In February 2007, a small one-day colloquium with the title 'Questioning Greek Exceptionalism' was put together by Effie Rentzou, Constanze Güthenke and Dimitris Papanikolaou, held at Princeton and including speakers from the US, from England, and from Greece; as it turned out, this was the first event of what became an exploratory research project jointly funded in the framework of the Oxford Princeton Joint Research Partnership which the two universities run together. At the 2007 MGSA symposium held at Yale last October, we offered a panel under the same title, during which we presented some of the issues, questions, and themes that had arisen from that colloquium, and from the subsequent discussion it had generated. One of our aims, from the outset, had been to encourage dialogue and a discussion beyond the spatial and temporal confines of conferences, and to this end we to introduce an electronic forum, where we hope to publish contributions so as to reach and engage with a wider audience and stimulate new discussion.
The format is a publicly accessible (though not currently interactive) website, on which response pieces can be posted on
on this website you can find the introductory text presented at the MGSA panel, co-authored by Constanze Güthenke and Dimitris Papanikolaou; in addition, we have posted the two individual short position papers that made up the reminder of the panel.
At this stage we want to focus first on exceptionalist discourses as they produce knowledge and as they operate within Modern Greek Studies, i.e. within its institutions and discourses; at a later stage we hope to address how they operate in public perception and popular culture. We know that it is often very difficult to keep these two apart, though, and we look forward to comments on how exceptionalism operates as part of Greek self-perception as you may have studied it. Yet this will also be the specific topic of a future discussion within this project.
We also include a couple of leading questions, which we hope might be helpful. This is, of course, by no means intended as a questionnaire, nor are we looking for point-by-point replies; rather, we are hoping to give space to essays and opinion pieces that reflect different fields and approaches. We would be delighted if you were able to contribute to this project. (The copyright, of course, remains yours, and will be indicated that way on the website.)
If you would also like to contribute, please be in contact either with Dimitris Papanikolaou (email@example.com) Constanze Güthenke (firstname.lastname@example.org), or, especially for technical questions, Kostas Skordyles (email@example.com).
We look forward very much to opening out the discussion beyond the conference room. We will begin posting materials as they reach us, but we hope very much that we can do so by May 15.
Do you believe that exceptionalist arguments and frames of inquiry have been prominent in Modern Greek Studies? Are there examples from your own disciplinary perspective?
If you feel that a certain exceptionalist rhetoric regarding Modern Greece has been a tendency in your field, what are its most obvious past and/or current manifestations?
Have you encountered exceptionalism as part of Greek self-perception such as you may have studied it?
What have been the gains of exceptionalist modes of enquiry so far, and what are their advantages and/or relative disadvantages?
Do you believe that, especially in US academia, the inclusion of Modern Greece within 'area studies' has encouraged exceptionalist arguments, and if so, to what extent was this countereffective?
What is the relationship between being an exception and being an example? Are they related?
What are the possible advantages of assuming the exceptional? What are productive approaches to singularity?
How do narratives of excellence and of singularity operate, and what kind of knowledge do they enable or limit?
What models of comparison are current, or future desirables, in your field?
Do you think the study of Greece has generated or contributed to new models of comparison in your field?