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Monday, 26 February 2018

(Ir)regular states of migration: Contested sovereignties on Europe’s margins

On Wednesday, 21 February Katerina Rozakou (University of Amsterdam) presented her paper ‘(Ir)regular states of migration: Contested sovereignties on Europe’s margins’. Franck Duvell (University of Oxford) acted as discussant. Rozakou’s presentation provided critical insights on sovereign power and state bureaucracies focusing on a moment of rupture –the “European migration crisis” and the “Greek crisis”. Rozakou provided a detailed ethnographic account of the situation in Lesbos island in the summer of 2015, in the midst of both “crises”, examining the role of state, supra-state, and non-state agents in governing irregular migration. In late August 2015, there was a backlog of 20,000 unrecorded border-crossers who were stranded on Lesvos, camped in parks, playgrounds, the port, sidewalks and on the streets. There were demonstrations where border-crossers pleaded to be allowed to get off the island. Border-crossers lit fires near the camps and on the outskirts of town. Their frustration targeted NGO and INGO personnel for failing to provide the aid foreseen in their mandates. Moreover, in the first weeks of the summer 2015 police officers and border-crossers alike accused the state but, by mid-summer, the UNHCR had acquired a status parallel to that of the sovereign state. And, like the state, the UNHCR was also considered absent. 

Greek to Me: A Memoir of Academic Life

Richard Clogg witnessed the 1967 coup in Greece, while living in Athens and researching modern Greek history. He then went on a joint appointment at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies and King’s College, London: becoming Professor of Modern Balkan History at the latter. During this time he published his controversial book on Arnold Toynbee and the Koraes Chair, before moving to St Antony’s as a Senior Research Fellow (and then Emeritus Fellow). Greek to Me focusses on the secretive fields of academia and university politics, as well as providing unique eyewitness accounts of modern Greek history.

Peter Mackridge commented that the book was written with trademark gusto and humour. It was highly topical in providing insights into Universities and academic freedoms, and the difficulties for those investigating controversial subjects: and appeared at a time when the marketization of higher education represented a threat to academic standards.

Stathis Kallivas described the book as a page-turner. It was fascinating on Clogg’s discovery of Greece and experience of academic politics. Central themes were academic funding, and criticism of constraints on freedom emanating from donors; and the lively turf battles between academics. He paid tribute to Clogg’s eye-opening books about Greece, in particular the Concise History, and the Short History, and the imaginative use of images and illustrations to convey themes and ideas.

Richard Clogg quoted approvingly from Ranke: ”History should describe events as they actually were”; and also from Kissinger “Academic politics are so vicious because the stakes are so low.” He described the extraordinary secretiveness of the London University archives: for example, the minutes of the Board of Studies were effectively closed for a hundred years.

Discussion centred in particular on the openness of Greece to works by foreign historians, whose credentials for writing about the country were readily accepted. Clogg and his writings had played a major role in this.

David Madden (St Antony's College)

Monday, 19 February 2018

Contesting Greekness: Soviet Greek migrants and the Pontic identity

At a seminar on February 14th, 2018, Manolis Pratsinakis (Onassis Foundation Research Fellow at the Department of Politics and International Relations, St Antony’s College, Oxford) presented his forthcoming paper titled ‘Contesting Greekness: Soviet Greek migrants and the Pontic identity’. The event was chaired by Othon Anastasakis (Director of SEESOX, St Antony’s College, Oxford).

How do minority groups shape their identity and make claims for national belongingness in an attempt to strive for national recognition? Dr. Pratsinakis started his presentation by critically engaging with the existing literature and overcoming the essentialism of classical assimilation, cultural pluralism, and integration theories, as well as the barriers of the constructivism of transnationalism and hybridity theories. Building on the literature on everyday nationalism and on ethnicity and categorization, he explained that migrant groups reconstruct their identity through the negation of externally determined ethnic labels and through the selective redefinition of others in an attempt to gain national acceptance and to prove their belongingness in the nation.

Drawing on rich data that derive from his ethnographic research conducted in Nikopoli, a working-class neighborhood in Thessaloniki where the author lived for 14 months (2007-2009), Pratsinakis’ research aims to throw light on immigrant-native relations, putting emphasis on processes of identification. While focusing on the case of the Greeks from the former Soviet Union (FSU), Pratsinakis explained the reasons why and the processes through which FSU Greeks became ‘Pontians’ by altering their self-identification following their immigration to their perceived national home.

