This posting is a review of Dimitris Plantzos, “Archaeology and Hellenic Identity, 1896-2004: The Frustrated Vision,” pp. 10-30.
The two editors of Singular Antiquity bracket the collection of essays by an introductory and concluding essay. Dimitris Plantzos sets the stage with an introductory chapter that achieves three primary objectives: 1) to provide some real flavor on the relation between antiquities and Greekness, 2) to couch this phenomenon in a wider theoretical context, and, 3) to provide a straightforward history of how Greece changed its relation to history through the 20th century. The essay is provocatively illustrated and carries a sharp dialectical style. Plantzos writes like an intellectual, or a good journalist who weighs his words for poetic imagery. “Notes from oblivion,” “Custodians in neverland,” “The Greekness of our discontent,” “Greek archaeology and the post-colonial blues,” From where we stand…,” the essay’s five subheadings, give a good sense of the Plantzos’ effect and a subtle desire to connect with other texts (like Dostoyevsky,’ Notes from Underground, Joyce Carol Oates’, Neverland, etc.) The text itself is crafted to expand questions rather than answer them, a feature that might frustrate some academic readers, but one that seems perfectly appropriate for the maze of meanings that confines Greek realities.
Plantzos begins his essay with an iconographic analysis of the 2004 Athens Olympics, specifically the opening ceremony choreographed by Dimitris Papaioannou. Other illustrations range from Euro Cup soccer games to Greek-Australian parades. With such interjections from popular and political culture, Plantzos succeeds with the first objective, to provide a palpable flavor of archaeological Greekness. I only have one problem with this objective. While giving focus to
The second objective of the article is to relate the Greek case-study to greater theoretical debates regarding history, reality and representation. Plantzos deploys Foucault (heterotopia), Lacan (gaze), Geertz, as well as Winckelmann, Hamann, Herder and Vico to expand the issues. There is not enough room in the essay, however, to explore these connections more meaningfully. On the other hand, they are not just theoretical spice or gratuitous name-dropping. The discourse promises a thread of connections and invites the attention of an audience for whom these theorists have already been digested into house-hold names. I suspect that such literary critics, art historians, post-colonial theorists and cultural critics are Plantzos’ ideal audience. They represent dominant traditions in the humanities but rarely do they concern themselves with
The third and most straightforward objective is, in my estimation, beautifully handled and seamlessly integrated within the previous two. It is an overview of changing definitions of Greekness in the 20th century. Greeks and non-Greeks alike assume that the nation was consistently defined from the beginning. Plantzos provides a historical overview that should help the non-specialist to navigate through the chapters to follow.
For additional reviews from Singular Antiquity, see here.