of traditional/modern and rural/urban. Historians (like Tom Gallant), anthropologists (like Sue Sutton), and survey archaeologists have complicated Greek landscape history. How does this nuanced history of the 19th-century landscape changer our readings of 19th-century literature?

Three writers come to mind as the best choice for systematic reading. First, Kostis Palamas, as the first naturalist, and the earliest Greek author to share John Ruskin's analytical interests on the landscape. Second, Alexandros Papadiamantis, the most prolific of vernacular short stories. And, third, Andreas Karkavitsas. This year, I have decided to focus on Karkavitsas. I am not starting wtih Palamas because his poetics are too grandiose and not specific enough for specific fruits. And between Papadiamantis and Karkavitsas, I've chosen Karkavitsas because I am more familiar with his geography (Peloponnese, Central Greece) than Skiathos Island. Karkavitsas grew up in Lechaina, Eleia, whose villages I have surveyed with the Morea Project. His corpus of short stories is shorter than Papadiamantis, too, which is a good thing. So, in 2016, I hope to read all of his 70-some short stories.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Greek Arts and Crafts Digitally Curated

Greek villages have been experiencing a continuous (and occasionally dramatic) process of abandonment since 1893. Intellectuals of the 1920s (Angeliki Hadjimihali, Antonis Benakis, etc.) responded to this crisis by collecting Greek arts and crafts, establishing museum collections, and writing the first scholarly monographs. The Benaki Museum, the Ethnographic and Folklore Museum of Athens, the Stathopoulos Room at the American School of Classical Studies, the Nauplion Folklore Museum and many others testify to this first wave of scholarship.

In the 1960s, Greek village communities began their own efforts to save their arts and crafts by establishing local village repositories. Taking stock of what happened to prestige villages like Metsovo or Monemvasia, these communities imagined their folk heritage as a possible generator for small-scale tourism. Prestige villages are the product of capital investment and philanthropy by particular patrons (whether Greek or non-Greek). That magnitude of operation is rarely an option to every Greek village.

Although there is no official count, there are hundreds of these repositories, lovingly curated by village elders and intellectuals. They typically occupy a room of a "community" or "cultural center" (πνευματικό κέντρο) often a preserved abandoned house. These ad hoc museums are the most interesting manifestations of local curation and civic engagement in Greece. What is sad about them, of course, is that they will never function as proper museums. First, they have no financial resources or staff, and second, they are too remote and ordinary to solicit tourism. It's important to note that since cultural heritage is managed predominantly by the Greek state, there is little know-how on the interworking of heritage management by the Greek citizens (no educational programs, or vehicles for experimentation outside an increasingly bankrupt state). As a result, the citizen curators of village museums tend to range from idealistic to impractical or fatalistic. The passion for this civic philanthropy, moreover, is ending with the current generation of retirees. There are no indications that anyone under 50 shares their passion or the local links to a particular village. Younger Greeks tend to think more globally, about the environment, globalization, a multicultural Europe, neoliberal economics, etc. 

So what will happen to these local museums?

In the last few years, a group of American and Greek students have been studying late medieval and early modern villages in the area of Lidoriki. In Summer 2016, we turned the Lidoriki Folklore Museum (above) into a photographic laboratory. A group of students from Maryville University (St. Louis), Franklin and Marshall College (Lancaster), and the National Technical University (Athens) inventoried 138 objects. The objects were photographed professionally, and a smaller sample (about 12) were photographed three-dimensionally. The students presented their research at the Annual Meetings of the Archaeological Institute of America in San Francisco this month: Shelby Beiermann, Sara Loynd, Austin Nash, Nicole Thompson, and Elizabeth Wood, "Artists at Aigition: Documentation, Design, and the Investigation of Rural Villages."

Following the first scholarly presentation of last summer's season, we proceed with the next phase to curate a digital museum for the 138 objects that we have recorded. Franklin and Marshall student Lizzie Wood was one of the two students that photographed the objects of Lidoriki. The picture at the top shows Lizzie brainstorming on how to photograph a wool military coat. This semester, Lizzie is embarking on an independent study to create a digital museum of the 138. Shelby Beiermann has already processed some of the images into 3D models. See, for instance, two wool spindles [here] and [here], a tsarouchi [here], a scale weight [here], and a bugle [here].

Lizzie will have to sort the material and write informative entries for each piece, while also learning the software Omeka with which she will design a digital exhibition. If this works well, we hope it becomes a model for other local folklore collections throughout Greece. Next summer, we hope to also tackle some of the more established folklore museums with this technology. We plan to 3D-model objects from the Angeliki Hadjimihali House, a folk arts museum operated by the city of Athens.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

From Greek Village to the American City: Archaeology of Immigration

Franklin and Marshall College has a generous policy for faculty and student collaborative research. Every summer, I bring 1-3 students to do archaeological fieldwork with me in Greece, Philadelphia, Lancaster, or North Dakota. Building on such work with students, I propose the following plan of research for this summer. Here is my Hackman Faculty Grant application. See my report from two years ago, last time I applied for funds [here]

The image [R] is the inscription on a 1908 house in Leontio, Peloponnese, marking the American journey that its proprietor took to build the house.

