During the Long Greek Crisis: Jan Fabre, The Greek Festival, and Metakénosis
Keywords:crisis, Greece, historiography, metakenosis, performance, Korais, translation, cultural transmission, self-representation, cultural hierarchies
During the fiscal, political, and social disorder caused by the Greek crisis, Greek cultural production has turned to obscure moments of Greek history, such as the Ottoman period, in an attempt to reframe dominant narratives. For Greek cultural politics, rejecting, or at least questioning the ancient past -- that was until now seen as the only valuable past -- is a way for Greek artists to reject Western perspectives on Greek culture and claim their own set of criteria by which to experience their national past. This aspect of the crisis, which is in some ways a renewed principle of historiographic judgment, inevitably presents itself in comparison to the highly influential Enlightenment philosophy of metakénosis. A term coined by Adamantios Korais (1748-1833), metakénosis referred to the transfer of the ideas of European liberal humanism through translation into Modern Greek, while dismissing Eastern influences in Greek culture. European thought of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was assumed by Korais to be based on classic Greek ideals, and its re-translation into Greek was undertaken in earnest in order to inspire sentiments of national unity, confidence in Greek letters, and continuity with the classical past.
For this proposed article, I examine Korais’s highly consequential principle and its legacy by looking at a recent scandal in the Greek theatre world, that of Jan Fabre’s short-lived appointment as artistic director of the Greek Festival in 2016. A large group of Greek theatre artists circulated a letter of protest in which they asked Fabre to resign. In their responses to Jan Fabre’s perceived appropriation of their festival, these artists seemed to be reversing the metakénosis model as they expressed their opposition to standards of cultural value imposed from abroad. The context of the crisis, as fiscal crisis, but also as a new paradigm of krisis as judgment, was instrumental in voicing this protest.
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