F 02:00-05:00 262 Dwinelle Instructor: Maria Kotzamanidou
References to the word “topos”, place, as signifying home and the homeland, whether used in a limited and local, or in a broader, national context, abound in Greek life, literature and culture. From the point of view of anthropology/ethnography, and as the discipline of “refugee studies” has currently expanded its scope, the theoretical perspectives on what constitutes home and homeland seem to fall into three basic ethnographic categories. The first one, known in cultural anthropology as “sedentarism,” focuses on the geographically fixed nature of home as the place providing the individual with a sense of permanence and continuity. As such, it allows for an emotional connectedness with the physical place. In these terms, home provides a unique meaning to life. It promotes a sense of identity bound to the geographical fixity of one’s homeland. It is the place of one’s actual home and the place of “nostos”, of return. From this sedentarist point of view, refugees are often seen as having suffered double trauma, a loss of home and a loss of identity.
The second perspective, the more “cosmopolitan” view, rests on the idea that home can be a movable place. From this perspective, one can be attached, and show emotional allegiance, to more than one places. This view problematizes home as a permanent “topos”. The focus is more on the kinetic nature of home as a modern construct and the possibility that it can be recreated in other places. It includes the metaphorical meaning of diaspora (sowing seeds widely), and of growing in new soil. In this sense, it is the permanence or impermanence of a new home that can effect the individual’s sense of identity. For refugees, identity is continually negotiated as their relationship to places shifts and changes.
There is also a third ethnographic position seeking a more nuanced middle road. This approach, which does not see the above two views as mutually exclusive but as collaborative, focuses on both, the need for stability and for motion. Moreover, this view points to the adaptability of the individual and the desire to recreate the lost home. Also, it focuses on the complexity of home as a concept of a place internalized. As such, it can underscore both its temporal dimensions as well as the displaced subject’s emotional bonds. These bonds manifest themselves in the nostalgia evoked by the lost home, a place longed for, a place of desire, and in its reconstruction in memory. It is through this ethnographic position that we can also acknowledge the serious role of imagination. Here, imagination is called forth to reinforce not so much the bond of the individual to the sense of place as to his/her connection with a creative sense of autonomy and subjectivity.
In this course, through a selection of novels, a variety of theoretical approaches, and historical material, we will examine the idea of “topos” as a defining concept in the literary constructions of home and homeland.
All Greek literary texts are also available in English translation.
History and theory are in English. Films have English subtitles.