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Monday, 19 December 2022

Greek diaspora in times of crises and uncertainty: How do crises affect Greek diaspora-homeland relations?

On December 6, 2022, the American College of Greece organized a panel discussion at the ACG Events Hall on the occasion of the SEESOX publication of the edited volume Diaspora engagement in times of severe economic crisis: Greece and beyond. The book's co-authors, Dr. Othon Anastasakis, Director of European Studies Centre & SEESOX Principal Investigator of the Greek Diaspora Project at the University of Oxford, and Dr. Manolis Pratsinakis, Assistant Professor in Social Geography, Harokopio University and Research Affiliate, COMPAS, University of Oxford, presented their University of Oxford Greek Diaspora Project's case studies on how crises and global uncertainties affect contemporary Greek diaspora-homeland relations. Dr. Panos Vlachopoulos, Executive Dean at Deree – The American College of Greece, and Katerina Sokou, Theodore Couloumbis Research Fellow on "Greek-American Relations" at ELIAMEP, rounded off the panelists. Dr. David G. Horner, President of The American College of Greece, gave the opening remarks. The event was co-organized by the ACG Institute for Hellenic Culture and the Liberal Arts (IHCLA) and ACG Institute of Global Affairs (IGA). Dr. Eirini Karamouzi, IHCLA Fellow was the convenor of the event.

The panelists addressed the state of Greece's relations with its diaspora as these have evolved during the recent years of consecutive crises and uncertainty. They discussed the role and significance of Hellenism abroad by touching upon the following issues: the significance of diasporic institutions, crises-driven migration and diasporic mobility, diasporic solidarity with the motherland, the role of diasporic networks and associations in the era of technological communication.

Wednesday, 7 December 2022

Ukraine, Europe and the Future of World Order

On 19 November, as part of a conference on War and the future of Ukraine, there was a panel discussion on Ukraine, Europe and the Future of World Order. Timothy Garton Ash (St Antony's College, Oxford) chaired. Kateryna Zarembo (New Europe Center, Kyiv), Roy Allison (St Antony's College, Oxford) and Jonathan Holslag (Free University of Brussels) spoke.

Kateryna Zarembo spoke mainly about EU/Ukraine: EU normative positions, hierarchy, and the EU “you must do your homework” mantra.

Roy Allison spoke of Russia’s war of choice against Ukraine and its people. This went directly against the UN Charter, globally accepted principles, sovereignty, and the world and European security order. This explained the extraordinary level of support for Ukraine. There were many unanswered questions about the future, and the wider reaction to Russian revisionism and revanchism.

Jonathan Holslag examined the role of China: how would Russia’s invasion of Ukraine affect Chinese thinking about and planning for policy towards Taiwan.

In discussion there were many points about the NATO role. There was mainly a coalition of the willing under the broad NATO umbrella/consensus. NATO was built on interests, but above all on VALUES: this was strength. 

David Madden (Chair, SEESOX Steering Committee)

Thursday, 1 December 2022

Turkey: After Erdoğan?

On 23 November 2022 SESSOX held a panel called “Turkey: After Erdoğan?” that focused on what awaits Turkey if Erdoğan is voted out of power in the coming presidential and parliamentary elections, which will be held no later than June 2023. The event was chaired by Dimitar Bechev (Oxford School of Global and Area Studies) and the speakers were Sinan Ciddi (Marine Corps University) and William Park (King's College London).

Sinan Ciddi started by explaining why it is important to ask this question now and provided the background to the elections. He stated that this is the third time that President Erdoğan is running for presidency but his abilities to get re-elected are at its lowest. This is because of the growing resentment and anger among Turkish citizens due to exceptionally high inflation rates (officially 85%, but 150-160% according to non-governmental sources) and the devaluation of the Turkish lira against the USD and the Euro. Turkish society is also highly polarized, and the current government does not seem positioned or inclined to set the country back onto an even political and economic keel. Ciddi commented that the country has also become an isolated and distrusted country among its traditional partners and allies. Developments such as the negotiations with regards to the proposed NATO-accession of Finland and Sweden and the acquiring of Russian military and intelligence technologies compound the country’s international reputation, which in turn impacts the country’s economy. He then highlighted the erosion of the judiciary system, the lack of rule of law and the difficulty of governability with the presidential system. Against this background, he suggested that the requirement of achieving 50+1% of votes – a system that President Erdoğan designed himself - might be a challenge for him in these elections although he is re-gaining some support that he has lost.

Monday, 21 November 2022

Globalizing the Greek-Turkish 1922: Displacements, population movements and the coming of the national state

On 15 November 2022, the European Studies Centre, in cooperation with SEESOX, hosted an event marking the centenary of the conclusion of the Greek-Turkish War in Asia Minor. Titled Globalizing the Greek-Turkish 1922: displacements, population movements and the coming of the national state, the discussion was chaired by Faisal Devji (St Antony’s College). The speakers were Georgios Giannakopoulos (City University, London), (University of Leeds), and Marilena Anastasopoulou (Pembroke College, Oxford).

Giannakopoulos’ presentation focussed on the population exchanges between Greece and Turkey in the aftermath of the Greek-Turkish War. His guiding question was whether the Greek expansionist project was an effort to protect Greek populations, or an imperialist venture. The motivations behind the post-war settlement were a “unique blend” of imperialist, nationalist, and internationalist imageries, with various figures representing different faces of the endeavour: Nansen as the humanitarian, Curzon as the imperialist, and Venizelos as the nationalist.

