Event Date: 8 November 2013
Lecture Theatre E002,
Central Saint Martins,
London N1C 4AA
The London Graduate School and CRMEP in association with Art & Philosophy @ Central Saint Martins present:
A Symposium on Resistance
Launch of Howard Caygill’s latest book “On Resistance: A Philosophy of Defiance”
The London Graduate School and CRMEP in association with Art & Philosophy @ Central Saint Martins present a Symposium on Resistance with Jacqueline Rose, Peter Hallward, Costas Douzinas, Michael Dillon and Howard Caygill.
Jacqueline Rose is Professor of English, Queen Mary College, University of London and author of The Last Resistance
Peter Hallward is Professor of Philosophy at CRMEP Kingston University and author of Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment
Costas Douzinas is Professor of Law at Birkbeck College, University of London and author of Philosophy and Resistance in the Crisis: Greece and the Future of Europe
Michael Dillon is Emeritus Professor of Politics at Lancaster University and author (with J. Reid) of The Liberal Way of War: Killing to Make Life Live
Howard Caygill is Professor of Philosophy at CRMEP Kingston University and author of On Resistance: A Philosophy of Defiance Read the rest of this entry »
Ένα φωτογραφικό αφιέρωμα στο Δεκέμβρη του 1944 με το φακό του Dmitri Kessel
Γράφει ο Πέτρος Γαϊτάνος, το Νοέμβρη του 1994, στην εισαγωγή του Λευκώματος “DMITRI KESSEL, ΕΛΛΑΔΑ ΤΟΥ ‘44″, Εκδόσεις ΑΜΜΟΣ
Ο Dmitri Kessel γεννήθηκε στην Ουκρανία στις αρχές του αιώνα. Μετανάστευσε στην Αμερική το 1923 και εργάστηκε σαν φωτογράφος στο περιοδικό LIFE. Ταξίδεψε σ’ ολόκληρο σχεδόν τον κόσμο και οι φωτογραφίες του –μολονότι προορίζονταν για ένα εφήμερο μέσο- άντεξαν στον χρόνο. Σήμερα ο Κέσελ θεωρείται ένας από τους σημαντικότερους φωτορεπόρτερ στον κόσμο. Η δουλειά του, κλασική πια, έχει παρουσιαστεί σε πολλά βιβλία. Οι φωτογραφίες όμως που ο Ντμίτρ Κέσελ έβγαλε στην Ελλάδα του 1944 έμειναν περισσότερο ανέκδοτες και παρουσιάζονται σήμερα για πρώτη φορά.
Τον Αύγουστο του 1994, πενήντα χρόνια μετά, ένας άλλος μεγάλος φωτογράφος του αιώνα μας, ο Ντέηβιντ Ντάνκαν, έφερε στην Αθήνα αυτό το πολύτιμο υλικό και μας το έδωσε λέγοντας. «Ο Ντμίτρ Κέσελ ήταν εδώ, κάτω από την Ακρόπολη, στις 3 Δεκεμβρίου 1944. Τότε που πολλά όνειρα έγιναν εφιάλτες και ο ηρωισμός, η αγωνία και το πάθος μάτωσαν αυτή την όμορφη χώρα. Σας στέλνει, μέσα απ’ την καρδιά του, όσα θραύσματα μάζεψε από εκείνα τα γεγονότα. Τη δική του φωτογραφική μαρτυρία». Read the rest of this entry »
ATHENS, Dec 3 2013 (IPS) - A Nov. 19 paper by the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU diplomatic corps, considers the possibility of the European military getting involved in the south Mediterranean in an effort to curb the influx of irregular migrants and refugees into Europe.
The idea for a military operation initially appeared in an Italian proposal set forth on Oct. 24, suggesting extraordinary measures after the recent tragic events at Lampedusa in Sicily, where a boat that departed from Libya on Oct. 3 sank before reaching the island, killing 360 immigrants.
