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Monday 24 June 2019

Generational memory and the resurgence of the past in Southern Europe and Latin America

The Santander conference “Generational Memory and the Resurgence of the Past in Southern Europe and Latin America” took place at the European Studies Centre on 18 June 2019. It focused on the varying ways in which the memory of the transitions matters for society and politics today in Southern Europe and Latin America. Post-authoritarian societies currently face serious political complexities, chief amongst which is the fact that the second or third post-authoritarian generations demand a different social and political contract than the one concluded after the mid-1970s. In Spain, young Catalans challenge the 1978 Spanish constitution, claiming that Franco is back from the grave. In Portugal young people complain that the political class has “betrayed” the values of the 1974 Revolution. The past is returning with a vengeance also in Latin America: in Argentina new generations protest against wrongdoings of the dictatorship period, rejecting the idea of “national reconciliation”, while in Chile the political transition and its masterminds have come under serious attack by students who regard them as a generational breakpoint.

It is precisely on such complex political battles between official and unofficial memory, established history and counter-history, but also various generations defending different versions of the past, that the conference focused. How do political generations in post-authoritarian societies in Southern Europe and Latin America remember the past, and how is this memory constructed? This is one of the key questions that the conference tackled, going back to the initial use of the term “political generation” by Karl Mannheim and its connection to social change. It featured three panels with specialists in history, sociology, anthropology and cultural studies who tackled these issues, focusing mainly on Southern Europe (Spain, Portugal and Greece) and Latin America (Argentina and Chile).

Monday 17 June 2019

Memory wars and war therapies in conflict resolution and peace building

With Dr. Kepa Fernandez de Larrinoa as convenor, and in collaboration with SEESOX, the BASQUE VISITING FELLOW CONFERENCE, on Memory Wars and War Therapies in Conflict Resolution and Peace Building, took place on 14 June. It gathered scholars from Oxford University (Professor Stathis Kalyvas, Lord John Alderdice), University of London (Dr. Jessie Hronešová), Queen’s University Belfast (Professor Dominic Bryan), Oxford Brookes University (Professor Jeremy MacClancy), University of Reno Nevada (Professor Joseba Zulaika) and RMIT University, Melbourne (Research Professor Hariz Halilovich). Speakers presented case studies and perspectives from Northern Ireland (Lord John Alderdice and Dominic Bryan), Bosnia-Herzegovina (Hariz Halilovich and Jessie Hronešová) and the Basque Country (Joseba Zulaika and Jeremy MacClancy). The Conference did not focus only on a comparative approach, but also on interdisciplinarity. Thus, the programme brought together anthropologists, historians and political scientists, who discussed analytical ethnographies of cultural expressions and depictions of political violence, particularly in scenarios where distinctive sociocultural communities come to be involved in the politics of supporting or rejecting the creation of new nation-States.

Three academics from Oxford University moderated the open debates. Dr. Othon Anastasakis (St. Antony’s College) chaired the first panel, on Neighbours, Criminals and Heroes: The Politics of Memory in the Post-War Balkans. Dr. Marc Mulholland (St Catherine's College) chaired the panel on Anthropologies and Psychologies of Visual Displays of Political Violence and Conflict Resolution in Northern Ireland. And Professor Tom Buchanan (Kellogg College) chaired the one on Transcending the Politics of Intimidation in the Basque Country: Political Religions and Cultural Identity in State and Counter-State Violence. Overall, the conference dealt with the politics of war remembering and forgetting, visually and verbally in processes of community healing and social reconciliation. Gladstone Professor of Government Stathis Kalyvas, from the Department of Politics and International Relations and All Souls College (Oxford University) wrapped up the Conference, speaking on theoretical issues, lexicography and analytical categories at stake while studying civil, political and religious violence in inter- and intra-State armed conflicts.

