Beyond the "Greek Crisis": Histories, Rhetorics, Politics

Yiannis Biliris, "Photos from the Riots." April 23, 2013 via

This forum focuses on the debt crisis in Greece (the 2010 EU/IMF “bailout” and subsequent austerity measures), as well as the various challenges that have been posed to the violence of neoliberal “adjustment.” The brief articles presented here have been solicited from observer-participants in the debates and protests, but also in the intimacies and banalities, defining everyday life in crisis Greece. The outlines of the crisis are widely known. Indeed, Greek society and its travails have never before been so visible to the global media eye. The aim of this forum is not so much to fill in this familiar outline of crisis with ethnographic detail as to trouble its parameters.

The first section Debt, Responsibility and “Reform” treats debt not as a statistical fact, but anthropologically as a complex discourse on morality, responsibility, obligation and reciprocity. Against the breathless synchronicity of “breaking news” and (endless) speculation on the denouement of the crisis, these pieces insist on historicizing and globalizing. Piercing the blatant Orientalist tropes dominating international and often domestic reporting, they plumb the social, political and economic forces that have led to the current impasse, but also the political efficacy of “crisis” itself in legitimating the agenda of “structural reform.”

Petros Karadjias, "A riot policeman lashes out at a protesting drummer." April 23, 2013 via The Guardian.

The second section Precarity and Protest centers on the escalating violence of the crisis and the emergent politics of protest. The December 2008 revolt, which first galvanized world media attention on Greece, returns again and again in the analyses as a formative moment, which brought to the fore the malaise and anger of Greek youth (the “generation of 700…600…500 Euro…”) and inaugurated new forms of political action now prominent in the movement of Greek indignants (aganaktismenoi) that began in May 2011 (i.e., networking through social media, a transcending of established party politics), while also bringing into play a new grammar of political violence in unpredictable development today. These texts shed light on the production and normalization of an ever growing number of vulnerable, dispossessed and disposable subjects, but also on stunning moments of courageous confrontation with structures of subjugation and exploitation organized along axes of gender, class, age, race and ethnic hierarchy.

The final section Representations and Reverberations traverses the aforementioned subjects with an emphasis on the mediation of the crisis: the crisis as media event, citizen journalism, new modes of networking through social media, form-breaking film and theater. The texts seek to situate Greek experience in relation to the global reverberation of protest, riot, revolt and death from the Arab Spring and Spanish Indignados to the UK riots and Occupy Wall Street.

“The Trouble with Greece” reads the title of a recent New York Times editorial (10/7/2011), as if Greece could be “fixed” and all would be well again. As we prepare to launch this forum, with the Greek bond "haircut" "deal" faltering on news of a proposed national referendum, the European/global economy is roiling once again, revealing the shakiest of foundations. Whether Greece as the weakest link in the eurozone is a laboratory for neoliberal reform and violent repression of protest, or a think tank on the streets and in the squares for redefining democracy, it is clear that this crisis is not just “about Greece.” These entries bear the imprint of these uneasy times: the shock, anxiety, growing violence, despair, loss of security, fear, sheer exhaustion, the feeling of being suspended or maybe in free fall, but also the renewed intellectual energy, desire for a new horizon of the political, the promise of new forms of cosmopolitan solidarity, a sense of opening.

Posts in This Series

Trickle-down Debt

Eat That!

The State of Exception as Precondition for Crisis

Harbingers of the "Greek Crisis"

The “Chinese-ification” of Greece

The Squared Constitution of Dissent

The Irregularities of Violence in Athens

Becoming precarious through regimes of gender, capital, and nation

Hunger striking for rights: the alien politics of immigrant protest

Contesting Histories of Greek Student Protest, or the Debate on “Open” and “Closed” Universities

Archive Trouble

Witnessing the Crisis

The Greek Crisis for Dummies – A Visual Tour

Echoes of ‘dead ends’: Reflections on ‘making sense’