UCL Anthropology


Konstantinos Kalantzis


Research Synopsis and Progress

My research explores political imagination in Greece during the current historical moment, often labeled “the Greek crisis” (a term I scrutinize and unpack). It focuses on Greece’s relationship to the West and the re-charting of geographies of imagination and desire which bind “the North” to “the South”. The project looks especially at the Greek-German component following tensions in public spheres after the 2010 implementation of a bailout deal and associated austerity measures in Greece. My study considers visual culture and photography as realms of political engagement that may illuminate questions of desire, imagination, economy, asymmetry and memory. Likewise, I explore photographs in terms of possibilities of “citizenship” and imagination, in relation to what they may reveal about imagining others and enabling political spheres of co-existing with them.

My research involves fieldwork (over 12 months in 2017 and 2018) in three different sites in rural Greece and incorporates social engagements occurring on digital platforms and art exhibitions, as well as conversations among people in Athens. The research is immersed in an array of social domains: villages in highland Crete; Cretan coastal tourist destinations; mainland Greek towns that suffered massacres in the 1940s by German Nazi troops, and which are currently at the center of political debates given reconfigurations of Greece’s relationship “to Germany”; the exhibition Documenta 14 and subsequent discussions and performances that brought “colonialism” and “neoliberalism” to the forefront of public debate, and so on. In my ethnography, I participate in various social domains and engage with people in various positions. They include interlocutors and friends I have known since 2006, when I first conducted fieldwork in rural Crete; German anti-fascist activists fighting for Germany to pay compensations to families of victims of the 1940s German Occupation; young Greek urbanites trying to make a living in Athens; curators and visitors of museums and memorials dedicated to the 1940s German Occupation; art groups commenting on Greece’s position in the global hierarchy of value; German tourists returning to the Cretan hamlets they first visited in the 1960s and gifting their old snapshots to the families of those depicted in the pictures.

The images that I explore include archival material from the 1940s, portraits of people’s ancestors taken by tourists, digital reuses of old images for the purposes of satire and political commentary, family photographs from people’s walls and wallets, portraits of deceased kin, photos I took during my first fieldwork over 10 years ago and recently brought back, photos taken by my interlocutors and posted on Instagram and Facebook, etc. These images may be carefully stored, decorated, reproduced, deleted, commented upon or even destroyed. They may fuel anger, tenderness, dialogues, and various forms of recollection.

I have currently finished fieldwork and I am writing up a book as well as preparing individual chapters and papers for collective volumes, journals and other venues. I am also co-designing an upcoming course to be jointly taught by the PhotoDemos team at UCL Anthropology in the Spring Term. For a list of talks and other events I have already organized and given see “dissemination activities”.

Dissemination Activities

1. Photographic Exhibition:

  • (organizer and curator): “The Sfakian Screen: Looking and Living in the White Mountains of Crete” exploring how the residents of Sfakia (rural southwestern Crete) photograph the region and their experience of place and relatedness. The exhibition took place in 3 venues: Frangokastello (1-13/8), Chora Sfakion (13-29/8), Askyfou (30/8-12/9). Funded by the ERC (Photodemos project) and supported by the Municipality of Sfakia.

Media coverage of exhibition (in Greek):


2. Workshops/Conferences:

  • (co-organizer) “Uneasy Photography: The Politics of Images in a Time of Crisis” on visual culture and political crisis, Panteion University, Athens (20/12/2017). Among other talks, the workshop featured a roundtable with professional photojournalists working on the “migrant crisis”. Funded by the Photodemos ERC project (UCL, Anthropology) with the support of the Laboratory of Anthropological Research (Panteion University).


