1) First, I'm deeply honored to have been invited by Artemis Leontis and Vassilis Lambropoulos, a couple whom I know only by their scholarly reputation and their spectacular contribution to one of the best Modern Greek Studies Program in the United States. I still remember Fall Break 2004, when I first read Leontis' Topographies of Hellenism: Mapping the Homeland (Ithaca, 1995), still one of my top-three favorite books on the Modern Greek predicament. Leontis' book helped align my thinking into the direction that conlcuded with the paper I'll be presenting. One of the pleasures of academia is meeting people you have admired on print.
2) Michigan had been one of the fountains of medieval archaeology, initially under the leadership of George H. Forsyth, Jr. Interestingly enough, my paper deals with Forsyth's contributions to archaeology in the 1930s and last year, I was the Forsyth annual speaker of the Archaeological Institute of America. Michigan also pioneered the discipline of Islamic archaeology in the U.S. Michigan's excavations of Qasr Al-Hayr East is where my mentor Renata Holod received her archaeological training.
3) During my graduate-school years at Penn (late 90s, early 00s), Michigan was a powerhouse of Mediterranean archaeology. My own graduate program, Art and Archaeology of the Mediterranean World, saw Michigan as a direct rival for prestige and graduate students. During this golden period, Michigan trained some of the best archaeologists in the field. Bryan Burns, Robert Caldwell, Jeremy Hartnett,Veronica Kalas, Camilla MacKay, Amy Papalexandrou, Adam Rabinowitz, Jane Rempel, Ann Marie Yasin are some of my good friends, scholars of Michigan's making. With so many alum friends, I look forward to visit the mothership.
4) Last but not least, I'm psyched to visit Ann Arbor as a punk rock pilgrimage to the city of Iggy Pop and the Stooges. James Newell Osterberg (Iggy Pop) was born at the town of Ypsilanti in 1947. He grew up at the Coachville trailer park on Carpenter Road ( 42°14'20.06"N, 83°40'40.17"W). Believe it or not, Ypsilanti was named after Demetrios Ypsilantis, the brother of the more famous Alexandros Ypsilantis, both heroes of the Greek War of Independence. I find it most fitting to celebrate November 17 in a town named Ypsilanti and pay tribute to the godfather of punk in front of Demetrios Ypsilantis' statue at the city's water tower building, between a Greek and an American flag. Iggy Pop attended Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor (42°15'46.37"N, 83°45'14.30"W) where he met Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton and Dave Alexander, who formed the Stooges in 1967.
On my commute to Connecticut College this week, I happened to play an odd sequence of CDs, Marika Ninou and Vasilis Tsitsanis rembetika (1966) and the Stooges' first album (1969). Paradoxically they seemed to belong together, part of a similar universe. And then, I reviewed some of my notes on Iggy Pop's performance style (see left), including live footage from the documentary Punk Attitude (2005). While preparing my Michigan lecture, I also got a chance to review some paintings by Greek modernists (Photis Kontoglou 1930 painting on the right) and Byzantine artifacts (12th-c sgraffito plate excavated in Corinth, see top). I was struck by some subtle aesthetic similarities. Is Iggy Pop a kind of Byzantine ascetic? a naked bedecked Cynocephalus ("I Want to Be Your Dog")? a rock mosaic in drag? I leave you with this to think about. Juxtapose glam rock with the mosaic of Justinian and Theodora at San Vitale in Ravenna and you're there. To fully appreciate Iggy's ascetic stage performance, we should also consider Bob Dylan's masquerades, and Jim Morrison's antics.
A lucky friend of mine saw Iggy Pop perform at the open theater at Lycabettos in Athens more than a decade ago. He reported all kinds of rowdy fan behavior, throwing refrigerators from the stands, stage-diving, etc. From Ypsilanti Michigan to Athens is a long journey. Seeing Iggy Pop glowing under the Greek moon might have revealed some of his Byzantine undercurrents. I'm thrilled that my introduction to Ann Arbor will happen through the thematic cross-road between Byzantium and bohemia. Michigan's generous invitation will also allow me to experience the specific postindustrial landscape that rooted punk in midwestern soil (enough about New York and London). Unfortunately, there won't be enough time to also visit Detroit and explore another its rich punk poetics from MC5 to the White Stripes, not to mention the literary avant-garde of Jeffrey Eugenides.