From Greek Village to the American City
The Archaeology of Immigration

The Deserted Greek Village Project is an archaeological survey of late medieval and early modern villages whose abandonment began in 1893, after Greece's first major economic collapse. Between the 1890s and the 1920s, one in every four Greek men of working age migrated to the United States as a result of this economic crisis. These immigrants created new “Greek towns” in American cities, while also sustaining the villages back home through remittances. The study of material culture (objects, buildings, urbanism) of this phenomenon is by necessity a transnational project. This summer, we will turn our research to the study of both deserted Greek villages and the American Greek towns of the early 20th century. The fieldwork is divided into two parts: Two weeks of fieldwork in Greece, and four weeks of fieldwork in Pennsylvania. The team will include two F&M students, Elizabeth Wood (’17) who participated in last year’s field season and Cassandra Garison (’19). Wood will investigate domestic objects and Garison will investigate the houses of the project. Although working together, the two students will diverge in primary sources and methodology, a digital museum exhibition for Wood’s objects and a GIS database for Garison’s buildings. Both students were in my House Archaeology (ART 279) seminar last semester and have demonstrated both excellence and the desire to collaborate.

All three of us will travel to Greece and work collectively for two weeks. We will continue our documentation of the Lidoriki region with drone aerial survey, 3D modeling, GIS mapping, oral histories, and museum curation. Last summer we targeted the deserted village of Aigition and its objects and presented the results of this research at the Annual Meetings of the Archaeological Institute of America in San Francsicso. Our student Lizzy Wood ('17) presented a separate co-authored poster session at that meeting. This summer, we will submit an article for review in the Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology. While in Greece, we will also discuss contemporary migration by visiting refugee camps established for Syrian asylum seekers.

The Pennsylvania component of our research will take place at the Balch Institute of Ethnic Studies in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Greek American Heritage Society of Philadelphia, and the Digital Harrisburg project at Messiah College. We will target three Greek towns in southeastern Pennsylvania: Harrisburg, Lancaster, and Philadelphia. With the assistance of Digital Harrisburg (that has already mapped its Greek town), we will map the Greek towns of Lancaster and Philadelphia by linking census data from 1900-1940 to individual properties. While identifying the buildings into which Greek migrated, we will also catalog contemporary objects and records from the Philadelphia diaspora (housed at the Greek American Heritage Society museum and the Balch Institute of Ethnic Studies). The questions we will ask are how did rural Greeks from mountainous villages transition into row houses of eastern Pennsylvania? What kind of material culture did they bring from Greece, and what kind of material culture did they send to Greece? Most ethnic groups migrating to the United States did not leave extensive textual sources. The first generation of immigrants, even if literate, spent its resources as laborers rather than intellectuals. Material culture, thus, offers a unique window into a transnational experience.

I initiated the Deserted Greek Village Project in 2014 with the support of a Hackman Research Fellowship and the assistance of students Joel Naiman ('15) Hackman Fellow and Joanna Radov ('16) Summer Research Fellow. Elizabeth Wood joined the research as a Summer Research Fellow in 2016. Based on those experiences, Naiman is currently pursuing a Master’s in Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania, and Radov is exploring graduate studies and scholarships post-graduation. Wood’s co-authored poster at the Archaeological Institute of America was the first time an F&M presents research on this national forum. This semester, Wood is taking an Independent Study, where she will design an online exhibition for the 136 objects that she recorded in the Lidoriki Folklore Museum last summer. Garison has already done demographic mapping of Lancaster census data for my House Archaeology seminar and will be learning GIS this semester.


Biermann, Shelby, Todd Brenningmeyer, Sara Loynd, Miltiadis Katsaros, Kostis Kourelis, Austin Nash, Nicole Thompson, Elizabeth Wood. 2016. “Artists at Aigition: Documentation, Design, and the Investigation of Rural Greek Villages,” Poster Session, 117th Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America, San Francisco, January 7, 2016.

Brenningmeyer, Todd, Kostis Kourelis, and Miltiadis Katsaros. 2013. “The Lidoriki Project: A Historical Topography,” Sixth Annual Congress, Science and Technology for the Safeguard of Cultural Heritage in the Mediterranean Basin, Athens, Greece, Oct. 25, 2013.

Brenningmeyer, Todd, Kostis Kourelis, and Miltiadis Katsaros. 2015. “The Lidoriki Project - Low Altitude Aerial Photography, GIS, and Traditional Survey in Rural Greece,” Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA) Annual Conference, Sienna, Italy, Mar. 30, 2015.

Brenningmeyer, Todd, Kostis Kourelis, and Miltiadis Katsaros. 2016. “Drones and Stones: Mapping Deserted Villages in Lidoriki, Greece,” 117th Annual Meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America, San Francisco, January 8, 2016.

Kourelis, Kostis. 2008. “The Archaeology of Xenitia: Greek-American Material Culture, 1873-1924,” in Archaeology and History in Roman, Medieval and Post-Medieval Greece: Studies on Method and Meaning in Honor of Timothy E. Gregory, ed. Linda J. Hall, William R. Caraher, and R. Scott Moore (Aldershot: Ashgate), pp. 411-453.

Kourelis, Kostis. 2008. “From Greek Revival to Greek America: Archaeology and Transformation in Saint George Orthodox Cathedral of Philadelphia,” New Griffon 10, pp. 28-36.

Kourelis, Kostis and William R. Caraher eds. 2010. The Abandoned Countryside: (Re)Settlement in the Archaeological Narrative of Post-Classical Greece, special issue of The International Journal of Historical Archaeology 14:2 (June 2010)

Kourelis, Kostis and Vasileios Marinis. 2012. “The Immigrant Liturgy: Greek Orthodox Worship and Architecture in America,” in Liturgy in Migration: Cultural Contexts from the Upper Room to Cyberspace, ed. Teresa Berger, pp. 155-75, (Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press), pp. 155-175.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States