At the same time, he situated the developments in Greece and Turkey within a broader international context. The “Global 1922,” he pointed out, included a number of state-forming events, such as Egypt’s declaration of independence, the creation of an Irish Free State, and the official establishment of the USSR. The infamous March on Rome also happened in the same year. According to Western commentators like Toynbee, disquiet in Asia Minor threatened the West with a new kind of “Moral Balkanisation.” However, the presenter argued that this global perspective challenges myths of Western homogeneity.

Giannakopoulos concluded that the Treaty of Lausanne was not a departure from previous treaties but the logical conclusion of the politics of territoriality. Lausanne, he said, proposed 19th century solutions to 20th century problems, but would simultaneously become a template for resolving minority issues in the future. As Frank would detail in his presentation, authoritarian countries such as Germany, Italy, and the USSR drew inspiration from Greece and Turkey, though they did not study Lausanne closely as a legal precedent.

Monday, 14 November 2022

Diaspora engagement in times of severe crisis: A European comparative perspective

On Tuesday 8 November 2022, SEESOX, in cooperation with the European Studies Centre, convened a discussion entitled Diaspora engagement in times of severe crisis: A European comparative perspective, with Othon Anastasakis (Director, European Studies Centre) and Manolis Pratsinakis (COMPAS, Oxford) appearing as speakers. Contributing author Irina Laphsyna (Ukrainian Catholic University) delivered a presentation on her chapter, and Maria Koinova (University of Warwick) offered her comments on the volume. The event was convened on the occasion of the publication of the new book Diaspora engagement in times of severe economic crisis: Greece and beyond (2022, Palgrave Macmillan) by Othon Anastasakis, Manolis Pratsinakis, Foteini Kalantzi, and Antonis Kamaras.

The driving question of the new book is: how do severe economic crises impact diaspora-homeland relations? The present volume addresses this question by exploring diaspora engagement in Greece during the protracted post-2009 eurozone crisis. It looks at the crisis as a critical juncture in Greece’s relations with its nationals abroad. The contributors explore aspects of diaspora engagement, including transnational mobilisation, homeland reform, the role of diasporic institutions, crisis driven migration, alongside comparisons with other countries in Europe.

Anastasakis began the discussion with a general overview of the work. He situated the new wave of Greek emigration within the context of the 2009 economic crisis, the sharpest decline the country has seen since the 1930s. With a 25% decline in GDP and unemployment reaching 27%, the country introduced severe austerity measures. What followed was a wave of outward migration and severe brain drain, as public trust in the system plummeted.

He then outlined several sub-questions within the book. Firstly, to what extent, and in which areas, was the crisis a cut-off point and the catalyst for different modes of diasporic engagement? Secondly, what types of engagement do we identify and how do these differ from the pre-crisis ones? Thirdly, did the crisis result in missed opportunities or even disengagement between homeland and particular diaspora actors and cohorts? Finally, was the Greek crisis an exceptional and unique case, or is it generalisable and relevant to other similar or parallel interactions of homeland-diaspora engagement in Europe during the years of the financial crisis?

Friday, 17 June 2022

Free: Coming of Age at the end of History with Lea Ypi

On 13 June 2022 SEESOX was delighted to host Lea Ypi (London School of Economics), a professor of political theory at London School of Economics and the author of the much acclaimed book Free: Coming of age at the end of history. The event was chaired by Ezgi Başaran (St Antony’s College), and the discussants were Othon Anastasakis (St Antony’s College) and Paul Betts (St Antony’s College). Free tells the story of Ypi as a little girl, growing up in Albania as the country transitions from communism to a free market economy.

After Başaran’s introduction of the author and the book, Lea Ypi read the first few pages to the audience and then provided some historical context. She explained that the part she read takes place in December 1990 - one year after the fall of the Berlin Wall and that one of the reasons why Albania was not immediately touched by the events taking place in other parts of Eastern Europe at the time was the fact that it had a peculiar communist history, namely a history that made it believe that it was the only truly communist country in the world. This self-understanding was derived from being one of the two countries in Europe – the other one being Yugoslavia - that had liberated from the Nazi fascist occupation without help from either the Allies or the Soviets. The idea of living in a country that stands up to super powers had a central role in the main character’s identity as a child as well, believing that she is part of the only truly free country in the world because all of the others have sold out. Yet, during the time in which the changes in Western Europe reach Albania and economic protests turn into political protests, the character discovers via different responses to the protests that the two points of view that she has always assumed were somehow aligned with each other – the one of her family and the state – were in fact pulling in opposite directions. This occasion triggers a re-visiting of all other occasions of unalignment and turns into a coming of age story of the discovery of truth about freedom and non-freedom in which the character has lived both as it applies to her family and the state. At the same time, the process of self-discovery and trying to understand what freedom actually is characterizes not just the character but the country as well. Freedom, which is the central concept that animates all of the dialogues and conflicts in the book, often appears as an ideal, as an illusion and disillusionment. Through the relationships between the child and the parents, and the parents and the society, the book portrays different understandings of freedom at play, both from an institutional perspective as it is captured by the respective ideologies of two different systems, but also as a kind of moral ideal that people still believe in regardless of how it is actually captured by these different ideologies. The author noted that the reason why she chose this format, with a lot of dialogue and conflict within and between characters, was to draw attention to the agency of people, which they exercise by making moral decisions and trying to find the truth even in very constrained and oppressive regimes.