[MGSA-L] Greece: Thessaloniki mayor injured after far-right attack

Paris Papamichos Chronakis pchronakis at gmail.com
Sun May 20 22:53:57 PDT 2018

Many thanks, June.

This is a most terrifying incident, which when properly contextualized,
demonstrates how violent, indeed homicidal, a certain discourse about
genocides and their remembrance can become. It speaks volumes about
Greece's current state but also serves as a warning for the advocates of a
certain type of national memory in Greece and Greek America.

As is well known by now, what ignited this unprecedented act of violence
was the false claim that the municipality of Thessaloniki granted
permission for a gay parade to take place on the very same day of the
"Pontic Genocide" commemoration. These fake news circulated widely in the
social media and were the chief allegation brought against Mayor Boutaris
as well as the main justification for the violence inflicted upon him.
Surprisingly, mentions to his presumed "Turkophilia", his heretic views on
the FYROM question, and his "philosemitism" were comparatively sparser
(anyone who can stomach it can skim through the comments accompanying the
postings in the "Στραβά και Ανάποδα της Θεσσαλονίκης" facebook page, or
read what former prefect of Thessaloniki Panayotis Psomiadis had to say
about Boutaris the transvestite ('τραβέλι").

It is well-known, though often neglected, that sexism lies at the core of
hyper-nationalism. We are nevertheless still unaware how heteronormative,
if not plainly homophobic, discourses of victimhood can be. This, in my
view, renders the mnemonic discourse of the Pontic "genocide" qualitatively
different from that of other genocides and primarily that of the Holocaust
in the western world. In a nutshell, what we witness with regards to the
politics of memory of the Pontic "genocide" is not only a claim to
victimhood, indeed a victim competition with Jews or other persecuted
groups. Rather, while historically the discourse on genocide had for long
been associated with the language of tolerance, the acceptance of
difference and a certain respect for human rights of any persecuted group,
the "genocidization" of Pontic memory is today, by contrast, one of the
core mechanisms for the production of a virulent, exclusive, and extreme
Greek-Macedonian nationalism as well as of a broader intolerance against
every difference, be that ethnic, religious, or sexual. To put it bluntly,
while the Holocaust and gay rights can discursively coexist (for reasons
that are worth investigating further), by contrast, the "Pontic" victim
cannot but solely be imagined as a heteronormative, heterosexual male.
Hence, the "scandal" of a gay parade happening next to the commemoration of
a "genocide." Those active in the field of Pontic "genocide" commemoration
in Greece or Greek America should, therefore, be twice attentive as to how
exclusive, sexist, homophobic, indeed wholeheartedly intolerant their
mnemonic discourses, associational life, and commemorative practices can
inadvertently be.

Finally, on another note. This appalling incident challenges a rather
widespread conviction among certain progressive academics that Boutaris'
politics of memory is somewhat "inauthentic" since it verges toward
marketization and can thus best be described as neo-liberal at heart.
Nothing could, unfortunately, be further from the truth. The personal,
psychic, indeed bodily cost Mayor Boutaris has and is bearing in his quest
to heal the wounds of Thessaloniki's/Salonik's/ Salonica's/Selanik's
haunted pasts and create a more open, extrovert, outwardly and (why not?)
more prosperous city today betray how analytically lazy and politically
dangerous such an approach is. In fact, how false the distinction between a
"bourgeois" and alienated liberal-identitarian left and a socially
conscious and engaged Left is. If any further proof was needed, it was
Mayor Boutaris, the chief proponent of identity politics that was brutally
hit, not any social or "indignant" activist of the radical left.

A good, self-reflective week to all,

Paris Papamichos Chronakis

Paris Papamichos Chronakis
Department of Classics and Mediterranean Studies
University of Illinois at Chicago
601 South Morgan Street (MC 315), 1818 University Hall
Chicago, IL, 60607-7117
tel. 310 560 2732
skype name: pchronakis
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