“Racism” versus “Intersectionality”? Significations of Interwoven Oppressions in Greek LGBTQ+ Discourses

This paper seeks to make “racism” strange, by exploring its invocation in the sociolinguistic context of LGBTQI+ activism in Greece, where it is used in ways that may be jarring to anglophone readers. In my ongoing research on the conceptualisation of interwoven oppressions in Greek social movement contexts, I have been interested in understanding how the widespread use of the term “racism” as a superordinate category to reference forms of oppression not only based on “race,” “ethnicity,” and “citizenship” (e.g., racism, nationalism, xenophobia) but also those based on gender, gender identity, and sexuality (e.g., sexism, transphobia, and homophobia) relates to the increased adoption of “intersectionality” in movement discourses. In ordinary parlance, this commonplace usage of “racism” as an “umbrella term” nevertheless retains its etymological link to “race,” while its scope is extended to other regimes of superiority/inferiority or privilege/oppression.
If intersectionality presupposes that oppressions are ontologically multiple and analytically separable, the use of “racism” as an umbrella concept seems to point in the other direction, implying that all forms of oppression originate from a common source, have a similar ontological basis, or generate privilege for the same social agents who deploy similar tactics vis-à-vis oppressed groups. My research examines how intersectionality – widely understood as a multi-axial theory of oppression, which contends that power relations are multiple, distinct, and irreducible to one another, yet converge simultaneously in the experiences of multiply oppressed social groups – relates to the use of “racism” as a struggle concept in Greek, but also in other languages commonly used in Greece, such as Albanian (racizmi) and Arabic (eunsuria).In this paper, I examine how these two vocabularies – of racism and intersectionality – are operative in movement discourses, but also how they shape and are shaped by activists’ perceptions, analyses, and theories of oppression. 
Keywords: intersectionality, travelling theory, LGBTQI+ activism, ‘race,’ racism, antiracism, social movements, translation, conceptual migration, Greece.

14 June, 2014. The crowd is gathering in Klafthmonos Square, waiting for the Athens Pride March to begin. An activist stands in the shade of a rainbow umbrella held in one hand, wearing a heart-shaped sign that denounces the denial of “the right to family” to LGBTQI+ people as the quintessence of racism. In one sense, the slogan is uncontroversially on point, as the theme of the 10th Athens Pride festival was “A Family Affair,” intended to protest discrimination in the family code and the exclusion of same gender partners from civil partnerships and marriage. But what to make of the reference to “racism” to describe legal discrimination resulting in exclusion from “reproductive citizenship” (Roseneil et al. 2013) on the basis of gender and sexuality, not “race"? Simple error? Egregious appropriation? Semantic drift?

This paper seeks to make “racism” strange, by exploring its invocation in the sociolinguistic context of LGBTQI+ activism in Greece, where it is used in ways that may be jarring to anglophone readers. In my ongoing research on the conceptualisation of interwoven oppressions in Greek social movement contexts, I have been interested in understanding how the widespread use of the term “racism” as a superordinate category to reference forms of oppression not only based on “race,” “ethnicity,” and “citizenship” (e.g., racism, nationalism, xenophobia) but also those based on gender, gender identity, and sexuality (e.g., sexism, transphobia, and homophobia) relates to the increased adoption of “intersectionality” in movement discourses. In ordinary parlance, this commonplace usage of “racism” as an “umbrella term” nevertheless retains its etymological link to “race,” while its scope is extended to other regimes of superiority/inferiority or privilege/oppression. If intersectionality presupposes that oppressions are ontologically multiple and analytically separable, the use of “racism” as an umbrella concept seems to point in the other direction, implying that all forms of oppression originate from a common source, have a similar ontological basis, or generate privilege for the same social agents, who deploy similar tactics vis-à-vis oppressed groups. My research examines how intersectionality – widely understood as a multi-axial theory of oppression, which contends that power relations are multiple, distinct, and irreducible to one another, yet converge simultaneously in the experiences of multiply oppressed social groups – relates to the use of “racism” as a struggle concept in Greek, but also in other languages commonly used in Greece, such as Albanian (racizmi) and Arabic (eunsuria). In this paper, I examine how these two vocabularies – of racism and intersectionality – are operative in movement discourses, but also how they shape and are shaped by activists’ perceptions, analyses, and theories of oppression.

Methodology: сonversation

During the stage of fieldwork on which this paper is based (summer and autumn of 2015), I conducted eleven distinct conversations with twenty-two people who belong to ten collectives, groups, or organisations. Each conversation lasted, on average, two hours. I met with members of the following groups, organisations and collectives: The Gay and Lesbian Community of Greece [Ομοφυλοφιλική Λεσβιακή Κοινότητα Ελλάδας]; Rainbow Families [Οικογένειες Ουράνιο Τόξο]; Athens Pride; LGBT People with Disabilities [ΛΟΑΤ ΑμεΑ]; Thessaloniki Rainbow Youth; Colour Youth; Terminal 119; Antifa Negative/Fight Back!; Queericulum Vitae; and Homophobia and Transphobia in Education [Ομοφοβία-Τρανσφοβία στην Εκπαίδευση], since renamed The Rainbow School [Πολύχρωμο Σχολείο]. Prior to the conversations, I read texts produced by each of these groups in published brochures, edited volumes, posters, websites, and graffiti, and also conducted a systematic survey of the database, “New Movements in Greece: Material on Gender and Sexuality, 2000-2008” (Στρατούλη και Χαλκιά 2008).