The incident sent shock waves throughout Europe and triggered a civil society dialog about European migration policy’s human cost. But many of Europe’s leaders have seen the tragedy as a reason for further militarisation of the region. Read the rest of this entry »
Call for papers
Workshop: Social history of health and healthcare in Greece
University of Crete, Department of History and Archaeology, Rethymno, Greece March 29, 2014 | Submissions deadline: 15 December 2013
The history of health and healthcare, a well-established branch of historical studies and medical humanities in many countries, has been recently expanding to include relevant developments in modern Greece. This one-day workshop will bring together researchers who are currently working on the social history of health and healthcare with a particular focus on 20th-century Greece, in order to achieve two sets of aims: on the one hand, to record the state of research, underlining its thematic, methodological and theoretical directions; on the other hand, to investigate the opportunities for research in Greece and other countries and the possibilities for future research collaborations. Read the rest of this entry »
By Pat O’Malley , originally published at Vice.com
Enri Canaj is an Albanian photojournalist who migrated with his family to Athens when he was 11 years old. He’s grown up in and around adversity for most of his life and over the last couple years has been documenting Athens’s transformation from a prosperous city to a melting pot of fascists, antifascists, protests, poverty, and sex trafficiking. Enri’s photographs, which focus on the town’s immigrant population, are a compassionate look into the lives of a population stuck in terrible conditions. He was kind enough to send me these sometimes heartrending photos from his series, titled Shadows in Greece, and I talked to him about his subjects, the troubles his city is going through, and whether there is hope for the future.
VICE: What’s the inspiration behind these photos?
Enri Canaj: Shadows in Greece is a personal project that I started two years ago. The series documents everyday life in Athens in the wake of the tremendous tourist influx during the Olympics in 2004 and subsequent outflow. These are places that were once the city’s busiest districts and now rot in abandonment. People creep through the streets like shadows, heads down, stiff shoulders, sealed lips. While the stock market falls, suicide is on a steady rise. Each photograph depicts a person with a story to tell.
What were you looking for when you started?
At the beginning this project, I was focused only on the smaller economic and social crises that were spreading on a personal level day after day. Things immediately changed, though. Big strikes, demonstrations, angry people protesting, and burning shops and buildings became the norm in Athens. At first, I was photographing without a clear purpose. It was unbelievable even for me what all of us were going through. Then suddenly my photographs took me down another path.
The center of Athens, as I first remember it, was full of life. During the period before the Olympics there was great development. But after they all left, the city started deteriorating and gradually recovered its previous character: the junkies, street merchants, immigrants, and prostitutes. But for me, those people were always there. I saw all of that when I first arrived to Athens as an 11-year-old child.
I began to focus on the immigrants, living in small rented rooms, many of them without much hope. The women prostitute themselves for five euros Hanging around them has become my daily routine. They are sensitive people with a lot of family problems, but they were the ones who were friendly to me when I first arrived in Athens, an immigrant myself. They came to Greece for a better future but found poverty and racism. Some of them suffered physical violence and some even lost their lives. These are the people my project talks about. The images I have selected are powerful to me on a personal level, because I knew the story behind them. When others look at those pictures I want them to feel respect for and dignity of the subjects like I do.
Could you tell me a bit about how you came to Greece as a kid?
I was born in Tirana, Albania, in 1980. My family migrated to Greece in 1991, when the borders opened. I didn’t understand why we were leaving; I thought Albania was beautiful. We sold most of what we owned. We took some old family photos in black and white and a bag with our clothes and got on a bus. All of this seemed confusing and scary to me, until the moment I saw a road full of shining lights, commercial posters, shops, and bars where I would taste my first Coca-Cola.
For the first two months, our home was a cheap hotel room in the center of Athens. We lived on the third floor, but my favorite was the second floor because of the young, beautiful Greek girls who stayed there and worked as prostitutes. They were my first friends. They let me into their rooms and I was fascinated with staring at their faces through the mirror, as they were putting on their makeup. Those girls helped me learn Greek. The images are still very strong in my memory.
