Lecture to delve into violence in Greece

The Annual Sam Nakis Memorial Lecture in Greek Culture, “Democracy and Violence in Greek Society,” will be presented by Michael Herzfeld at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 23 in Century Room A, Millennium Student Center at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Michael Cosmopoulos, the Hellenic Government Karakas Family Endowed Professor of Greek Studies at UMSL, will give his annual report on his research prior to the lecture. A reception will start at 7 p.m.

Herzfeld, professor of anthropology at Harvard University in Boston, will discuss the sporadic outbreaks of violence in Greece stemming from a confluence of global ideologies that contest the power of the state on the one hand and local values of agonistic masculinity on the other. The downing of a police helicopter by Cretan villagers, for example, exemplifies what appears to be the breakdown (or at least the deformation) of a “traditional” code of masculine self-sufficiency, while rioting in the

streets of Athens suggests contempt for institutions that were once deeply and widely respected.

Rather than appealing to such nostalgic “explanations,” however, the speaker will instead show how the bureaucratic state – which has consistently countenanced the

persistence of practices that its officials decry as “corruption” –  has also created the conditions that perpetuate and even enlarge the scope of aggressive politics and the privileging of “civil” over “civic” values. In this context, ideals of both “modern” democracy and “traditional” masculinity provide a way of framing popular disgust with a system that allows leaders to profit from the very ills they are supposed to be engaged in stamping out. But these ideals are often accompanied by forms of protest that play into the hands of the same leaders and that therefore, with the complicity of the political leadership, subvert hopes of reform.

Herzfeld has conducted field research in Greece, Italy and Thailand on topics that include the social impact and political implications of historic conservation and gentrification, the social dynamics of nationalism and bureaucracy, and the ethnography of knowledge among artisans and intellectuals. He has written 10 books and was recently appointed to the International Advisory Board of the National Research Foundation of Korea. He is currently working on a film and a book about his Bangkok work.

A parking permit is required for all visitors to UMSL.

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