Rather than define these conversations as a source of empirical data, I approached them as sites of theoretical production, and I analyse the transcripts of our conversations as theoretical texts. Our aim was to reflect upon the struggle concepts structuring our perceptions and imaginations; our conversations were, therefore, a place of meeting or crossing between philosophy and social anthropology. In the introduction to their volume The Ground Between: Anthropologists Engage Philosophy, Veena Das, Michael Jackson, Arthur Kleinman and Bhrigupati Singh argue that the work of the anthropologist may share common points with that of the philosopher: each is concerned with understanding experience, whether by retrieving concepts animated in life worlds or by drawing them from abstract discussions and thought experiments, which one later attempts to adapt to the flow of experience (Das et al. 2014, 6). Singh argues that, through philosophical attention to concepts, we can construct a genealogy of thought in the field of anthropological research (Singh 2014, 160). Still, he prompts us to question what, in the final analysis, constitutes a concept. How do our own concepts affect our research processes? Singh argues that concepts can reorient our affects, our perceptions, and, vice versa (Singh 2014, 161). While the anthropologist embarks on research with specific concerns, in the process she often comes to reconsider her desires, and to reflect upon how her questions are shaped by her own conscious or unconscious philosophical beliefs (Singh 2014, 165).

Situating (and mobilising) the self

My own stable presuppositions concerning intersectionality, to the study of which I devoted the past decade of my life (Carastathis 2016), were informed by dwelling in different places – other worlds – than those through which my interlocutors are moving. The concepts on which I relied were, at times, compromised through travelling to the world of my interlocutors (Lugones 1987). I felt internally divided, uncertain of how to stand in "solidarity" in and through the articulation of my thought. For instance, I felt that, according to anti-racist principles of anglophone Black feminism, the use of "racism" as an umbrella term to describe homophobia and transphobia constitutes a misappropriation.

This research stems from multiple, and at times, contradictory desires: the desire of diasporic return; queer desire; the desire for social justice and subjective liberation; the desire for connection, mutual understanding, and community. These desires are interwoven with the migratory geography of my body’s trajectories in space, its crossings and embodiment of multiple borders, its “circular migrations.” 1 On the one hand, these trajectories might classify this research in the ambivalent category of “anthropology at home” (Jackson 1987; Narayan 1993; Kuwayama 2003; Jahan 2014), because it occurs in the place I was born and lived during my childhood, where one of my two mother tongues is spoken, interspersed with loanwords from the other; but also because the community it seeks to encounter is one that feels familiar, due to my queerness and the ways in which it has shaped my affective and political affinities. On the other hand, given my emigration, as a child, and my absence from Greece for the past two and a half decades, my “mixed” ethnicity, my non-normative sexuality, and my feminist politics, my body is routinely perceived as “strange,” or “foreign.” On reflection, this ambivalent positioning has had interesting effects on the encounters staged in this research: I was simultaneously perceived as an insider and an outsider in interlocutionary spaces bordered by “movement,” “community,” “belonging,” “authenticity,” and “identity.” In this sense, I was able to reflect on the dichotomy between “insiders” and “outsiders,” “natives” and “foreigners” on which “anthropology at home” is based, and which, in its more sophisticated variants, it comes to problematize. I became interested in the ways in which these borders are contested through the phenomenology of migration, which is constituted by a heterogeneous multiplicity of subjective experiences and definitions of “belonging” and “nonbelonging,” of narratives of the self, comprised of “roots” and “routes” (Hage & Papadopoulos  2004). As Ghassan Hage writes, critiquing the opposition between mobility and immobility, of belonging and nonbelonging, travel and homeliness:

One can move without belonging anywhere and feel confident and liberated doing so, and others move without a sense of belonging and feel brittle, shaken and exposed. We can even feel imprisoned by a state of constant mobility and belonging nowhere (2004, 115).

These reflections arose from an attempt to situate myself as a researcher vis-à-vis my interlocutors. I want to understand how movement attaches to language, the travel of concepts, and political mobilisation, and how we become attached to or mobilised by languages, concepts, and political ideologies. How does movement inflect and inform how we imagine liberation, particularly in contexts marked by crisis and displacement? In the conversations I invoke in this article, I try to show the multiple trajectories through which concepts are mobilised, some of which (like “racism”) may appear rooted, while others (like “intersectionality”) appear to be “recent arrivals,” “newcomers,” or even illicit “aliens.”

