Erγastirio: Writing Greek America
Placing Greek Diaspora Studies in North America Curricula
TOPIC & PRESENTERS
This Erγastirio invites reflection about the place of Greek American and Greek Canadian texts, historical events, and cultural situations in the Modern Greek classroom in North American universities. The aim is to foster conversation on pedagogical strategies and topics that promote the expansion of our teaching to include Greek worlds beyond Greece in a comparative and/or transnational framework.
An introduction and three presentations will initiate the conversation:
Transnational Greek Worlds in the Classroom”
Yiorgos Anagnostou and Simos Zenios
Elsa Amanatidou (Brown University),
“The Challenge and the Joy of Teaching Heritage Learners”
Abstract: In most U.S. Higher Education Institutions where programs of Modern Greek studies or Greek language courses are offered, Heritage Language Learners (HLLs) are taught in the same class as second language and culture learners (L2). This practice has major implications for course design, instructional approaches, the pace of acquisition and assessment strategies. In a mixed class of HLLs and L2 learners, the development of interculturality and critical literacies––some of the overarching goals of a proficiency and literacy-oriented foreign language curriculum––happens within a framework of constant construction and negotiation of identities and, often, a positioning and repositioning of the learner as an insider or outsider in relation to the content studied. The challenge, and joy, for the instructor of this “mixed class” is to design the language learning environment in a way that takes into account both the heritage learners’ language capital and ideologies and the collective identities of the class and situates them in a dialogic relationship with one another, while at the same time connecting them with the personal and social identity politics that inform so many of today’s critical issues. How can we explore “the intricate relationship between language, thought and culture” (Kramsch, 2009), while also not neglecting the focus on language as system and maintaining the motivation of all stakeholders? This presentation will focus on exactly that.
Note: The presentation will conclude with a video, a digital story example from a Heritage Language Learner in second year Greek. For technical reasons we feature it here, please watch after reading the presentation:
Polinsky M. and Kagan O. 2017. “Heritage Languages: In the ‘Wild’ and in the Classroom.” Language and Linguistics Compass, 1 (5): 368–95.
Athanasios (Sakis) Gekas (York University),
“From Migrant Heritage to Community Practice: The Greek Canadian Archives and the Emerging Global ‘Classroom’”
Abstract: The talk will briefly outline the scope and aims of the project to develop Greek Canadian Studies from the vantage point of York University in Toronto through Public (and Digital) History initiatives, course development and mobilization of community and institutional resourcefulness. The teaching of Greek Canadian history at undergraduate and graduate level and the development of research projects at York University takes place within a philosophy and culture that prioritizes engagement with many ethnic and indigenous communities. Course development has grown with the appropriate academic-institutional, charitable-heritage foundation, and community support. The presentation will briefly outline the institutional realities and teaching resources available, arguing for the perhaps exceptional—compared to the United States—landscape that has already brought into fruition the Immigrec virtual museum and The Hellenic Heritage Foundation (HHF) Greek Canadian Archives.
Gekas, Sakis. 2022. “Greek Canadian History as Community Practice.” American Journal of Contemporary Issues, 13.
Eleftheria Arapoglou (UC Davis),
“It’s Not All Greek to Them: Greek American ‘Texts’ in the American Studies Classroom”
Abstract: This presentation is a reflection on the place of Greek American “texts” in an American Studies (AMS) syllabus, at a public, land-grant university that is part of the University of California system. My contribution to Erγastirio will consider three classes I teach for the American Studies Department at UC Davis—a class on “Images of America(ns) in U.S. Popular Culture,” a class on “American Autobiography,” and a seminar for transfer honors students—as critical pedagogy projects that rely on transnational American studies methodology. All three classes use multiple lenses and pull from several disciplines (history, literature, cultural geography, food science, etc.) to question and analyze “American culture”—both in the United States, and in today’s interconnected world.
I will draw on three examples to argue for the merit of the dialogism that is inherent in transnational American studies: a contrapuntal reading of Eleni Gage and Mark Twain in the “places” module of the American Autobiography class, a discussion of gyro in the “U.S. food culture” module of the “Images” class, and an argument about parochial schools in the U.S. maintaining “community cultural wealth” in the form of “linguistic capital” in the transfer seminar class (Yosso 2005).
In my experience, the inclusion of Greek American “texts” in the AMS curriculum encourages students to step outside their taken-for-granted U.S.-based reality and engage in reflexive analysis. As a result, student learning becomes disruptive, conflictual, dialogic and transformative, just like American cultures themselves.