Greece was hard on my family. We thought we’d return home quickly, but the years passed and we encountered so many problems, sacrifices, difficulties, and even racism. Now, after 22 years, Greece is the place where I encountered both good and evil. This is my home and my war.
You said these people are living in Athens “without much hope.” Is that what your images depict, or do you feel like there is room for optimism?
As everyone knows, the situation in Greece has become a very difficult one in the last six years. Things are getting progressively worse and people are in very difficult times. They feel lost and without much hope. They are suffering and in my images, I want to show this. I don’t want to hide it.
This is also why I think there is hope. Confronting and seeing the reality, even when it’s hard, makes us find hope. Even while some of us are more lucky, we have to be sensitive and compassionate to the pain of the others. I want to make people stop for a minute so they can feel and think.
More on Greece:
originally posted at Chronos Mag
Political scientist Giorgos Katsambekis talks with distinguished professor at UCL,
Philippe Marlière, who specializes in European and French politics
Giorgos Katsambekis: You have devoted a large part of your research and writing to the European Social Democracy. How would you assess today the role of Social Democratic parties in the ongoing crisis? Are they a part of the European problem or a part of the solution?
Philippe Marlière: Social Democracy in Europe is clearly part of the problem given that over the past thirty years or so it has progressively abandoned its traditional aims of redistributive justice. What is more, it has turned its back on the idea that Capitalism needs to be tamed or constrained. (Bearing in mind that it had for long given up on overthrowing Capitalism altogether) Post-War Social Democracy was about the belief that market societies could work for the benefit of the majority, and not of a minority. At the heart of the social democratic philosophy was the idea of compromise between Capital and Work. This is no longer on the social democratic agenda. Social Democracy has now almost totally capitulated – and in many countries the adverb ‘almost’ is redundant – to the forces of globalised Capitalism. From the 1980s onward, the project of constructing ‘Socialism in Europe’ was short-lived and turned out to be an illusion. European integration – sometimes piloted by a majority of social democratic member states – has indeed increased the process of economic competition and social dumping in Europe. This has been the new face of the European Union since the Single European Act of 1986. Since then, the trend has been dramatically amplified. This being said – the Greek situation apart – Social Democracy, as a partisan force, is only weakened, but it is not dead yet. No one knows at present whether its future in other European countries will be similar to PASOK’s or whether it will benefit from the discredit of conservatives to get back to power. After all, France is currently run by a social democratic government and in a year time, Britain and Portugal might also have new social democratic governments. The death of Social Democracy has been announced so many times since the Bolshevik revolution! But so far, it has proved a very adaptable and resilient political force.
G. Katsambekis: Coming now to the main ‘laboratory’ of the European crisis, Greece, how would you comment on the recent call by 58 Greek centre-left and liberal-centrist intellectuals to create a new centre-left formation –a ‘third pole’– in order to oppose the new two-partyism of New Democracy and SYRIZA? Their aspiration, as noted in their declaration, is to represent those that don’t feel represented by the Greek ‘Right nor by the neo-communist national-populist Left’. Read the rest of this entry »
originally posted at Chronos Mag
The hero of the Greek Revolution in Dionyssis Savopoulos’ music.
In late 1969 Dionyssis Savopoulos released his second album with the title A Fool’s Garden (ΤοΠεριβόλιτουΤρελού). Savopoulos had already emerged as a composer since 1966, when the release of his first album (The Van) established him as one of the foremost representatives of his generation in Greece. Savopoulos was a prominent member of the group that created the New Wave (Νέο Κύμα) scene in Greece, however in contrast to other representatives of this scene, he appeared to follow a path we could say more personal. His influences seemed to be closer to the trail which had been blazed in Europe and the United States by lonely troubadours, who combined political protest with a new style of interpretation. As a member of the democratic (1-1-4) generation Savopoulos perceived the messages of his times, so The Van is a kaleidoscope of its era, with the songs connected with the big political and social problems of the era, such as the Vietnam War or the defense of democracy.
