Modern Greek Studies Association

Call for papers for a special section of the Journal of Modern Greek Studies

Ruins in Contemporary Greek Art, Cinema, Literature, and Public Space

Guest editors:

Maria Boletsi (Leiden University & University of Amsterdam)

Ipek A. Celik Rappas (Koç University)

The concept of ruins accompanies Greece in its modern history. Material ruins have often functioned as ‘proof’ of the nation’s continuity from ancient to modern times and stressed the centrality of the Classical heritage in the modern nation’s identity. In certain periods, e.g., during European Romanticism, ruins metaphorically also denoted the rift between the classical ideal and modern Greek reality. The latter link of ruins with the state of modern Greece has recently assumed new dimensions: the association of material ruins with the cultural capital of the Classical heritage has been intertwined with a metaphorical association of ruins with the consequences of the Greek economic crisis. 

The metaphors of ruins and rebuilding have been central in the Greek and foreign media during the crisis. Just a few of countless examples: Wall Street correspondent James Angelos titled his book on the roots of the financial crisis of 2009 The Full Catastrophe: Travels Among the New Greek Ruins. And a recent New York Times article titled “Athens, Rising” (June 18, 2018) evokes ruins in a narrative of revival, presenting the city as “emerging from the wreckage as one of Europe’s most [...] vibrant cultural capitals.”

The crisis has also generated or drawn attention to other kinds of material ruins. Images of ruins in contemporary Greek literature, film and art often depict the material consequences of the financial crisis in urban spaces. The Olympic village or abandoned buildings that once had commercial or industrial uses often form the background of interactions in these works. Urban ruins are not only signifiers of decay and desolation. They sometimes become the ‘canvas’ for creative projects and artistic interventions (e.g., through street art) that mobilize ruins to articulate alternative narratives of the present. Ruins in cities but also in the Greek periphery – in villages and borderlands – can participate in subaltern narratives or radical imaginaries that rupture nationalist paradigms or invite new modes of engaging with archives of the past. They can also become commercialized (e.g., in the context of crisis-tourism) or reconfigured into fashionable objects in an (industrial) aesthetics of imperfection. The traditional functions of classical ruins are also contested in recent works of literature, art, and cinema that rethink the relation between ancient ruins and present subjectivities, explore the affects ruins transmit, view “ancient ruins through the ruins of the neoliberal order” (Lambropoulos) or thematize the destruction of sacred ruins.

This special issue aims to trace the multiple representations and the social, political, cultural and affective functions of – literal and metaphorical – ruins in contemporary Greek public space, literature, cinema, art, and popular culture, ruins that range from monuments and antiquities to vestiges of disaffected zones such as derelict factories, abandoned hotels, the deserted Olympic village or abandoned sites and villages in the Greek periphery.

Among the questions the special section wishes to address are:

We invite contributions and request a proposal in the form of an abstract (in English) of 350-400 words for articles of between 6,000 and 9,000 words by January 15, 2019. Abstracts should be submitted electronically to both Maria Boletsi and Ipek A. Celik Rappas ([email protected] and [email protected]).

The deadline for submitting papers to the guest editors is July 1, 2019.

All papers will be submitted to the JMGS and will go through the standard review process.

Contributions should comply with the JMGS style sheet.