Sunday, May 17, 2009

Colonizing the Past

Macedonia square in central Skopje has been at the centre of disputes over the planned construction of a church. But, as it has recently been revealed, the municipal authority of Skopje has even more ambitious plans over the city's central public space. As the daily Dnevnik has revealed, no expense has been spared in the city's intervention to give character to the square; Fonderia Artistica Ferdinando Marinelli, located in Florence, Italy, has been secretly hired to make statues of figures that are central in Macedonian national narrative. Apart from a monumental statue of Alexander the Great riding his horse Bucephalus which, together with its 10 metre high pedestal will reach 22 metres, statues of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, and of Czar Samuil as well as a host of Macedonian revolutionaries and politicians are planned to be positioned in the square.
This ‘excess’ of history in one public space is something that begs closer investigation. It certainly constitutes an attempt to imprint in space a particular historical narrative, a narrative that attempts to bring and suture together and seamlessly a host of pasts, some of which are contested by Macedonia’s neighbours. The narrative attempts to construct a sense of continuity and equivalence of moments from distinct eras.

Starting from the contested Macedonianness of Alexander the Great, moving on to the equally problematic ethnic or national origin – at a time when nations did not exist - of the Byzantine emperor Justinian and of Czar Samuil who is claimed by both Bulgarians and Macedonians as their own and culminating into the incorporation of personalities that played a role in the construction of modern Macedonian nationhood, the narrative has been criticized as both expensive and controversial – some even argue incendiary.
But what is interesting is the effort that has been invested in such an enterprise, an effort that hints that the past that is being constructed is not straightforward as it is intended to look and probably reflects a present that is ridden with anxiety and societal insecurity, a present that is marked by the ruling coalition’s attempt to establish its hegemony over a society that is deeply divided in terms of where it is moving towards. In some ways, this obsession with the past hides a preoccupation with the present and the future of Macedonian society … .

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Greek-Turkish Encounters Series

Tuesday 19 May 2009, 18.00, Spyros Sofos (Senior Research Fellow, Kingston University): From Empire to nation: Space and landscape in the Greek and Turkish nation building projects.

Venue: SOAS, 22 Russell Square, Room T102.

The Greek-Turkish Encounters Series is series of lectures and events organised by the Department of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, at King’s, and the Turkish Studies Programme, at SOAS. The aim of this series is to explore and bring to the fore points of contact between Greek and Turkish cultures in an atmosphere of critical inquiry. Attendance is open to all.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Round table on Greek and Turkish nationalism

Discussion on the topic of "Nationalism in Greece and Turkey" on the occasion of the publication of the book Το βάσανο της Ιστορίας by Umut Özkırımlı and Spyros A. Sofos.


Lena Divani, associate professor of foreign policy history at the University of Athens, vice president of the Greek Book Centre
Spyros A. Sofos, senior research fellow at the European Research Centre, Kingston University Ioannis Stefanidis, professor of diplomatic history at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Umut Özkırımlı, director of Turkish-Greek Studies at Istanbul Bilgi University - senior research fellow at the Hellenic Observatory, London School of Economics