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What it means to be Greek

A lecture on ethnic identity construction among the third generation

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31 August 2017

Pam Papadelos will be presenting a lecture entitled 'What it means to be Greek: Ethnic identity construction among the third generation' on Thursday 14 September 2017.

The lecture will take place at the Greek Centre as a part of the Greek History and Culture Seminars offered by the Greek Community of Melbourne.

People of Greek heritage have been part of Australia for more than a hundred years. This lecture will focuse on the ethnic identity formation of the grandchildren of Greeks who arrived in the period after the Second World War and before 1975. Initial findings from a survey of youth aged 18-30 years (third generation) will be presented with the purpose of gaining an understanding of what it means to be Greek for this cohort of Australians. Comparisons are drawn between their parent(s) (second generation) and grandparents (first generation) in relation to the continuing importance of identity markers such as language, religion, culture and cuisine (Smolicz, 2010; Tamis, 2005).

Survey data indicates that the third generation construct or embody their Greekness around culture, values and food, rather than language and religion. While most of this cohort (third gen) stated that they do not speak Greek well, or at all, or attend Greek Orthodox Church services the majority conveyed a pride in their Greek ancestry and either hyphenated their identity (Greek-Australian) or felt a distinct sense of 'Greekness' that separated them from the general population. Most respondents expressed their Greekness within their family setting with very few attending Greek social institutions or joining Greek organisations. Gans' (1979) notion of ''symbolic'' and ''optional'' ethnicity is explored in relation to his suggestion that "ethnicity can survive without significant social or cultural participation" (Gans, 2009, p. 123). This paper presents the findings from my survey and then examines the implication for on-going group membership or mobilisation, which was previously based on language maintenance, religious observation and ethno-regional identity.

Pam Papadelos is a lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Criminology & Gender Studies at the University of Adelaide. Her teaching and research focus on the ways gender intersects with race, class and sexuality. Her current work examines the gendered dimensions of cross-cultural practices for second and third generation Australians. In particular, she engages with current debates in Australia on managing cultural diversity, strengthening social cohesion and widening concepts of national identity.

When: Thursday 14 September 2017, 7:00pm
Where: Greek Centre, Delphi Bank Mez, 168 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

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Is there a future for Hellenism? By Ange T Kenos (not to be confused with his cousin Angelique) If you were to believe the doom sayers then the Hellenic nation will disappear in a flood of debt, never to rise again. But such fools have no appreciation of the resilience of a people who have been invaded by more enemies than any other nation in Europe, who have undergone centuries of suffering under assorted despotic empires, only to arise again and again. They also have no comprehension of just how strongly we are linked to our ancestral lands, to our heritage and our culture. Some years ago, my wife and I travelled across the nation, visiting family members and walking along the very same areas where our parents and their parents before them walked. We drank from the same streams and ate fruit from my mother in law’s childhood home. When we told our adult kids that the very best food that we ate during our European travels were all Hellenic culinary works, they thought that we were daft. But then our son went over there and enjoyed some of those very same delicacies and so now agrees that THE best food is Hellenic. In the same way he spent some of his time sailing on a yacht and told me that he now better appreciates why I loved my years as a sea going Navy officer and why I still go boating/ yachting now and then. In fact he then spent four days just touring the Aegean by boat. Let’s be honest – once you have swum or sailed in those waters everything everywhere else is pale by comparison. That is part of the reason why I would love to see a new swimming competition promoted around the globe – swim the Corinth Canal. I have certainly swum longer and tougher distances in my former time as a Navy diver. But my wife’s cousin Spiros, who lives a short distance away, told us that no one had ever swum the Canal. So imagine how a charity swim would go in that place and how it would be a major boost for local tourism. And once you would have swum it you would be drawn to come back, just to better your own time. Well at least since our visit there is now some activity on that water with more to come outside of shipping. Again, one aspect of Hellenism linking in with your every fibre and making you a Philhellene if you are not Hellenic by blood. But there is more that leaves me with a feeling that we still have a strong future in Europe and that is how more and more younger people like my son and eldest daughter have visited the land where their grandparents were born. But it is up to us, the “older” folk, to nurture and guide our kids in Hellenism so that then the more likely they will be to wish to experience it for themselves. To travel to Ioannina where Dodoni fetta and yoghurt are made, and to see the oldest amphitheatre in the world. To visit the awe inspiring Acropolis in Athens and to walk (I did it barefoot) around the Parthenon as did our ancestors. Indeed, just to imagine Alexander, Archimedes, Socrates and all those others who were there on the very same spot all that long ago. To gaze out from Thermopylae, even though today it is vastly different to what it was then, and to ‘feel’ Leonidas and his men with you. To sail around Thira (Santorini), go scuba diving almost anywhere, laze at the beach at Zakynthos (I hate it when the English call it Zante) and to enjoy the culinary delights of Crete. To enjoy sumptuous calamari in Githion and to see certain secret ancient buildings in certain secret caves down there. (Oh you must ask the locals and even then… only if they trust you will they tell.) To look down and across at the Corinth canal and marvel at that amazing feat of engineering. Oh how our ancestors would have been impressed. To drink from spring water coming out of mountain rocks, so pure so clean, so fresh that you will not even think of a beer or a coke for some time. To enjoy the music and the dancing almost every where and anywhere, especially at night, where people seek to enjoy life far more than we do in mega urbanised Australia. To visit those sacred sites where Hellenes defeated their enemies in ancient times (e.g Marathon, Salamis…) and in modern times (Crete and elsewhere), recognising the statues built by locals to honour their heroes and heroines alike. People who never surrendered, ever. Who never gave up. Who never allowed their souls to be defeated. There is so much in every area of Ellada that inspires. Of course there is also the wanton vandalism from Italian and Turkish occupiers as well as the many stories of how they and later the British and French looted whatever they could to fill their own palaces, their own homes and their museums. And yet these characters dare to insult Ellada and to mock Hellenes? There is the graffiti and the mountains of litter, the hoards of illegal migrants far far far worse than anything that the federal liberal government can complain about here in Australia. Over there 95% of all refugees in Europe enter via the Hellenic Republic (Greece), and a vast number remain, causing more problems to a nation already economically weak. Yet all of this aside, visit the place and you are inspired. Yes even in Athens where so many people presented us with dire warnings before we arrived but where we enjoyed ourselves and felt as if we had arrived home. And yes that IS a feeling to be warned about – feeling as if you are home at long last and then questioning why you would leave to return to Australia. That certainly did hit me very hard and I dearly wish to return and to stay much longer than our six weeks in total. Of course if we are talking about Hellenism then we cannot ignore the Diaspora. The millions who live in Australia – in every state and territory, in the USA, Canada, Germany, Africa… in fact pretty much in every country. Who speak, dance, play, cook and write ‘’Greek’’. In fact, who live the Hellenic dream in other lands. Keeping the spirit of Hellenism alive and spreading the richness of Hellenic culture to the rest of the world. A richness which we are bound by honour to share with the world just as our ancestors shared their knowledge. That is the true essence of Hellenism for me, not only living the part but sharing with others.

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