Queering “racism”

In his article, «Homophobia as ‘Racism’ in Contemporary Urban Greece» (2009), based on his ethnography, Elsewheres: Greek LGBT Activists and the Imagination of a Movement (2005), Brian Riedel discusses the use of the word “racism” in Greek to indicate and describe homophobia. His point of departure is how, in his own context of anglophone North America, “racism” and “homophobia” are understood as two distinct, non-overlapping forms of prejudice, targeting two distinct social groups (Riedel 2009, 83). This point of departure is interesting for my purposes, given the ways in which the popular understanding of intersectionality in North America – as a multi-axial framework of oppression and identity – has disputed but also preserved the assumption that systems of oppression are ontologically discrete and analytically distinct, even if mutually constitutive or convergent in lived experiences. For instance, when Proposition 8 was passed in the U.S. state of California, banning same-gender marriage, The Advocate published a cover story titled “Gay is the New Black,” declaring gay rights the “last great civil rights struggle” (Gross 2008). Such analogies were widely critiqued, not only because the construction of the U.S. as a “post-racial” society effaces the ongoing endemic racial violence of the state and its institutions; but also because the analogical structure of the slogan renders invisible gay people who are Black, and who face racism and homophobia simultaneously. Race-sexuality and race-gender analogies have a long history in U.S. social movement discourses and antidiscrimination law, where “race” and antiracism have a prototypical status vis-à-vis other forms of oppression and discrimination. This prototypicality of antiracism seems to be operative in the Greek context as well, where, as Riedel observes, the word “racism” is used interchangeably with “homophobia” to describe anti-gay prejudice (Riedel 2009, 83). However, the reverse does not obtain, indicating the genericity of “racism” – contrasted to the specificity of “homophobia” – may account, in part, for this phenomenon of non-analogical, linguistic slippage or vernacular borrowing.

Riedel tries to explain this slippage ethnographically through three axes of analysis: first, analysing loanwords in demotic, vernacular modern Greek, and their ascribed “Greekness” or “foreignness”; second, sketching how cultural constructions of homoeroticism have shifted in Greece in the post-dictatorship era (1974-?), and specifically through the emergence of an identitarian conception of sexuality; and third, tracing the effects on anti-racist discourse of an increase in immigration to Greece since 1990. His hypothesis is that two models of male homosexuality coexist in Greece at the turn of the millennium: on the one hand, a “traditional” or culturally prior schema dividing men who engage in penetrative homoerotic acts into two different gender roles: the “active” masculine “man” – versus the “passive” feminine “faggot” (Faubion 1993; Γιαννακόπουλος 2012, 2001).2 On the other hand, a more historically recent, identitarian construction of “western” origin views homosexuality as a minoritised identity in contraposition to the dominance of heterosexuality. Riedel argues that someone who perceives his sexuality in “traditional" terms is not likely to recognise himself as a target of homophobia, precisely because he does not identify as “homosexual” or “gay.” That is, he does not view himself as belonging to that social category that homophobia seems to presuppose. Echoing findings of other anthropologists of sexuality (Apostolidou 2004; Kirtsoglou 2004; Kantsa 2010), Riedel found that activists militating for LGBT visibility and rights tended to reject the “traditional” construction of homoeroticism and struggled to destigmatise and make visible their marginalised sexual and gender identities.

This coexistence suggests something of a hypothesis about why ratsismós [racism] and omofovía [homophobia] continue to circulate in parallel, aside from the relative youth of omofovíaand the recognition ratsismósenjoys with its more inclusive definition. Those whose lives are not patterned after a politicised ‘sexual identity’ are less likely to participate in social circles where prejudice against homosexual practices and identities is spoken of as omofovía, a term they may find doubly foreign (linguistically and sexually). It seems reasonable to suppose that ‘homophobia’ as an analytic category will not overtake ‘racism’ until sociosexual identities significantly displace gender roles as the hegemonic organising trope of the same-sex sexual economy (Riedel 2009, 89).

Over a decade has passed since Riedel conducted his groundbreaking ethnography. Has such a displacement of “traditional” Greek by western “identitarian” constructions of homoeroticism taken place? Given that my research focusses on activist discourses, which Riedel hypothesises are overdetermined by identity politics, I cannot support such a generalisation. Many activists with whom I spoke characterised distantiation from sociosexual identities as a function of internalised homophobia. Some even implied that the “traditional” sexual economy was secretive and dishonest, a kind of culturally sanctioned closet. It enabled, in particular, “masculine” men, who were usually married to women – women whose sexual desires and practices, incidentally, remain off the radar in celebratory accounts of this economy – to act upon their desires without threatening, and while still benefiting from, compulsory heterosexuality. Moreover, the ascendancy of trans (τρανς/trans) and queer (κουίρ/kouir) subjectivities in the intervening years has further affected the displacement of this “traditional” sexual economy. For a new generation of activists, “queer” has bridged the space between desire and politics in a way that Riedel’s account does not foresee, enabling people at once to refuse to apply identity categories to their desires or sexual practices and, simultaneously, to politicise those desires and practices as a form of resistance to heteronormativity. Often converging with an anarchist political orientation, the anti-identitarian deployment of “queer” can be read, perhaps, as a response to some of the culturally constructed desires that inherit historical conceptions of sexuality, while resisting the ideological premises of transnational, hegemonic LGBT identity politics, especially its capitalist, nationalist, and homonormative commitments. The emergence of trans identities at once traces its local history in, and overtly rejects, the “traditional” model by insisting on an ontological distinction between “gender” and “sexuality” (Γαλανού 2014).