From 1966 and the Van, to 1969 and the release of A Fool’s Garden, many things had changed in Greece, but also in what we might call “youthful music”. The most important of course, was the overthrow of democracy in the April of 1967. The dictatorship of the colonels had dissolved the youth organizations and political expression was a significant risk to any citizen and to a composer who wanted to convey clear messages through his work. Apart from the political situation however, in 1969 many things had changed in what we might call “songs of the youth” or “youth culture” in general. Savopoulos of 1966 is trying to be a Greek “Bob Dylan”, but Savopoulos of 1969 is influenced by the hippie culture, which is already evident from the album cover, a true work of pop art created by his friend from Thessaloniki, Stergios Delialis. Read the rest of this entry »
originally posted at Chronos Mag http://www.chronosmag.eu
Aspects of their Discourse between Albanian and Greek
National Narratives (late 19th – early 20th centuries)
Elias G. Skoulidas
Bearing in mind the methodological proposal of Miroslav Hroch related to the role of the intellectuals in the process of the national movements and the extraordinary work of Nathalie Clayer about the Albanian national movement, our paper is an attempt to detect aspects of the discourse of Albanian Greek-Orthodox intellectuals. It should be mentioned that according to Hroch’s proposal the goals of the national movements are: a. the growth of a national culture based on a language which will be used in administration, education and economic life. b. the gain of political rights, in a first phase autonomy and finally independence. c. a new social structure with new elites, bureaucracy and so on. Mainly, three phases can be described: phase A, the «intellectuals», who invent the idea of the nation, through their researches, phase B, the «patriots», activists who use the patriotic propaganda to gain more believers and finally phase C, characterized by the massive support of the movement by the people and later on the division in wings, such as conservatives, radicals etc. It is questionable whether the intellectuals can cause revolutions but as Grandits claims their role can be regarded in a bigger context.
To describe better the context, Albanian Orthodoxes consist one of the major religion groups in Albanian society, which includes Albanians, Greeks, Aromanians, Slav-speaking and Roma communities. After the abolition of the Patriarchate of Peć and the Archbishopric of Ohrid in the late 18th century, all the Albanian Orthodoxes became members of the rum-millet. The rise of different national movements and the establishment of nation-states in the Balkans influenced these Orthodox communities, who had to rethink themselves with terms of national consciousness, social-economic status and religious identities. During the period of tanzimat, and especially in the 1860s, these communities had to deal mainly with religious and educational issues. For the newly established Greek state and during the phase of its expansion, these communities were mostly regarded as the «other» Greek, while the influence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the educational network of the Greek schools affected their identities. More over it should be noted that the Greek language was alingua franca for these communities and a necessity to their economical life in the small cities and the local merchants. Read the rest of this entry »
There is an urge among many members of the Greek elites to take political and financial advantage of the crisis. Part of this urge is reflected in the ongoing attempt to re-shape the urban materiality of what used to be the commercial centre of Athens up until 2010. This is the area between Syntagma and Omonoia Square, where most shops closed down after 2010. There, according to the plans, under the label of Re-think Athens, is where a new public urban space is going to be constructed. Along with creating/destroying real estate and political values, this new public space project also aims to restrict protest demonstrations along one of the most crucial parts of the usual marching route: Panepistimiou Street.
But during the crisis Athens is not only rethought, it is remapped too. Remap Athens is an annual art exhibition, which has taken place four times since 2007. Remap Athens #4 took place in September 2013 in public and private urban spaces in the central areas of Keramikos and Metaxourgio. In its own words, Remap “is an international contemporary art platform that has become known for its participatory nature, hosting a unique mix of projects with current and up-and-coming -artists, curators, institutions and galleries- from across the world, all presented within the existing urban context accessible for free to its visitors.” (Words from the Remap Athens website)
In essence, Remap Athens is something between a real estate promotion, an art exhibition and a gentrification force. An abundance of art dealers, but also some individual –established and lesser known– artists exhibit their work in new and old properties owned almost exclusively by the two real estate companies who are the two private sponsors the exhibition. These properties are also for sale – or, to be more precise, they are the only thing that is affirmatively for sale, since not all art work exhibited had price tags.
