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38610450 Nikos Panayotopoulos

38610450 Nikos Panayotopoulos

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Third Text, Vol. 23, Issue 2, March, 2009, 181–194
 Third Text 
 ISSN 0952-8822 print/ISSN 1475-5297 online © Third Text (2009)http://www.tandf.co.uk/journalsDOI: 10.1080/09528820902840672
 On Greek Photography
 Eurocentrism, Cultural Colonialismand the Construction of MythicClassical Greece
Nikos Panayotopoulos
 This article aims to establish the grounds for a
 reading of both Greece and its representation. It attempts to take a deeper look atthe framework in which the image of Greece is constructed, inter-preted and finally represented by examining how Greek photographyhas evaluated and represented its domestic environment, and thedegree to which such an operation has been determined or influencedby dominant Western culture. Kenneth Coutts-Smith introduced theterm
cultural colonialism
to describe how all cultural production isactually determined and measured by the yardstick of the dominantWestern civilisation and how European art attempted to appropriatethe visual culture of the whole planet into its own self-conceived‘mainstream’. The term
cultural colonialism
or cultural
Westernisationof the globe
is most relevant in the type of approach I adopt in thispaper.
 In order to frame my topic of interest, I have taken into considerationthe photographic work of Nelly. I employ a sociocultural analysis whichis largely informed by post-colonial theory in the mode of the discussion,analysis and interpretation of these works. Visual images are producedin societal, institutional and discursive contexts. Overall, Nelly illus-trates a good deal about the desired identity of the new state, an imageof how Greece’s new middle class desired both their country and them-selves to appear, that is, how they sought to constitute their social,cultural and national identity.
 As most contemporary historians agree,
 the points of reference thatcontributed to the construction of Greek identity are Ancient Greece and
 1Coutts-Smith claimed that,when we speak of aworldwide ‘high’ culturewe are actually referring toa tradition – a significantpart of which is formed bythe whole spectrum of theFine Arts largely restrictedto European culturalexperience. In the broadestsense, what we regardgenerally as culture, andspecifically as art, is thecontinually mutating end-product of a process that isbasically mythic in nature.That is to say, a process inwhich beliefs andassumptions gain substanceand become validated. Butthe dynamics of culture donot only lead in this waytowards the fluididentification of a collectiveidentity within a society;they also tend towards thefreezing of conceptssupportive of the interestsof a dominant minoritywithin that society.Kenneth Coutts-Smith,‘Cultural Colonialism’,
Third Text 
 , 16:1,Routledge, London–NewYork, 2002 [1978].2See for example: ArtemisLeontis, ‘AmbivalentGreece’,
 Journal of ModernGreek Studies
 , 15:1, 1997,pp 125–36; Victor
The Great Excavation of Delphi: The Discovery of Antinous
, unknown photographer, 1892-1893, silverprint, collectionof Ecole Française d’Athènes (EfA no C 304)
 the Byzantine Empire. The concepts of nation and national identity arerelatively recent phenomena that emerged at the point of the shift fromthe authoritarian, theocratic ideology of the
ancien régime
 to that of theEnlightenment.
 In the Ottoman Balkans, the Orthodox Church was thekey social institution: it functioned as ‘the repository of the Balkannations’ national identity during the Ottoman period’.
 Thus, up to theeighteenth century, Greek national identity was of a largely religiousnature. Moreover, as Victor Roudometof states, ‘Greek’ was synony-mous with Orthodoxy, and the Orthodox Balkan merchants andpeddlers were referred to as ‘Greeks’ because of their Orthodox reli-gion.
 Ancient Greece did not appear much within this scheme.
 ,unknownphotographer,1892-1893,silverprint,collectionofEcoleFrançaised’Athènes (EfA noC304)
 However, as Enlightenment ideas – ideas that were at the forefrontof the educational systems in the West – began to spread in the Balkans,national identities started to be reconsidered. In Greece, intellectualssuch as Adamantios Korais, for example, argued that modern Greeksneeded to be ‘enlightened’, and urged them to become educated throughmodern Western knowledge in order to ‘become worthy of bearing theglorious name of Hellenes’.
 Of course, he noted, Greeks should try topreserve continuity with the Orthodox philosophical tradition;however, this already implied a transformation of Greek religious iden-tity into a secular one, and, indeed, this was one directly related toAncient Hellas. In the construction of this new identity Europe played adecisive role – a role that was directly connected and informed by theideology of colonialism.
 As Peter Osborne argues, from the sixteenth century Europe witnessedan ‘explosion of geography’ involving a ‘multiplication of images’ suchas maps, topographical pictures and ‘the countless images in whichEurope dreamed the strangeness of distant regions and their peoples andnow additionally the strangeness of the world in general and the coldspace above it’.
 Out of its concern to measure, survey and navigate through thewidening material world they sought to know and control, Europe’sunsettled and expansionist cultures came to rely on a knowledge gath-ered by optically based observational and measuring techniques.Through these mechanisms the world was becoming represented as apicture – a framed visual display laid out for a spectator. Heideggerfamously described this reconfiguring of the world through the human
as a founding act of modernity, an era he named the ‘age of the world [as] picture’.
 The goal of this extended ‘project’, however, was not only to collectthe world but also to arrange it into European classifications.
 In this‘world picture’, the world was made to appear not simply visible butvisually ordered, following particular intellectual, aesthetic and ideologi-cal rules. As Osborne remarks, ‘long before disembarking, Europe trav-ellers knew what had to be seen and how it was to be interpreted’.
 Thewhole process is clearly implicated with colonialism:
Roudometof, ‘From Milletto Greek Nation:Enlightenment,Secularisation and NationalIdentity in Ottoman BalkanSociety, 1453–1821’,
 Journal of Modern GreekStudies
 , 16, 1998, pp 11–47; Nikos Inzessiloglou,
 N’, in
 , edsChr Konstantopoulou andL Maratou-Alipranti,EKKE, Athens, 2000.3Eric Hobsbawm,
Nationsand Nationalism since1780: Programme, Myth,Reality
 , CambridgeUniversity Press,Cambridge, 19984Victor Roudometof, op cit,p 175Ibid, p 236Penelope Petsini, ‘GreekPhotography, GreekSingularities’, in
Photography and theContemporary GreekFamily
 , doctoral thesis,University of Derby,School of Art, Design andTechnologies, 2004, p 1007Peter Osborne,
Travelling Light: Photography, Travel and Visual Culture
 ,Manchester UniversityPress, Manchester–NewYork, 2000, p 58Martin Heidegger, ‘TheAge of the World Picture’,in
The QuestionConcerning Technologyand Other Essays
 , HarperTorchbooks, Harper &Row, New York, 1977, pp128–309As Osborne puts it:‘Throughout the nineteenthcentury the function of thephotograph was stronglydetermined by its part inthe process of unifying thegeographical, economic,ideological and, indeed,imaginary territory acrosswhich capitalism was beingextended. This processcombined brute force withthe logic of the market, andthe efficacy of technology

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