Racism, strange and familiar

It is not unusual to hear “racism” used in everyday conversations in Greek to mean hatred of or discrimination against various marginalised groups, some of which are not determined with respect to their membership in a “racial” category. Moreover, this usage is institutionalised: for instance, the law passed in 2014 criminalising hate speech directed against a person or group on the basis of “race, colour, religion, genealogical descent, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability” (Υπουργείο Δικαιοσύνης 2014, 1) is known as the “antiracist law.” Racism, in this usage, may target people with disabilities, gay, lesbian, transgender people, migrants, refugees, ethnic and religious minorities, HIV-positive people, workers, anarchists, or homeless people. At the same time, it is widely accepted that the concept of “racism” originates in reference to “races.” Yet it is also not uncommon to hear the noun “racism” be modified with the adjective “racial” (φυλετικός ρατσισμός, fyletikósratsismós). This redundancy implies the existence or salience of multiple racisms, only some of which are grounded in the construct of “race.”

Despite having gained an emic character in Greek, it is an obvious mistake to attribute to “racism” linguistic autochthony or cultural authenticity, since it too (like “intersectionality,” “homophobia,” “transphobia,” etc.) is a loanword introduced into political discourse through an earlier process of transnational and translinguistic conceptual travel. Indeed, this process is alluded to when, in contemporary discourse, phenomena of racism, racial violence, and racialised exploitation (for instance, against migrant field workers) are displaced from the “here” and “now” to other geopolitical spaces and historical times; paradigmatically plantation slavery in the U.S. South, or South African apartheid.

Racism, this “at first sight familiar term,” famously gains an unfamiliar content in Michel Foucault’s account of biopolitics and thanatopolitics, where it extends to any “distribution of human [beings] into groups, the subdivision of the population into subgroups, and the establishment of a biological caesura between [them]” (Mbembe 2001, 17). Foucault defines as “racism” the imposition of an ontological distinction between socially “alive” and socially “dead” populations – the differential construction of the targets of biopolitics and necropolitics (Athanasiou 2007, 21-22). Racism is crucial to the state’s capacity to legitimate and enact its necropolitical sovereignty, that is, its right to determine “who is disposable and who is not” (Mbembe 2001, 27). Biopower is concerned with proliferating the latter, “to ensure population, to reproduce labor capacity, to constitute a sexuality that is economically useful and politically conservative” (Deutscher 2017, 76, citing Foucault). Racism, for Foucault, is the “basic mechanism” which, in a biopolitical age, resurrects the “power of sovereignty” introducing a “break between what must live and what must die” and is crucial to understanding the relationship of violence to valorisation and accumulation processes under capitalism (Foucault [1976/1997] 2003, 254, 265). Rejecting liberal philosophical views of sovereignty as self-institution and self-limitation, Achille Mbembe defines sovereignty as “the generalised instrumentalisation of human existence and the material destruction of human bodies and populations” (Mbembe 2001, 14). “In the economy of biopower,” as theorised by Foucault, “the function of racism is to regulate the distribution of death and to make possible the murderous functions of the state” (Mbembe 2001, 17).

Foucault’s account could be seen as a response to a problematic that has preoccupied critical race and postcolonial scholars for decades. Namely: “what could racism mean in the absence of race” as its ontological anchor? (McWhorter 2009, 42). It is interesting that as strange as Foucault’s definition of “racism” may seem to a francophone or anglophone audience (which takes for granted the ontological – if socially constructed – connection between racism and “race”), in the empirical context under discussion, “racism” seems to be commonly used in a manner not so dissimilar to Foucault’s usage. Yet, arguably in any language “race” has always carried an ontological ambivalence, not least of all due to the fact that it is a concept that tries to ontologise something unreal in order to justify racism. Defined as the perception of ethnocultural differences as “innate, indelible, and unchangeable,” “racism” came into common usage in the 1930s, when a new concept was needed to describe Nazi theories; nevertheless, the phenomenon of racism preexisted the invention of the term we now use to describe it (Frederickson 2002, 5). Still, the meaning of “racism” has not been stable transhistorically. Racism is neither a transhistorical fact of social life nor a universal structure of the perception of alterity. Although some scholars locate its emergence in Western Europe in the 18th century, and specifically in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, who was the first to defend a comprehensive theory of “racial difference” on which scientific racism was based (Kant [1777] 2000; Bernasconi 2001, 11; Eigen and Larrimore 2006, 3-4), other scholars argue that the equation of racism and racialist ideology with the Enlightenment, and specifically with theories that justify racial hierarchies in terms of biological differences, obscures the premodern past of racialisation (Loomba 2002, 38). As Ania Loomba suggests, in contrast to the tendency to interpret “racial difference” in positivist, biological terms that, in a sense, confirm and reproduce scientific racism, cultural and biological racisms always intersect in the production of “race” (Loomba 2002, 38).  On the one hand, the early modern racialisation of religious, cultural, and linguistic difference (or, for that matter, the contemporary racialisation of Islam and Christianity) only partly converges with properly “racial” racism, understood to be based on differences are inherent, indelible, and immutable. On the other hand, the early modern prehistory of “race” may enable a wider use of “racism” beyond its narrowly “racial” dimensions. Since “race” lacks an ontological basis and instead invents one to legitimise slavery, colonialism, and white supremacy, perhaps this explains its use to indicate or refer to other configurations of oppression.

