Conference - June 22-23, 2018

Homeland-Diaspora Relations in Flux

Greece and Greeks abroad at times of Crisis

St Antony's College, University of Oxford.

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Presenting paper

Castellorizo and its diaspora in Australia: Traumatic memories and divergent identities

This paper explores diaspora-homeland relations through a focus at the micro-level of an ethnoregional diaspora, namely Castellorizians living in Australia (widely known as ‘Cazzies’) and at their relationship with their ancestral homeland, Castellorizo. Castellorizians migrated to Australia in large numbers during the second and third decades of the 20c as a result of political and economic crises which befell their homeland. The last wave of their migration to Australia occurred after World War II, when Castellorizo had been used as a military base by the Allies and suffered destruction from bombing. During this period some Castellorizians lived as refugees in Palestine and suffered a shipwreck upon their return to Castellorizo at the end of the war. I look at the different ways in which islander and diaspora Castellorizians have handled the traumatic memories of that crisis. More specifically, I show how diaspora Castellorizians in Australia and their descendants have forged a sense of collective myth and identity around the tragic event of the shipwreck. These Castellorizians have endeavoured to memorialize the defining and traumatic event of their war and refugee experience and of the ensuing shipwreck through ritual, as well as in print and in digital form, and to disseminate information about it in the Australian media, presenting it as part of Australian civic history. However, for shipwrecked Castellorizians who returned to live on the island, this event has not functioned in the same, identity-creating way. This shared traumatic past has rendered diaspora Castellorizians sensitive to the ordeals suffered by their islander compatriots and has urged them to “give back to the island of their forebears.” Thus this paper also explores the ways in which postmemory of the shipwreck crisis has prompted economic and cultural exchanges between islander and diaspora Castellorizians over the past thirty years or so.

Author bio

Vassiliki Chryssanthopoulou studied Classics at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (1982) and subsequently at Oxford, U.K. (M. Phil. (1984), D.Phil in Social Anthropology (1993)). Her doctorate examined ethnic identity among Greeks from Castellorizo, Greece, settled in Perth, Australia. A researcher at the Hellenic Folklore Research Centre of the Academy of Athens (2004-2010), she has taught at the Universities of the Aegean, of Ioannina, the Greek Open University (2011-2018) and the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (2011-2018), where she is Assistant Professor in Folklore Studies in the Department of Philology. She has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Greece, among diaspora Greeks (in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S.A.) and among migrants in Greece. Her research interests include migration and diaspora studies, religion, ritual and symbolism, local and ethnic identity and its inter- and trans-generational transmission, internet ethnography, oral history and literature, and folk and popular culture in globalizing contexts. She has published widely, producing a monograph on Sites of Memory in Castellorizian Migration and Diaspora (Papazisis Editions, Athens 2017, in Greek). As a Fulbright Scholar, in affiliation with the University of South Florida – St. Petersburg (Dec. 2015-March 2016), she conducted research in Tarpon Springs, Florida, on the effects of the Greek crisis upon the diasporic identities of Greek Americans originating from the Dodecanese, with emphasis on their transnational relationships with Greece.
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