Yosso, Tara J. 2005. “Whose Culture has Capital? A Critical Race Theory Discussion of Community Cultural Wealth.” Race Ethnicity and Education, 8 (1): 69–91.
Julie Sze, Julie. 2016. “Introduction: Engaging Contradictions: Teaching and Pedagogy in American Studies.” American Quarterly, 68 (2): 341–45.
The invitation to broaden our teaching scope is guided by historical realities and ongoing social, disciplinary, and institutional developments.
First, this orientation recognizes that transnational cultural and economic exchanges (political lobbying, translations, scholarship, investments, philanthropy, film festivals, folk dance culture, music, remittances) connect Greek worlds in Greece and North America in a mutually constitutive manner.
Secondly, relatively new developments in contemporary Greece (immigration, citizenship, multiculturalism) as well as established Greek topics in North American curricula can be fruitfully discussed comparatively in relation to Greek American and Greek Canadian contexts. A module on migrant illegality in Greece, for instance, could include immigrant narratives such as Thanassis Valtinos’ Συναξάρι Αντρέα Κορδοπάτη. Α module on religion and anti-racism could compare the policies and politics of the Church of Greece and the U.S. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. A course on modern Greek poetry or literature could explore how Greek diaspora authors such as Nicolas Calas challenged the national canon. Such a course can be enriched by studying North American networks of producing and disseminating Greek literature abroad (translations, lecture- and poetry-reading circuits, publishing houses, awards, critical discourse) in the context of global literature. “Language learning can benefit from the inclusion of transnational perspectives in instruction, further promoting pedagogies aligned with the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages of the ACTFL.”
Now well-established, comparative studies and the transnational turn in the humanities and social sciences in the North American university offer the epistemological and institutional impetus to expand the modern Greek curriculum along the Greece–North America axis. This expansion raises important questions both for the field itself and for its intersection with broader issues in the humanities and the social sciences. In what ways would this expansion might offer new perspectives enriching our understanding of Greece and Greek worlds? And in what ways does it further the position of the modern Greek classroom to participate in broader discussions about cultural identity, gender, civic belonging, and transnational circulations of culture and capital, among other international issues, including environmentalism?
We are inviting reflection on this topic in relation to the following “types” of classrooms:
1. Undergraduate courses and graduate seminars offered in Modern Greek programs and departments
2. Undergraduate courses and graduate seminars taught by faculty in departments such as Comparative studies, Classics, Music, Translation studies, History, American Ethnic studies (immigration, ethnicity, diaspora, transnationalism).
3. Undergraduate Greek courses taught in English under General Educational Requirements
4. Greek language courses
ISSUES & QUESTIONS
• Institutional Realities
What are the prospects and challenges connected with a transnational and comparative oriented Modern Greek curriculum in particular academic settings and institutional realities? (Variations include the academic unit overseeing a Modern Greek program; Ivy League vs Public Universities; curriculum priorities in specific institutions; joint faculty appointments; degrees of authority and autonomy to choose the modern Greek curriculum.)
What are some of the strategies to strengthen the transnational and comparative curriculum at the undergraduate and graduate level?
What teaching modules (politics, history, economy, etc.) are most likely to benefit from a transnational and comparative angle?
What additional modalities––transcultural approaches for example––could fruitfully connect Greek with English (or French)?
What pool of students (majors in the humanities; others) is most likely to be drawn to our transnational and comparative courses? What Modern Greek paradigm(s)––Greek cosmopolitanism, global Greek literature and identity, immigration and diaspora, etc.––could enhance students’ interests?
What are the prospects and challenges in developing Greek diaspora specific (Greek America; Greek Canada) undergraduate courses and/or graduate seminars?
What are the prospects and challenges of implementing heritage- and community-based as well as transnational language pedagogies?
• Teaching Resources
What topics will benefit from translations from English into Greek and Greek into English?
What transnational topics of potential pedagogical value are under-researched, requiring new scholarship?
What language-instruction material (textbooks, online resources) are available for the adoption of transnational perspective in the teaching of Greek language?
What are the available human, discursive and technological resources (scholars; teaching platforms; scholarship on Greek/American transnational topics for faculty not specializing on Greek American and Greek Canadian studies but interested in incorporating it in their classroom)? In what way could the Modern Greek transnational and comparativist classroom benefit from e-teaching technologies
We are looking forward to your participation and contribution to the conversation.
Yiorgos Anagnostou (The Ohio State University)
Simos Zenios (UCLA)