The origin and the impact of labour market institutions in Greece

On 10 June 2019, Daphne Nicolitsas (University of Crete) gave a talk on labour market institutions in Greece, tracing their impact on the loss of competitiveness in the Greek economy and questioning the flexibility of institutions as the labour market reacted with a delay to the downturn in economic activity. David Madden (St Antony’s College, Oxford) acted as the chair.

Labour markets are not frictionless, and dealing with these frictions calls for the establishment of institutions to protect employees from inter alia extreme income volatility. Institutions, Nicolitsas argued, have to be in sync with the context in which they operate however, and thus need to be revised over time. Alternatively, they risk, for example, protecting those who are not in need and delaying the growth process.

The gradual loss in competitiveness in the Greek economy in the years preceding the crisis was not met with institutional reform and likewise there was limited initial reaction of labour markets to the downturn in economic activity. These developments call for an investigation of the role of labour markets institutions in Greece.

The loss in competitiveness became evident in the large deterioration in the current account (the current account deficit as a percent of GDP stood at 15% in 2008) and the increase in unit labour cost at an annual rate of 5% between 2000 and 2008, a rate around three percentage points higher than the EU-15 average. Nicolitsas further added that Greece suffered from structural deficiencies as manifested by, inter alia, the gap between Greece and other EU-15 countries in the ease of doing business and the lack of technological content in Greece’s exports.

Friday 14 June 2019

The diasporas of South East Europe and their role in International Relations

On 12 June, for the 7th consecutive year, Global Strategy Forum invited SEESOX to give a presentation on the region. This drew its inspiration from the Hilary Term seminar series, which constituted a comparative study of the diasporas of South East Europe.

Manolis Pratsinakis described the new South East European diasporas as an outcome of ongoing extended emigration flows from the region over the past three decades. He defined the differing types of migration outflows and explained their historic evolution and their relative size per country of origin. He then linked the data about the migration flows to the demographic profile and the demographic projections of the countries in the region. He also set out the current significance of South East European diasporas, as well as the challenges and opportunities they presented for their respective countries and governments, and for host countries. He highlighted the phenomenon of brain drain; and set migration in the context of free movement within the EU. He concluded on the potential contribution of the South East European diasporas, drawing on examples from the presentations in the SEESOX Hilary Term seminar series.

Foteini Kalantzi continued the comparative focus, with examples of both similarity and dissimilarity. The case of Greece, where emigration resulted from economic crisis, was analysed to show the political participation of Greeks abroad, and specifically their right to vote. The cases of Bosnia and Cyprus illustrated the diversified political engagement of diasporic groups: their activities reflecting a certain readiness to move away from ethnic-nationalist political debates. Members of the Serbian diaspora had often been seen as leaning towards nationalist stances, but recent emigrants showed far more concern for governance issues. In the case of Turkey, internal politics and divisions were reproduced within Turkish communities abroad. The diaspora could be a progressive force seeking peace, reform and resistance to authoritarianism; or a status quo force seeking stability; or a backward force promoting ethnic divisions and nationalistic attitudes.

Tuesday 11 June 2019

7th Annual SEESOX Ambassadors' Forum

On 6 June, in St Antony’s College, Oxford, SEESOX hosted its annual lunch for the Ambassadors of the countries of South East Europe posted in London: the seventh such gathering. A number of topical issues affecting the region were discussed.

In view of the Bulgarian, Romanian and forthcoming Croatian Presidencies of the EU, there was consideration of what the obligations of the rotating Presidency meant for the newer member states of the Union, and how Embassies prepared themselves for these. This led into a discussion of the experiences of longer-term member-states including Austria and Greece.

The successful solution of the Macedonia name dispute was noted and applauded, with an assessment of how the agreement had been reached, and implications for the two countries directly concerned, the region and the EU. This led to a wider discussion of the direction and future of the Union, with a strong focus on the merits of making progress on enlargement. This should not await the prior deepening of the monetary union.

Monday 10 June 2019

Social movements in Greece between past and present

SEESOX co-sponored a conference in Athens on Friday 5 and Saturday 6 April, 2019 at Deree – The American College of Greece. The two-day conference was co-organized by University of Sheffield, University of Exeter, SEESOX, University of Peloponnese, and hosted by The American College of Greece and its Institute of Global Affairs.

