The past is ours. Images of Greek Macedonia, Kostas Kotsakis


Throughout the foregoing discussion, the latent feature characterising Greek archaeology was the domination of a classical archaeology which had purified herself from association with anything but classics, and so effectively neutralised herself from any relation with the emerging broader discipline of archaeology (Shanks 1996). The other side of the coin was an archaeology that was anthropological and, by definition, in a better position to face problems of ethnicity, such as those that were perceived as posing a threat to the perfection of the idealised Hellenism. But I disagree with Morris (1994: 11) that, because Greece was considered as 'continental', i.e. belonging to Europe, archaeology could not be used for nationalist purposes. Quite the contrary, this 'continentalism' promoted arguments of cultural superiority not only over the Europeans, but also over the rest of peoples of the wider region. In short, this perception allowed Greece to become indirectly one of the culturally dominating nations of Europe. Hence, the reaction on the uses of the Greek past by other nationalisms.

For the state of Macedonia, Greece is the dominant Other who sets the goal of imposing her objectivity and eventually defining the historical past of another people, just as European philhellenism had done for her (Herzfeld 1987). It is no surprise that the, state of Macedonia is trying to escape from this imposed objectivity, by constructing its own 'objective' past in negation to anything Greek. With an established background of historical and archaeological research covering almost two centuries, Greece has entered the authoritative space of European modernity long before any of the Balkan states did. It is not therefore an issue of contesting historical evidence: imposing objectivity refers to hegemony, and here the political aspect becomes transparent. The 'communities' of the others may be 'imagined' (Kofos 1997), therefore distorted and by implication false. But does this mean that a community can reserve for itself the objective truth, the accurate description of a true world? Perhaps Friedman's (1992: 852) comment is an appropriate end and a reminder to this long discussion: 'In all these cases, modernism has come into direct confrontation with others' construction of their identities.... One cannot combine a strategy of empirical truth-value with a sensitive politics, simply because the former is also a political strategy.'


The author wishes to thank Professor I. Koliopoulos for bibliographic help.

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