Assemblages and the triptych of power

The now disbanded collective Terminal 119 (2005-2013), in its prolific textual production and through its political interventions, synthesised antiracist, anti-authoritarian, anti-heteronormative, anticapitalist, antisexist, and anti-heteropatriarchal politics. When I met with them in the summer of 2015, I asked my interlocutors how they would define “racism.”

Marco: “Racism” is a linguistic convention, “sexism” also, and all such terms. They are only names we came up with for things in order to communicate. Entirely conventional… I think we never attempted a definition… Alright, conventionally, in sociology, you can find definitions… But [racism] is something you can recognise when it’s in front of you.
Nektarios: We like the concept of “racism” because, apart from naming the discrimination, it also calls out the perpetrator. And we like it because we attribute to the [perpetrator], because we live here – right? – in Greece, the perpetrator is in 99.9% of the cases ... he bears this patriarchal-national assemblage [συγκρότηση/syngrótisi]… He has not been subdued; he has been incorporated into it and draws privileges from it … And he treats a gay, a migrant, a Jew or a woman in the same way, drawing satisfaction precisely on the basis of this assemblage –
Marco: The Greek and the Other.
Nektarios: Yes. So, this is why we like [the term] “racism.” Because it explains this, too. The term “discrimination” may be more conceptually correct sometimes, but “racism” has this added bonus [laughing] that it also calls out the perpetrator.
Anna: That is, it contains the notion of privilege?
Nektarios: Yes. This was kind of our motto in the group: "we will not deal with the victim of racism, we will deal with the perpetrator." The perpetrator interests us. We do not believe that by doing good deeds and helping a victim of racism we will do as much as we can [do] by naming the perpetrator.
Sani: Targeting the perpetrators.
Nektarios: Yes, exactly.
Sani: Or, focusing on the perpetrators…
Nektarios: For us, here, it’s this: it’s the Greek man and his privileges. This is racism. In Greece it is expressed like this… –
Jenny3: But then the need arises for a more intersectional [διαθεματική/diathematikí] analysis. For example, we were reading Angela Davis writing about Black women in America; there, you need other… – yes, “racism” but they are Black women – the issue is more complicated. Or on the issue of transphobia, for example. And so, some needs are created over and above... Racism I don't know, branches out? But, perhaps, you need to use other words.
Anna: To specify what you are trying to describe?
Jenny: Because it's something else, it’s something more. And so... [pause]
Marco: Some power relations are more… they have their own characteristics. So when you go to analyse these characteristics, you have to get into more specific – what’s it called? – categorisations… A division of analytical tools. But the most effective descriptions of racism and antiracism do not hinge on definitions, in my opinion; they hinge on describing practices4
Nektarios: What we said before: "look at the perpetrator." From transphobia to any sexual deviation from the dominant model – what is it? The dominant discourse is infection and the danger to the Greek family. You see it everywhere… That is where you will find condensations... the Greek family... condenses all that.

In the autumn of 2015, I spoke with three members of the gender/sexuality subgroup Fight Back! of Antifa Negative, which was formed in 2012 in Athens “by migrants and non-migrants,” based on a founding text, a “Manifesto for an anti-Greek antifascism.” (Antifa Negative 2012). In anti-authoritarian spaces in Athens, which tend to be male-dominated, heteronormative, and, while ideologically anti-nationalist, overwhelmingly culturally “Greek,” Antifa Negative seemed exceptional in their effort to articulate an intersectional antifascist politics.