Report by Kostis Kornetis
The conference entitled “Greek Social Movements between past and present”, held at DEREE College, Athens, April 5-6, 2019 brought together social scientists, psychologists and anthropologists to discuss grassroots mobilisation in Greece on left and right from 1974 to the present day. It was co-organised by the University of Sheffield, Pierce DEREE Institute, SEESOX, the University of Exeter and the University of the Peloponnese.

The first panel, on “The past and present concept”, adopted a long-term perspective, looking at longer stretches of time to understand current political attitudes, using different approaches and tools: political science, memory studies and social psychology. Marilena Simiti gave a comprehensive story of social activism in Greece between 1974 and 2015, looking at various cycles of protest and changes over time, including a growing transnationalisation of protest, a growing fluidity and heterogeneity of collective identities and non-state centric forms of action. Through an analysis of the student, feminist, ecological, antiglobalisation and square movements, she looked at protest complementing electoral policies. Beginning from the post-junta student movements (bearing the influence of the political parties of the time) the paper ended up with the squares in 2011 that signified a waning of the left-right cleavage and the emergence of a new division between memorandum and anti-memorandum. Eirini Karamouzi and Lamprini Rori combined history with quantitative political science in a longitudinal analysis – in the context of framing theory. The paper brought original questions to the field of anti-Americanism, including how anti-Americanism was linked to pro-Sovietism or pro-Russianism, whether belonging to the Right or Left made a difference, whether party affiliation played a role, and to what extent collective memory over critical events is a driver to adopting an anti-American stance. The paper showed that whereas anti-Americanism was party specific or Left specific until 1993, from then on until 2005 it became widespread. It also argued that collective memory about the past is fading over time. Lastly, the paper by Nikos Takis, Angeliki Skamvetsaki and Vilma Papasavva used tools connected to psychoanalysis and trauma analysis to test the applicability of psychoanalytical theory on the Greek civil war and transgenerational trauma transmission. The paper argued that a resurgence of past trauma occurred during the economic crisis years, boosted and instrumentalised to a large extent by SYRIZA, which insisted on the presence of the memory of the 1940s, using past symbols and frames to polarise.

Friday 7 June 2019

Britain as a model? Turkish politicians’ perceptions of the UK

Dr Yaprak Gürsoy (Aston University), formerly a visiting academic at SEESOX, presented her ongoing research on June 5 2019. Dr Gürsoy’s project is funded by the British Institute at Ankara, an affiliate of the British Academy.

Gürsoy’s research focuses on Turkish politicians’ perceptions of the UK. During the first phase of the project, she carried out extensive elite interviews and analysed the parliamentary minutes of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA). While she presented her initial findings from the years 2011-2015, she noted that she was still continuing with the qualitative content analysis.

Gürsoy underlined that the period between 2011-2015 has been marked by important shifts in Turkish politics. Over this period, the AKP was in government with an overwhelming majority. However, the political climate had begun to change. The Gezi events in 2013 represented an unprecedented level of opposition against the AKP government, while the Syrian civil war and its side-effects on Turkey had affected Turkish politics.

Gürsoy then explained the rationale of the project, indicating that, especially after 2016, Anglo-Turkish relations have gained a new importance. Prime Minister Theresa May visited Ankara, President Erdoğan visited London, and the then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson visited Turkey immediately after the 2016 botched coup attempt. While in the post-2016 period Turkey’s relations with most Western countries had deteriorated, Britain had been the notable exception. Turkey is a country of interest for Britain, especially if Brexit materialises, but Britain is also very important for Turkey for various reasons. The Turkish economy is in a precarious state and the financial sector in London is particularly important for Turkish markets. It is in this context that it is important to examine how Turkish decision-makers perceive Britain. Do they hold a positive or negative view? Which issues dominate their views of Britain?