Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Archaeology of Refugee Crises in Greece: Diachronic Cultural Landscapes

Since we returned from the field in the summer of 2015, a number of archaeologists have been brainstorming on the appropriate response to the refugee crisis in Greece. Since March 2016, when the northern borders closed, Greece has been creating camps scattered throughout abandoned sites. Effectively, we have the transformation of archaeological sites of abandoned modernity converted into residential camps of postmodernity. Survey archaeologists have been studying Greece's contingent countryside through a variety of methods (remote sensing, surface survey, ethnography, etc.) Greece's new camps should now be submitted under the scrutiny of this cultural geography. In my little sketch, for example, you see the juxtaposition of Camp Koutshochero and Mandra, a village built in 1922 to house Greek refugees from Cappadocia. Koutsochero is being evacuated as we speak, as the United Emirates have committed to building 200 permanent houses. There has been a lot of unrest (once again) with the relocation of the 1,000 current residents. Although a moving target, shifting day-to-day, I have been trying to apply remote sensing and some rudimentary research to document some of these sites. I am not sure if this is going to work. 

The conversation over camps will continue at the 2017 Annual Conference of the Society of Historical Archaeology in a session organized by Chris Mathews, "The Archaeology of Care: Rethinking Priorities in Archaeological Engagement." I have submitted this abstract: 

The Archaeology of Refugee Crises in Greece: Diachronic Cultural Landscapes

The escalation of the Syrian Civil War caused a refugee crisis in Greece as thousands of people crossed the Aegean, leading to tragic loss of life. When Balkan neighbors closed their borders in 2016, some 50,000 migrants and refugees were trapped in Greece. The country responded by a dispersing this population throughout the country in new camps over abandoned sites like army camps, tourist resorts, commercial spaces, gymnasia, fair grounds, and even archaeological sites. Using lessons from the archaeology of the contemporary world, we apply remote sensing, media analysis, and limited field observation to document camps in real time and to address ephemeral urbanism. Refugee camps have been a permanent reality in Greece for a century. The paper also considers camps from the 1912-14 Balkan Wars, the 1922 Asia Minor Catastrophe, World War II, and the Greek Civil War and outlines a comparative archaeology of crisis.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States