Haris: Just a hypothesis: because racism is predominantly conceived as a cognitive scheme5, that is, it is defined as prejudice ... so, immediately, “prejudice” is a more umbrella term, it refers to all other prejudices. Because people are not just biased towards foreigners, Roma, they are biased toward gays, disabled people, so there is ... this trajectory somehow connects them all through association, essentially. I, of course, disagree with that. I think it is reductive to link racism just in terms of prejudice, it psychologises it, it reduces it to a psychological thing – it does not add anything structural, power relations, it does not raise the issue of language, of racism and language… – What is bias, you know? Hostility plus poor categorisation. I categorise and I hate6, let’s say, in my mind…
Alexis: It’s as if it’s a logical… – an error in the collective… –
Haris: That’s how they talk about racism from the beginnings of social psychology [according to this logic] ... I use “racism,” generally, racism as an umbrella category that encloses homophobia and all that, but on the premise that I subtract from “racism” its partial content, i.e., breed [ράτσα/rátsa] / race [φυλή/fylí]7. That is, racism is not to hate someone based on their breed/race but –
Alexis: – Otherness.
Harris: Otherness, in general. So, one way or another, “racism” has taken this meaning from the moment that already in the sixties, the seventies anthropologists were saying, “fine, we have scientifically proven that the concept of race... – that there is no such thing as “race” –
Alexis: – “Race” –
Harris: – …But Rabinow asks, “Why in the hell does racism persist after ‘race’ was scientifically deconstructed? Here we are making convincing arguments... But racism persists. Because the issue, simply, is not ‘race’”?
Rea: Now the class analysis enters. [laughing] Watch out…
Haris: But the issue is that every form of Otherness can be understood as a foreign race… My grandfather used to say about Albanians, my late grandfather… – he didn’t used to say they “are another race,” he used to say, “they’re of a different kidney, those people.” This metaphor, he used it for one thousand two other things… Maybe he would say it for the gay men he saw on TV, you know?
Alexis: Or for civil servants, or whatever.
Haris: [laughing] Racism against civil servants in Greece of austerity... Joking. Do not write it in the minutes, please. We need some humour, at this stage, because otherwise we can’t really handle it too well.
Anna: Still, this question of what remains of racism once the concept of “race” has been deconstructed, I think this differs somewhat from the claim that I can explain racialisation in alternative terms, e.g., in terms of class. The fact that race was constructed to legitimise racism does not mean that it can automatically be equated with another relation of power. And that is where the question lies for me: what you said before, about the isomorphism between various forms of oppression that are interpreted as personal intolerance, or as some individual bias, or as a psychological attitude, this isomorphism – which remains a question mark for me – is there really this isomorphism? If we do not interpret oppression in psychological terms, does an isomorphism obtain between the different forms of oppression? If, indeed, there are various forms of oppression, and it is not a [singular or unitary] thing that manifests itself in different ways.
Haris: It's an empirical question, I do not think we can answer it in this way... Within a specific context, we look at what power relations are at play, what axes... to see if there is isomorphism between them. I do not know if it can be answered –
Anna: – a priori –
Haris: Generally... In general, there is isomorphism – they are the same – to the extent that ... violence is the synecdoche of these things. Or, they are the same, to the extent that there is a subject on the other side for whom, whether you are a migrant or a faggot [αδερφή/aderfí], it is one and the same...
Rea: It is not absolute whether or not there is isomorphism, it depends on the person who has these characteristics or the person who feels hate for one or the other.
Haris: ...It's empirical.
Rea: Yes, it is, totally.

At this juncture, I gave the example of the diatribe of Ilias Panagiotaros, a Member of Parliament with the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, who was filmed during a demonstration against a performance of the play Corpus Christi in Athens, during which he characterised the actors as “screwed faggots, fucking Albanian assholes.8” Here, Panagiotaros equates through substitutionality a racist with a homophobic epithet. In another instance, a hierarchy between social groups is asserted, when fascists threw flyers in the neighbourhood of Gazi, a commercial gay village in Athens. The flyers read: “after the migrants, gays, you are next.” In the first case, sexual/gender deviance is ascribed to a racialised group, while, simultaneously “faggots” are placed outside the borders of the nation. In the second case, a hierarchy – whether strategic or ontological – is implied. I shared with Rea, Haris, and Alexis how I understand the difference implied by these two examples of fascist hate speech: 

Anna: Either we are saying different systems come together to target a racialised migrant who is also gay... Or, we are saying that these oppressions are always already intermeshed and expressed relatively to the extent that someone has one or more of these identities, at least in the perception of the perpetrator, right? For me, these two things are somewhat different. And the question I posed about “racism” – I mean, about the use of the term “racism” – is important to the extent that behind it, lies an analysis of this phenomenon that says it is hostility to Otherness; that is, all is the same and everything is interwoven together in advance. Or, is “racism” a word we use, perhaps for strategic reasons, to render the phenomenon visible for someone who may not have heard the word “homophobia” – which, I guess, entered our vocabulary relatively recently – while being familiar with “racism”?
Rea: I, personally, have not gotten into the logic of thinking about how a fascist creates hierarchies, what is more hateful and what less. So, I do not know what to say. I mean, I don’t really think there’s any point to it.
Anna: To some extent, there’s no point. Let me put it a little differently and phrase it as a question ... Are oppressions multiple, or is oppression singular?
Rea: Oh! Multiple!
Haris: They’re multiple. But they come in a package –
Alexis: – in a value combo –
Haris: Yes, sometimes, in a value combo. They are multiple, multiple. But it is reasonable to think that, at any moment, someone feels multiple threats. What is the main concern – let’s not say of the fascist, let’s say of the patriot. The patriot’s concern is that the country, the nation is safe... Because the nation has certain characteristics, the sources of insecurity are many: that is, the migrant, or the refugee threatens the borders, [threatens] public health in the city, will alter the culture, language; the homosexual comes as another threat: he threatens the reproduction of the nation, because he is gay, he does not care about the future of reproduction…
Anna: And if he cares, perhaps it’s even worse.
Alexis: Yes, yes, yes, yes.
Haris: Yes, because he will break the model of –
Rea: Normativity –
Haris: The nuclear family –
Rea: Νormality.
Haris: So, by entering the mind of the patriot, or the fascist, at the extreme, it is this: somehow, there threats exist everywhere and every threat strikes somewhat differently, each strikes another aspect in the image of who “we” are ... Women threaten...
Anna: Perhaps the hierarchy of the family?
Alexis: Mm.
Haris: Yeah.
Rhea: There are three values: nation, religion, family. The triptych of power.