3. Papers given upon invitation

  • (forthcoming, tba), lecture at the symposium: The Greek chorio: Then and Now: Stavros Niarchos Foundation for the Study of Hellenic Culture, UCLA, LA (23/2/2019).
  • “Jokes, Photographs & The Transgressive Native: Thinking Though (Crypto)Colonialism and Political Imagination in Greece”, Conference “Crypto-colonialism and the Global South” [in honor of Michael Herzfeld], Brown University, Providence, RI, (19-20/10/2017).
  • https://anthropology.fas.harvard.edu/files/anthrodept/files/brown_conference_cc_herzfeld.pdf
  •  “Warriors and invaders? Nativism, Photography and Greek-German Encounters in the Greek crisis”, Research Seminar in Visual, Material and Museum Anthropology, University of Oxford, Oxford (13/10/2017).
  •  “Sex, Guns and Europe: Joking and the Transgressive Native”, in the panel “Humor, Lying, Ambiguity” in “Learning from Documenta Closing Event” (4-8/10/2017), panel convened by C. Wright, E. Yalouri, Athens School of Fine Arts/Polytechnic School, Athens (6/10/2017). http://learningfromdocumenta.org/learning-from-documenta-closing-event/
  •  “Modernity as Cure and Poison: Visual Culture and Ambiguous Stillness in Therasia”, Workshop “Ethnographies of the Future”, Departments of History, Archaeology and Social Anthropology, University of Thessaly (in Greek), Volos, (29/5/2017).
  • “Warriors and Tourists: Nativism, Visual Culture and Greek-German Encounters in the ‘Greek Crisis’”, Departmental Seminar, Department of Anthropology, UCL, London (5/3/2017).
  •  Presentation exploring questions of Orientalism, desire and power in the relationship between Greece and Germany during the “Greek crisis” in the roundtable “Politics of Culture: Greece and Germany” in “Learning from Documenta”, Laboratory of Anthropological Research, Panteion University, convened by E. Yalouri, A. Lambropoulos, (in Greek), Athens (22/12/2016).
  •  “Cretan Warriors and German Invaders? Tourism and Visual Imaginaries in the ‘Greek Crisis’”, Department Seminar, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bern (15/11/2016).

4. Talks/papers in conferences and workshops (following call for papers or as organizer)

  •  (upcoming) “The Sfakian Screen: Imagination, Technomaterialism and “Facebook the Snitch” in a Local Photo Exhibition”, 2-day Conference, part of the Thessaloniki 2018 PhotoBiennale Capitalist Realism (23-24/11/2018).
  •  “Politics and Political imagination at the Photo Exhibition ‘The Sfakian Screen: Looking and Living in the White Mountains of Crete’”, ASA 2018 conference: Sociality, matter, and the imagination: re-creating Anthropology, Lab: Citizens of photography: the camera and the political imagination, Oxford (19/9/2018).
  •  “Facebook, Cameras and Other Traitors: Politics of Affection and Disdain in Sfakia, Crete”, Workshop Uneasy Photography: The Politics of Images in a Time of Crisis, Panteion University, Athens (20/12/2017) [workshop co-organizer].

5. Reading groups/lectures and seminars:

  • (upcoming) 10/1/2019 to 30/3/2019. (Co-lecturer) “Photography and Anthropology”, Spring Term course, UCL Anthropology, taught together with 6 members of the research group Photodemos (C. Pinney, N. Binaisa, I. Selejan, S. Young, V. Buthpitiya).
  •  (Seminar) “Visual Culture, Power and Representation”, Department of Social Anthropology, Panteion University, Postgraduate Seminar (invited by Ε. Yalouri), Athens, (4/4/2017).
  • (Co-organizer and co-convener) Reading group: “Image Wars: Photography and Politics”, Winter and Spring Term 2016/7, Department of Anthropology, UCL.
  • 1/9/2016-20/12/2016. (Adjunct lecturer) “Greece and the European ‘Debt Crisis’: Explorations of Power and Nationhood in a Critical Conjuncture”, Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern (Universitaet Bern).
  • “Power and the Visual: Seminar on Postcolonial Art, Photography and ‘Aesthetics’”, Department of History, Archaeology and Social Anthropology, Postgraduate Seminar, Volos, (20/12/2016).
  • “Photography and Anthropology”, Course at the Summer school “Visual Ethnography of Cityscapes” (with changes/updates each year), Netherlands Institute at Athens, (16/7/2015, 12/7/2016, 7/7/2017, 16/7/2018).

6. Articles:

7. Awards:

  • "Athens and the Indigenous Sublime: Rethinking Orientalism and Desire from Documenta 14 to the Cretan Highlands"- recipient of the 2019 J.B. Donne Essay Prize on the Anthropology of Art