The grafitti writes: “the passion for hipstery is stronger than glamour”
In such a context the aesthetic of the final result is often grotesque: more often than not there is not much thought put into how artworks will fit the spaces or the urban area itself. Or then again, perhaps the motivations themselves are conflicting: for example, you have some of the artworks expected to attract more visitors located in the real estate that looks like it is mostly promoted by the real estate “friends” of art. This year, such building of preference was a luxurious dwelling with debateable design. And so, a vast art piece stood in the middle of what is obviously a small and low ceiling open-plan kitchen-living room, with the WC’s open door in the background. Fortunately, a sign would warn the visitor that the toilet was out of order. Two students working there for free (“volunteering” they said) were taking care of the art (or was it the house?) The luxurious house (or was it the art?) was also fully guarded by an unfriendly security guard who would stand in a summer suit and sunglasses in front of the gate, staring at visitors with hostility. No smiles returned, and definitely no questions answered. Read the rest of this entry »
Translated to Spanish here.
“Q: What will my benefit be as a citizen/ professional / visitor in Athens?
A: The functional and environmental rebirth of the centre will shed light on even the darkest and most unwanted sides of it. Panepistimiou Street and Omonoia Square will become the liveliest neighborhood, as a city centre for shopping during the day and as a nighttime “place to be”, whereas the area will become a special meeting place for Athenians from all neighborhoods. Living conditions will improve significantly and a large part of the centre will be re-inhabited, whereas the trade, entrepreneurial and tourist activity all over this area will be revitalized.”
From the website of Rethink Athens. (Original in English, Original Grammar has been retained, http://www.rethinkathens.org/eng/faq)
Athens centre  supposedly is preparing for one more big regeneration project. This time the city will have to reconstruct anew one of its most central streets, Panepistimiou, including Athens’ two most central Squares: Syntagma and Omonoia. The project will involve a semi-pedestrianization of Panepistimiou Avenue, which will be re-paved, while several new features such as water fountains or trees will replace the asphalted avenue. An international architecture competition took place during 2012 and the winner (a Dutch urban development office) was announced in early 2013. The political authorities of the country including the Prime Minister (PM) participated in the launching event. The PM was clear in his speech that ‘Rethink Athens’ is part of a larger project, which involves the privatization and regeneration of the old Athens airport along the regeneration of the Athenian seafront up-to Cape Sounio, 60km southern of Athens centre.
The PM’s talk sounded like it came from two decades ago when Greece was a “Construction Contractors Republic”. Back then the “steam engine” of the thriving Greek economic growth was the construction sector, and the country was indeed being rebuilt en masse. New and allegedly overpriced highways, airports, shopping malls, stadiums etc. conquered the cityscape. Back then a widespread optimism was growing in reference to the development of urban materiality, the newly funded virtual economy of credit, the forthcoming Olympic Games, the European Monetary Integration and the Europeanization/modernisation projects. “Development” and “modernisation” at that time were elevated into the main political slogans of the governments. Nevertheless, the rapid accumulation of built and virtual capital was soon followed by the economic bust.
Today a promise to fix the “problems” of Athens’ centre via some more urban development sounds pretty hollow, according to people who work, use or just exist on Panepistimiou street and the surrounding streets of the centre.
For example, one of the central Athenian merchants explained that many public works from that golden period of contractors had been catastrophic for certain businesses. The case of the repeated (but poorly explained) reconstructions of Omonoia Square the last twenty years is often quoted as such a project that altered violently the order of things in the centre of the city. Moreover, another informant talked about the pedestrianization of Ermou Street at the second half of the 1990s. Ermou is a street departing from Syntagma Square and it was traditionally one of the busiest commercial streets of the capital city. The project of its pedestrianization lasted for some time and by the end of it several of the smaller Ermou shops had been closed down. This happened first of all because the rents rocketed in the reconstructed street but also due to the decreased consumption, during the period of the construction works. However, another part of the problem was the wider global condition in the history of European capitalism. Namely, 1990s was a period when international retail chains entered the market of Greece, leading to the economic “death” of some of the smaller merchants. Ermou Street, where many of the shops of the early 1990s today have been replaced by branches of big international chains, is a witness of both the global process, but also the local urban peculiarity.