Intersectionality and identity

My interlocutors tended to correctly (if rather vaguely) identify the roots of the concept of intersectionality in Black feminism, which is not at all a given in its academic routes of travel to other European contexts (Lewis 2013). In this regard, it may be significant that intersectionality did not travel to Greece through academic channels (the sole exception, to my knowledge, being Deligianni-Dimitrakou 2012), but through social movement discourses – to which discourses, admittedly, people educated abroad and/or people engaged in transnational social/activist networks, whether virtually or in real life, have contributed. This, combined with the local peculiarities of racialisation, migration, and “antiracist” politics characterising the Greek context, may account for an exception to the depoliticising, mainstreaming, and whitewashing of intersectionality that has been observed in Western, Central, and Northern European (academic) feminist contexts (May 2015). In Greek universities, feminist and gender studies are extremely marginalised, and critical race feminisms – including intersectionality – are virtually invisible. A significant exception with respect to the latter point is Athena Athanasiou’s anthology, Feminist Theory and Cultural Critique (Αθανασίου 2006), which includes translations of Evelynn M. Hammonds’ “Toward a Genealogy of Black Women’s Sexuality: The Problematic of Silence” (1997); Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s “French Feminist Theory in an International Frame” (1981); Chandra Talpade Mohanty’s “Feminist Encounters: Locating the Politics of Experience” (1987); and Gloria Anzaldúa’s “La conciencia de la mestiza/Towards a New Consciousness” (1987). While Athanasiou discusses the “differentiation of the terms of oppression that structure women’s experiences based on social class, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, and physical ability” in her introduction to this anthology, she does not appear to invoke the term “intersectionality” (διαθεματικότητα/diathematikótita) or any other singular term to discuss this “central aspect of feminist theory in the 1980s,” when “the theoretical and political challenge of not homogenising or objectifying the collective that feminist theory seeks to emancipate arises” (Αθανασίου 2006, 35, my translation; see 32-39, 84, 114n21).

 At its origins in Black feminist thought, intersectionality is a framework that makes visible the mutual exclusion of racism from misogyny in the construction of not only hegemonic categories – such as, for example, state-produced demographic categories of “race” and “gender”; but, also of subversive categories – such as, for example, social movement divisions between "anti-racism" and “feminism.” Indeed, an intersectional approach reveals that not only the content but also the form of categories deployed by social movements reproduces hegemonic logic. The hegemonic logic of the social group: (a) focuses on the experiences and promotes the interests of a relatively privileged subgroup of the collective subject; (b) constitutes this relatively privileged subgroup as the prototype, essence, or centre of the group, identifying the entire group with its relatively privileged members; (c) misrepresents subjects who experience “multiple” oppressions (because they falsely divided from one another), since they are represented only to the extent that their experiences converge with the prototypical subgroup, their lives, struggles, and interests are distorted through fragmentation; (d) considers multiply oppressed subjects not to be representative of the group; their experiences are seen as more “complex” and their political loyalties “divided”; (e) and, finally, the hegemonic logic of the social group affirms a hierarchical theory of oppression, according to which one oppression precedes others (in severity, urgency, or causal priority). Intersectionality thus reveals, and contests, the fragmentation of lived experiences of simultaneous oppressions and the divisions among social movements and critical discourses, as a function of power and a form of representational violence.

The Black feminist legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, in her landmark article “Demarginalising the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics” (1989), offers the metaphor of the accident that takes place in an intersection, for which no single driver can be held responsible: (a) to demonstrate how Black women’s experiences are defined in terms of their sameness or difference to prototypical or normative members of the oppressed groups to which they belong: that is, Black men and white women; (b) to reveal that dichotomised, mutually exclusive definitions of racism and sexism render their experiences of oppression and discrimination invisible; and (c) to show how single-axis constructions of oppression fail to capture the full dimensions of racism and sexism, let alone effectively struggle against them (Crenshaw 1989, 149). In “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Colour” (1991), Crenshaw identifies three ways in which intersectionality can be deployed as a critical framework: (a) structurally: to reveal the interlocking nature of systems of power: race, gender, and class domination; (b) politically: to “highlight that women of colour are situated within at least two subordinated groups that frequently pursue conflicting political agendas” (1252); and (c) representationally: to demonstrate that in struggles over representational power, women of colour are objectified, instrumentalised, marginalised, spoken for and spoken over, as antiracism often becomes a pretext for misogyny and anti-sexism a pretext for racism (1292).