Berlin Process: A bridge between the Western Balkans and the EU?

Tobias Flessenkemper agreed with the term bridge. Chancellor Merkel had launched the initiative after Juncker had effectively ruled out early moves towards EU accession by the Western Balkans, Russian action in the Crimea, and major protests in BiH as a result of recession. She had revived inter-governmentalism and regional cooperation as tools for making progress.

Goran Svilanovic also agreed that the Berlin Process filled a yawning gap. It encouraged cooperation in the region on free trade in services, harmonisation of investment related services, free movement of labour and encouragement for international roaming.

Spyros Economides commented that the security agenda tended to sound old-fashioned, but the issues still existed and wording needed to be updated. Security meant also development, prosperity and resilience, as well as conflict-prevention, reconciliation and defences against organised crime and corruption. The UK needed to be kept interested and involved in all this, despite Brexit.

James Ker-Lindsay said that beyond the security agenda, there was little to bind the UK with the Western Balkans. Only 65,000 from the region lived in the UK, trade was low, and Ministerial attention in the context of Brexit was mainly focussed elsewhere (US, China, India).

Andrew Page confirmed that as a major security player the UK had a strong interest in South East Europe. All forms of crime and trafficking and Russian meddling had an impact on the UK, and were priorities for the National Security Council. The Summit in London in July 2018 was a major event, and the plan was to develop policy on a multi-year basis, as part of the UK’s economic, security and political agenda.

Monday, 12 February 2018

The Greco-German Affair in the Euro Crisis: Mutual Recognition Lost?

On 7 February 2018, the fourth SEESOX Core Seminar in the Hilary Term was a presentation of The Greco-German Affair in the Euro Crisis: Mutual Recognition Lost?, by the authors, Claudia Sternberg (UCL), Kira Gartzou-Katsouyanni (LSE), and Kalypso Nicolaidis (St Antony’s). Discussants, all from St Antony’s, were Mehmet Karli, Adis Merdzanovic and Manolis Pratsinakis. The session was chaired by Jonathan Scheele.

Sternberg explained that their approach was to look at how we Europeans live together within the EU, through the lens of one of the most highly charged bilateral relationships of the crisis - between Greeks and Germans - and focusing on the war of images and stories, of mutual representations in the media. The book looked at how each side imagined and represented the other during the course of the crisis, how in that process they also re-imagined themselves, and how this transformed the picture of Europe as a whole. And what all this did to mutual recognition – a foundation of demoi-cracy. For the authors, the crisis cast a merciless light on the tensions between aspiration for, and denials of, mutual recognition. Their conclusion was however one of hope – behind all the problems, both sides were deeply engaged with each other and this engagement fed back into a reshaping of their images of the other and of themselves, leading to the re-emergence of a common collective.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Energy and geopolitics in the Eastern Mediterranean

Speakers: Constantinos Filis (Panteion University) and Vassilis Kappis (University of Buckingham)

Energy and geopolitics in the Eastern Mediterranean (EM). Dr Vassilis Kappis (University of Buckingham) and Dr Constantinos Filis (Panteion University).

This seminar, chaired by Ezgi Basaran, comprised two distinct presentations, with only implicit overlap apart from the regional commonality. Dr Kappis looked at big power rivalry in the region, while Dr Filis examined prospects for energy exports.

Dr Kappis quoted de Blij to postulate that geopolitics is the interplay among geography, power, politics and international relations. A branch of political geography in essence, it considers the strategic value of land and sea in the pursuit of national interests and influence. In Mackinder’s theory, who controls the heartland controls the world island, while Spykman argued that who controls the Rimland controls the continent; he is regarded as the godfather of containment.

Post-cold war the West was dominant over Rimland. NATO had absolute control over the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as further east. The Gulf War and NATO’s eastward expansion, most recently with the inclusion of Montenegro in 2016, demonstrated this. The Bush doctrine, post-9/11, intensified the push to the east; this was a “unilateral moment” in international politics, emphasizing pre-emptive wars in the view that deterrence alone was not adequate.