But a central Athens’ employee in retail sector explained that businessmen “took out their eyes, with their own hands”. In the recent past during the economic growth of 1990s and 2000s quite a few of the smaller independent merchants made big openings taking risks within a market that functioned under new –unknown before– rules. In order to do the openings they often took one of those high interest bank loans, which were too easily available at the time, leading eventually to their catastrophe when they could not pay back. For example, when all the new shopping malls were built around Athens some independent merchants expanded renting a unit in one of the new malls. However, a mall is a big corporation which does not allow for much flexibility with debts. Merchants who rent and do not own their shops sometimes have to ask the owner of the property (typically another middle-class person) for flexibility, which usually is provided, but indeed something like this is out of the question when you rent in a mall which is a big corporation.
However, such an observation refers to the recent past rather than the catastrophic present, a lot of independent merchants who made further ‘economic openings’ during the period of prosperity, when the crisis broke out, vanished overnight under the weight of quickly accumulating debts. “Some colleagues ended up in the soup kitchen”, mentioned a merchant on Agiou Markou Street. The association of Athens merchants, these days maintains a social grocery for its members, namely a shop were former shopkeepers can acquire some basic goods gratis. Today on central streets of Athens such as Stadiou there are former shop-keepers who own the retail properties where they were housing their shop, so they had no rent expenses, and yet still they went out of business after May 2010 due to decrease in consumption. The aforementioned retail worker, explained the temporality of their narrative: “Stupid movements of the businessman or problematic structure, this is past and forgotten now – now first they tell you to cut down salaries, because they are not doing well, then they cut down the personnel and then they end up working with one tenth of the employees, and them are just members of the boss’ family and then one day they close down for good.”
The politics of ‘Rethinking’
Many merchants of Athens’ centre blame the recent increase of demonstrations and protests that take place in the centre of the city for the commercial failure of their businesses. The idea is that the revolt of 2008 was the first big strike to the centre of Athens, then it was the riots of May 2010 and then February 2012 riots. The truth is that one can hear this argument more and more in the corporate media ever since 2010 when the austerity started, and increasing portions of the population (including the shopkeepers) feel that they have better reasons to protest. However, the narrative of most shopkeepers does not identify straight-forwardly with the governmental/corporate media argument. When they use the term ‘demonstration’ (diadiloseis/διαδηλώσεις) or ‘riots’ (episodia/επεισόδια) they usually add ‘teargas’ (dakrygona/δακρυγόνα) and the blockade of every street or metro stations around the centre of the city. Whether expressed explicitly or implicitly, the fact is that teargas and violence, or the blockade of routes, are police tactics that have been applied increasingly the last years. Police these days close down most central metro stations and all the streets leading to the centre of the city, many hours before and after a protest march. During protests one can hear demonstrators claiming that the police are trying to limit access to protesters, but also to enrage the rest of the centre’s users, against the various social groups who protest.
The point is that while merchants in the first instance seem to agree with corporate media/government, most of the time they use a different phrasing and add different elements. For example while, the corporate media often add Molotov cocktails or the hooded protesters as part of the city centre’s problem, the business people I have met rarely refer to these elements. The different perspective of most merchants of the centre is even more explicit when they talk about the events of December 2008. In fact irrelevant of the politics implied in the rest of the language used, the merchants of the centre I have talked with, usually use the term ‘revolt’ for the revolt of 2008, instead of riots (epeisodia/επεισόδια) as most of the governmental and government friendly discourse label December 2008. Moreover, other wording used has been the ‘events of Alexis’ or ‘…of Grigoropoulos’ or ‘…Alexandros’ etc. referring to Alexandros Grigoropoulos, the 15 year old person who was assassinated by the police on December 2008, and whose death triggered the social uprising of 2008. This terminology of personification reflects much more the language used by the participants in the revolt rather than the authorities or the corporate media.
