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The Archaeology of Xenitia: Greek Immigration and Material Culture.


Colloquium sponsored by the Medieval and Post-Medieval Archaeology in Greece Interest Group


Between 1900 and 1915, one quarter of the working-age male Greek population immigrated to the United States, Canada and Australia. This profound demographic phenomenon left an indelible mark on Greek society but also created new diasporic communities in the host countries. Greek immigration is a phenomenon of modern trans-nationalism that shares features with other migration stories despite its unique ethnic manifestations. Xenitia, as a historical narrative, has been studied by various disciplines, entering the popular mainstream through movies, comedy, television, academia, museums and culinary institutions. The historical enterprise of Greek immigration in the twentieth century, however, has lacked a significant archaeological voice. Nevertheless, a series of recent projects in Greece, the U.S. and Australia testify to the emergence of an archaeological discipline tackling material culture as critical evidence rather than mere illustration. As a major Greek-American metropolis, Chicago offers a great opportunity to reflect upon archaeology’s contribution to the relationship between home and host societies. This colloquium collaborates with Chicago’s Consulate General of Greece, the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center, the Jane Adams Hull-House Museum, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the AIA interest group in Medieval and Post-Medieval Archaeology in Greece. New archaeological data from Epeiros, Kythera, Keos, the Southern Argolid and the Nemea Valley will highlight the effects of emigration, while data from Colorado, Philadelphia and Sydney will illustrate the effects of immigration. Abandoned households were coupled with new foundations, while a fluid transmission of moneys and resources created networks of goods and meanings far more complex than the traditional model of assimilation, economic prosperity, or the melting-pot. Greek archaeology played a double role in constructing native and foreign ideologies, ranging from church foundations in the 1920s (Greek community in Philadelphia) to film productions for the war relief effort in the 1940s (documentary produced and newly restored by the American School). Finally, we will see how excavated ruins inform current narratives of discovery and homecoming in a recent travel memoir that layers personal and textual lives. Such meta-narratives (factual and idealized) reveal deep entanglements between archaeologist and immigrant.