Daphne Arapakis is a PhD Candidate in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne (projected year of completion: 2026). She recently published an article in the Journal of Intercultural Studies titled “Ethnic Compartmentalisation: Greek Australian (Dis)Associations with White Australia and Indigenous Sovereignty.” Her forthcoming book chapter, “Untangling ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’: Representations of Indigenous Politics in Greek Diaspora Press” is scheduled to be published in the volume Migration Studies on Indigenous Lands: Challenges, Reflections, Pathways (edited by Andonis Piperoglou and Francesco Ricatti) for Springer’s Migration Studies Series. A recording of her public lecture at the Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture (Melbourne, Australia) is located here.

Research Keywords: Diaspora; Settler Colonialism; Multiculturalism; Greek Australia.


Diasporic Tensions, Colonial Dimensions: Greeks, Australian Multiculturalism, and Indigenous Sovereignty

Last year, in the lead-up to the Australian referendum on a First Nations Voice to the Australian Parliament, I gave a public lecture at the Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture in Naarm (Melbourne). The lecture explored how members of the Greek diaspora respond to Indigenous politics. Charting a range of articulations in which Greeks identified with an Australian multicultural ethos, as well as the dispossessive violence of British colonialism, I illustrated how Greeks in Australia selectively draw upon historical narratives connected with the history of Greece and of Greek migration to make sense of their presence on Indigenous lands. After my presentation, members of the intergenerational diasporic audience who attended asked me a range of questions. Some were related to the politics of whiteness, while others were tied to political divisions within the Greek community. Some “questions,” however, were somewhat accusatory, suggesting that aspects of my presentation had struck a soft spot. This assortment of audience responses aptly reflected tensions within diaspora politics that I explore in my doctoral research project.

My research project Diasporic Tensions, Colonial Dimensions: Greeks, Australian Multiculturalism, and Indigenous Sovereignty explores Greek relations with First Nations politics. At the core of this research is a drive to understand how, why, and under what circumstances Greeks have laid claim to lands that Indigenous peoples have never ceded. In doing so, my work considers how Greeks have entered onto deeply storied landscapes that are home to pre-colonial cultures which have been overlaid by British colonialism and liberal multiculturalism. Shifting the framing of diaspora studies away from a predominant diaspora-homeland paradigm, I ask how expressions of Greek diasporic culture in Australia operate in tension with Indigenous histories, cultures, and politics.

To do so, I explore contemporary political discourse of Greek–Indigenous relations via an examination of articles in mainstream and diaspora news outlets, ethnic community events, and digital forums, as well as popular Greek Australian literature and film. These cultural artifacts can be viewed as a contemporary archive of diasporic life that gives prominence to how diasporic identities are informed by an awareness of Indigenous affairs. Complemented by interviews with Greek Australian representatives and cultural commentators, I aim to highlight the power dynamics at play in the making and circulation of diasporic understandings of Indigenous presences.

In my attempt to understand how the Greek diaspora engages with Indigenous politics in Australia, my project weaves together ideas from a range of academic fields. Bringing studies of Indigenous-settler relations—an emergent field that stems from Indigenous studies, political science, and settler colonial studies—into dialogue with critical multicultural studies and scholarship on whiteness, ethnicity, and diaspora, I aim to make a theoretical intervention that broadens how we can understand the relationship between diasporas and settler colonialism. To do so, I ask questions that are pertinent, but often at the periphery of public discourse, of how Greeks make a sense of home in a new land. Such questions include, how do Greeks in Australia draw on their historical experiences to support or disavow First Nations’ political struggles? In what contexts, spaces, and environments do Greeks in Australia distance themselves from the legacies of colonialism? How do they create forms of solidarity with Indigenous sovereignties? How do they narrate their contribution to Australian multiculturalism as part of an anti-racist politics?

To date, I have identified key historical narratives that Greeks in Australia deploy in the present to frame, think through, and make sense of Indigenous politics. The relationship of Greek antiquity with Australian democracy, for example, collides with Greek representations of an “Indigenous Hellenism.” Memories of the Ottoman period in the migrant psyche crossover with First Nations’ histories of colonial occupation. The contribution that Greeks have made to successful Australian multiculturalism overlaps with migrant and Indigenous experiences of marginalization. These findings reflect a dynamic interplay between the past and present, as well as overlaps between senses of “homeland” and places of settlement. Such findings are varied and nuanced and, when viewed in unison, they disrupt framings of Greek Australia as a homogenous entity.

My research has been motivated by my personal journey of intergenerational migrant self-discovery. Growing up learning about Australia’s history of settler colonial violence, I have been acutely aware that First Nations peoples have suffered under British colonialism. Yet I often struggled to situate my experience of being Greek in Australia within Australia’s settler colonial present. As I gravitated towards exploring the dynamics of Indigenous–settler relations, I found that Indigenous–diaspora relations in Australia are significantly underexplored. In an effort to fill this lacuna, my work foregrounds Greek diasporic narratives that have been largely neglected in academic scholarship. I believe that this is a necessary step towards cultivating more just and ethical studies that centre how power and knowledge-making operate in diasporic life.

In recognizing that there is a need for stronger vernaculars that allow us to understand Indigenous–diaspora relations, my work offers an opportunity to deepen conceptual understandings of diaspora and colonialism. Echoing the work of scholars within Asian diaspora studies, like Candace Fujikane and Jonathan Okamura, I aim to contribute to theoretical approaches to settler colonialism to better understand how the Greek diaspora in Australia reproduces, as well as rejects, colonialist ideologies, narratives, and practices.

Although I am in the early stages of this theoretical intervention, I envision that my research on the Greek diaspora and Australian settler colonialism has the potential to open space for meaningful dialogues about what it means to be “Greek” and, by extension, “diasporic” in the settler colonial Anglosphere. At a time when regional and national boundaries are being challenged in an increasingly interconnected world while the legacies of past colonialisms endure, the colonial dimensions of Greek diasporic life can no longer be ignored.

January 17, 2024