The bottom line is that merchants are running a business and they judge spatial tactics and spatial practices according to the impact they have to their custom. As one of them told me on one of the streets which once upon a time was the major commercial street of the capital city: “In the past, even if your shop was smashed, you did not care that much. We often did not even approach the insurance companies, we used to fix them ourselves, and we did not care because we had customers, at the same moment that we were fixing the damages.” Things are not that rosy anymore. Allegedly today that every single shopkeeper struggles to survive financially, insurance companies play major role in the situation of the centre, they do not even pay for damages occurring during protests or they ask for enormous fees in order to insure a business in the area. Until the recent past when properties were destroyed in Athens centre they were fixed quickly. But most of the buildings destroyed during the riots of February 2012 remain in ruins still in late May 2013, which is an unusually long period of time for that area. “When people’s pockets are empty, there is no reason to fix and open again a shop that for whatever reason closed down” concluded the same shopkeeper of the Athenian centre.
Certainly the centre of the city (contrary to what the decision-makers of ‘Rethink Athens’ may believe) does not have only commercial activities – one of the many things happening in the centre is also protesting. The problem is that the governments of the last few years seem to target very explicitly protesting, suggesting that it is the single problem of Athens centre. For example on April 27, 2013 the Greek minister of Public Order (Police) Nicos Dendias gave a brief interview to the Voice of America during his visit to NYC to exchange knowhow with FBI, in this interview he stated:‘Let me give you an example of a policy we are trying to implement and it will change the whole life of the capital city of the country […] it is the restriction of small demonstrations, demonstrations of 100-200 people, from closing the Athens city center, occupying the entire road preventing access to the center of Athens.’
Blaming demonstrations for the failure of businesses in the centre of the city has at least two benefits. First, it masks the fact that austerity policies, unemployment and cuts to the income prevent people from buying anything and second, is part of a wider attempt to limit protesting at a time that more and more people have increasing reasons to protest against the government. In fact today poverty has increased to the extent that gradually the majority are changing their eating habits. In other words people are forced to severely cut their food budget, so clothing or other needs are limited even more if not vanished. Under such circumstances several groups each week protest, hassling the various governmental plans.
The first steps of limiting and banning protests have been evident in the publicly performed police violence during protests. Since 2010 this violence has reached its post-dictatorial peak, with tear gas and beating up by police being used in industrial scale (e.g. June 2011 general strikes). In fact the evident aim is to terrorize those who may participate in protests, since anyone who dares to protest know that their health and wellbeing is in danger. But a much more evident spatialisation of the anti-protest policies came in 2011, when the government withdrew the so called academic asylum. Since the early 1980s the Greek constitution instructed that army or police should not access university grounds, unless the university authorities decide for such an action. Academic asylum is one of the main reasons that Panepitimiou street has emerged as the necessary part of almost every single protest march. Panepistimio (panepistimio/πανεπιστήμιο) in Greek means University, and Panepistimiou Street is where the University of Athens Refectory is located . The Square in front of the neoclassical Refectory was and still is the most common point for the gathering, departing and terminating of protest marches. The various university buildings during the history of Athens have been a haven for the protesters who have been chased down, beaten and attacked by the police. The central Athenian campuses functioned as centres of resistance both during the occupation of Athens by the Nazis and their Greek collaborators in the 1940s, and more famously during the anti-dictatorial resistance in the 1970s. Indeed, today universities are not a safe place anymore since police can raid them, restrict or ban any activity that takes place in there. The future erection of so many physical obstacles along the Panepistimiou Street of ‘Rethink Athens’ probably will lead to the end of Panepistimiou as part of protest marches.
