“From Popular Markets to Family Businesses and to Russian Markets: an Horizontal Economy of the ‘Poor’ as a Survival Strategy of the Returnees from the Former Soviet Union from mid-80s until Today”

This research examines the economic networks of the Greek post-soviet migrants in Thessaloniki and the various ways they affect (and are affected by) mobility and migration practices, as well as the formations and deformations of previous and newer diasporic communities.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union more than 150.000 Greek natives migrated to Greece (or “returned” according to the official narrative),  in an effort to rebuild their lives from zero in the “homeland of their ancestors”. From 1990’s until the beginning of the new millennium, These migrants were involved in various commercial activities (mainly inside informal economic zones and thanx to loose state control) often implicating transnational mobility. The fur market, the tourist industry, the construction sector, and the open-popular markets become a privileged field of employment and business activity, on which Russophone post-soviet Greeks find a place through hard work and the appropriate kinship or diasporic networks. Despitethe fact that, among them, Greece was considered as the “final patria”, transnational practices never stopped to take placein both collective and individual levels; Germany, UK, Cyprus, proved to be favorable destinations who welcomed, at least temporarily, several post-soviet populations including Greeks.The Greek crisis of 2010, followed by the worsening of living conditions, increased (re)migration tendencies to western Europe along with return practices to southern Russia.

The objective of this research, based on semi-directed interviews and extended fieldwork in acompany owned by post-soviet entrepreneurs, was to explore the interaction between migration strategies, economic networks and diasporic communities, and the same time, to put into scrutiny several stereotypes around “Greekness” or “Ponticness” based on the myth of the “final” and “eternal”patria.Finally, the quest for the linkages between the “rise and fall” of specific economic sectors over time, and the post-soviet mobility, through the Greek example, reveals various economic and migrating practices embedded into the social and cultural norms of the diasporic communities.

The research was accomplished by the post doc researchers Dimitris Kataiftsis and Anastasios Grigorakis and was supervised by the Professor of the academic department of Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies Eftihia Voutira.

“This research is co-financed by Greece and the European Union (European Social Fund-ESF) through the Operational Programme «Human Resources Development, Education and Lifelong Learning 2014-2020”

Πληροφορίες ένταξης πράξης ΕΣΠΑ: https://empedu.gov.gr/decision/apo-tis-laikes-agores-stis-oikogeneiakes-epicheiriseis-sta-russian-markets-mia-orizontia-oikonomia-ton-quot-ftochon-quot-os-stratigiki-epiviosis-ton-epanapatristhenton-apo-tin-proin-essd-apo-ta-mesa-t/

TRANSCA, Translating Socio-Cultural Anthropology into Education

TRANSCA is a European initiative/Erasmus+ project that champions the integration of social anthropology into education to address pressing societal concerns, such as diversity, immigration, and socio-economic disparities. The project’s primary goals encompass bridging teacher education with socio-cultural anthropology, instilling key anthropological insights into teacher education, and innovatively addressing the complexities of classroom diversity. Essential to TRANSCA is introducing reflexive anthropological methods, enhancing educators’ understanding of their students’ lived experiences. Collaborating with prominent institutions across Greece, Denmark, Austria, and Croatia, TRANSCA emphasizes partnerships with Teacher Colleges and related associations. Key deliverables include a “Whitebook” of best practices, a concept manual, and a suite of teaching resources, all hosted on a sustainable digital platform. Ultimately, TRANSCA aspires to augment social inclusion in European education, propelling social cohesion across the continent.
See the project’s webpage and final deliverables: https://transca.net/en/index

Performing Ashura in Piraeus: Towards a Shiite poetics of ‘cultural intimacy’ with Greek embodied practices of religiosity

The research examines the ritual of Ashura, as it is performed by the Pakistani Shia community in Piraeus. Ashura is the day of mourning for the martyrdom of Imam Husayn: the Prophet’s grandson and 3rd Imam who led a revolt against the Omayyad caliph Yazid A, and was finally beheaded in the battle of Karbala in 680 AD. This battle provides the central narrative around which Shia Muslims construct their political identity as migrants and their religious identification as a minority vis-à-vis Sunni Muslims in Greece. Ashura is commemorated every year through rituals of lamentation and public processions that include, in some cases, self-flagellation.

A decontextualized focus on the act of self-flagellation, over-accentuated by the mass media, reinforces local stereotypes of the Shia community practices as ‘incompatible’ with Greek cultural values. Social representations of the Shiite as ‘barbaric Others’ are frequently evoked in public debate in order to support Islamophobic and racialised narratives of anti-cosmopolitanism. However, confronted with xenophobia and social estrangement, the Shiite systematically attempt to articulate counter-narratives of ‘cultural intimacy’ (Herzfeld 2005) that stress the similarities between their ritual lament and various embodied performances of faith from the Greek cultural context, such as the Tinos pilgrimage (Dubisch 1996) or the Anastenaria (Danforth 1989).

The proposed research has a threefold purpose. First, it documents the community’s political struggle to promote discursively and practically a multicultural vision of citizenship based on embodied and affective components of subjectivity. Second, it unravels the rich meta-symbolic character the Ashura assumes in a migratory context, becoming an idiom or expressing and negotiating feelings of loss associated with migration trajectories. Third, departing from the case of the Ashura, but also opening-up the research focus through other examples of performances of lament, it examines how the claim to cultural intimacy is re-articulated in contemporary artistic practices, focusing on the performing arts.

More informations: https://www.rchumanities.gr/en/omada-chatziprokopiou-tsibiridou/