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Michael Herzfeld

Crypto-Colonialism, Corruption, and the Creation of Crisis in Greece (20.06.2014)

Media discussions of “the Greek crisis,” and especially assertions of Greek “corruption,” obscure an important fact: that patronage and bribery are reflections of larger geo-political processes dating back to the Western creation of the modern Greek nation-state – processes that powerful Western European and North American countries have been dangerously reluctant to acknowledge.  The speaker will analyze this history in terms of the durable imposition of colonial rule in the cultural sphere.  This pattern of domination, which is a refraction of a global hierarchy of cultural value, has both inflated and exploited Greek cultural nationalism, with its claims of deep antiquity and European quintessence.  The consequences for governance today, especially in the context of a the unclear trajectory of the European Union, have been catastrophic for the Greek people, and they will not cease to threaten international relations as well as the internal cohesion of the Greek nation-state until the root causes are identified and discussed in a public fashion.  There are signs that this is increasingly well understood in Greece.  Will it be equally well understood, and will its implications be squarely faced, by the more powerful nations of the Western world?  The topic will be addressed through comparisons with several other countries, notably including Thailand (another site of the speaker’s research).


Michael Herzfeld

Professor at the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University.


Main Research:

  • social theory, history of Anthropology, social poetics, politics of history; Europe (especially Greece & Italy), and Thailand.

Publications (selection):

  • Evicted from Eternity: The Restructuring of Modern Rome; University of Chicago Press; March 2009.
  • Cultural Intimacy: Social Poetics in the Nation-State; New York: Routledge.1997. Italian edition, Naples, L’Ancora. 2001. 2nd, revised U.S. edition. 2005. Serbian edition, Belgrade, XX Vek.
  • The Body Impolitic: Artisans and Artifice in the Global Hierarchy of Value; Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2004
  • Anthropology: Theoretical Practice in Culture and Society; Oxford: Blackwell; Paris: UNESCO. 2001.
  • The Social Production of Indifference: Exploring the Symbolic Roots of Western Bureaucracy; Oxford: Berg.1992. Paperback reprint, The University of Chicago Press. 1993.
  • Ours Once More: Folklore, Ideology, and the Making of Modern Greece; Austin: University of Texas Press. 1982. Paperback reprint, Pella (New York), 1986; Greek edn., Athens: Alexandria.