The death of academic asylum, and the material regeneration of the main street of Athenian centre come at the same time with an explicit political decision to limit protest. In a profound move, since January 2013, almost every single major industrial action (metro workers, sailors and teachers) has been basically banned by the government in the name of public benefit, via the application of a very debateable law regarding civil conscription. But in May 2013 when the high school teachers’ strike was banned, their unions decided to start one of their first protest marches against the ban on the pedestrianized Ermou Street. A place where protests are located rarely. Perhaps that was an early semiological warning that one way or the other protests will not vanish from the city centre whatsoever material regeneration projects will be applied on Panepistimiou or elsewhere. Indeed they may vanish due to political reasons, e.g. if gatherings will be banned completely (indeed it is a possibility given the recent banning of strikes and the aforementioned statements of the Minster about limiting certain marches) but a simple reconstruction project will not be enough.
“One eats the other”
But capitalist competition and class structure in their purer form are not the only source of tension on the Athenian high-street. There are some more tangibly violent occurrences around the centre. These days around Omonoia or Kanigos Square, army-personnel-looking security guards walk in front of shops. One informant told me that they are working for the bank branches. Someone else said that the smaller shop-keepers received a good offer from a new private security company, which has pretty dangerous looking employees in order to kick out the homeless. When the sun sets, blankets and sleeping bags make their appearance in the arcades and the thresholds of the shops. The city centre is gradually transformed into a huge sleeping place in the nights, homelessness increases to unprecedented level. Additionally, these days a new cheaper drug, sisa, has appeared on the streets. Sisa has almost replaced the more expensive heroin, but sisa’s effects are much more severe. People lose their consciousness or are heavily tripping for hours – so homeless or not – addicted people often end up unconscious in the threshold of shops, with some businessmen blaming that situation for the bad fate of their enterprises. One way or the other, the point is that these private guards in all black military outfit seem to do the dirty job of keeping the urban poor out of public view in early morning.
Beyond the everyday violent encounters there is another process, violent as well but more structurally violent. This is phrased in various ways but one of the most common motifs seems to be the so called ‘interests’. Nobody seems to be sure but many people active in the centre of the city are angry with these “interests” (symferonta/συμφέροντα). This is a term referring abstractly to political or economic powers bigger than you (often including international agents) which act in an unethical way, having an impact to your everyday life. In the current case the implication is that there are agents who collaborate secretly for the drop of real estate prices in the centre of the city in order to devalue the properties and eventually buy them for peanuts. Although the rumour is more and more widespread and although in certain areas of the centre -such as Keramikos and Metaxourgeio- do emerge a tendency of companies which buy large number of properties, there is no evidence as yet for such an activity that aims at the entire centre of the city. ‘Rethink Athens’ will come in that deregulated real estate market changing anew the prices in the centre. But certainly the prices of real estate in Athens are in a free-fall. Some small independent merchants, feeling the pressure of the economic failure become verbal about the increasing structural unfairness of the new conditions implemented to the market the last fifteen years. Many blame explicitly the authorities that allegedly have done everything to pave the way for larger retail corporations to eliminate small independent shops and so to force the unwanted small/independent businesses to move out from the centre. The truth is that new infrastructures and big shopping malls have appeared en masse during the golden period of economic growth (1990s-2000s), within the centre but also in the Athenian suburbs altering radically the existing – back then – balances of the market. Moreover, there are various changes in policies the last decade which deregulate the market, a deregulation which has an impact to the smaller players, eliminating many of them. “But that’s the system, one eats the other, everyone is against everyone […] and so that’s the system, I have no different way to name it” a wise and cynical shopkeeper mentioned, in a bitter moment of realization.
 Although the term Athens centre refers to a large area with very different micro-histories, for the current text the word centre is used in reference to the area between Omonoia and Syntagma Square including the surrounding streets. (go back to text)
 Although the street was renamed Venizelou street on 1945, no single Athenian calls it anything else but Panepistimiou. (go back to text)