In “Mapping the Margins,” Crenshaw is explicit that intersectionality is not “some new, totalising theory of identity” (1991, 1244). Yet, this is how intersectionality has been predominantly interpreted, as it came to mark a distinct, transnational field of study (Cooper 2015). Here it is important to note that in the translation of the term “intersectionality” to Greek, the metaphorical reference to the intersection is lost, while political intersectionality is highlighted: διαθεματικότητα, diathematikótita, is literally “inter-issuality,” and may refer to the oft-quoted insight articulated by Audre Lorde that “[t]here is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, since we don’t live single-issue lives” (1984: 263). Although diathematikótita places emphasis on (political) issues, rather than identity (politics), some of my interlocutors interpreted intersectionality as interchangeable with, or harnessed to a politics of identity, as exemplified in the following excerpts of my conversation with Yiannis, a member of Colour Youth, an LGBTQI+ youth non-governmental organisation.

When I asked Yiannis about how and when the term “intersectionality” entered social movement discourses in Greece, he referred to the influence of the International Gay and Lesbian Youth Organisation (IGLYO), part of the International Gay and Lesbian Association (ILGA) of Europe. In 2014, IGLYO held a training on intersectionality in Bologna, in which activists from all over Europe, including members of Colour Youth, took part. In 2015, ILGA collaborated with the European Network on Religion and Belief to hold a seminar on the “intersectional identity of the religious LGBT individual.” But, during our conversation in the autumn of 2015, he also insisted that the need to invoke and address “intersectionality” arose with the “appearance, on their own, of intersectional identities themselves.” I asked Yiannis what he means by “intersectional identities.”

Yiannis: First of all, the intersectionality of sexuality and gender – right? – because, when you’re talking about, for example, a lesbian trans person, or a gay trans person, you understand that we’re automatically talking about intersectionality. LGBT religious individuals had come to the group, and we had some issues… So, it was created on its own, the need to deal with intersectionality. So, because issues of gender and sexuality touch people’s basic identities, but they are not the only ones that do, after a certain point, you cannot but start to see the interconnections that are created.

What prompted my question was a text written by Colour Youth titled “What kind of Pride do we deserve? What kind of community do we want?” in which they argue that:

it is imperative, before we talk specifically about LGBTQ+ refugees’ and/or migrants’ issues, to refer to intersectionality; that is, the assumption that each person can have multiple identities that society pushes to the margins. All of us are different and our position is determined by the discriminations and privileges that society awards to individuals considered “normal”: to white, cis, straight, well-off, able-bodied men. Many movements focus on one identity, as if this were the only source of oppression for those who bear it, thus, not giving basis for the problems of those who are experiencing further discriminations and exclusions; the result, ultimately, is that the most oppressed and vulnerable people are ultimately the most neglected (2015, 44).

I asked Yiannis to elaborate.

Yiannis: Look, in that particular text, since I too am looking at it now, it says that in the LGBT movement, attention to oppressions such as those facing migrant women, refugees, and people experiencing racial racism is lacking... In the organisation we also have members who, in the legal sense, as you say, are not Greeks. Who for x, y, or z reason, whether they are second generation, or whatever else, currently they don’t have legal and political rights in Greece... More generally, a practice has prevailed that finds me very much in agreement, which is to give a podium to people who experience specific discriminations. What do I mean? I will not come out to tell you, as a white man, as a “Greek” (in quotation marks, as we've said) what racism is, in Greece today. Because whatever I may have read, as much as I may have followed the news, I might be able to tell you that racism exists, but I cannot tell you how it is being experienced. This text, then, is a plea: as a community, let us look at how we will be able to create the space for LGBT refugees and migrants to speak openly about precisely this kind of intersectionality. There, for me, is where the emphasis must be placed, and it is well-placed there, to the extent that it is. … [W]ithout, of course, meaning that if there is no such person [present], you cannot talk ... about that. Because, obviously, and if I am asked my opinion about the oppressions experienced by LGBTQ people in Greece who are refugees or migrants, I can tell you some things. But I certainly cannot tell you how they are experiencing it, no. In the necessity for a political discourse to come out that can have an influence and bring about change, it is necessary to show from the outset your intention that, “I am making space for voices to be heard.” And it's something Colour Youth does quite a lot. For example, Colour Youth has on its political agenda the rights of intersex [μεσοφυλικών/mesofylikón] persons – of intersex individuals – but because we have very few intersex individuals – at least, ones who are out within the group but do not say it outward – we will be very careful about how we will approach outwardly a rhetoric of what intersex people are experiencing, and what the situation is in Greece, and so on. This holds true of all identities … Essentially, you leave room so that certain identities can speak, without appropriating them. In this way, you give strength and foundation to the identity itself, and not to your own view of this identity. … Colour Youth can come out and talk about the problems that LGBTQ migrants face, and does so to some extent, but as soon as an openly LGBTQI migrant/refugee shows up to speak, we will be silent. Do you understand what I mean? It’s what’s known as a “safe space,” in the sense that what we can do at this moment in our own meetings is to create an environment where expressions of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and so on are not tolerated, so that this can be established as a space where identities and, especially, intersectional identities, can express themselves without fear of prejudice and negative attitudes that they face, one way or another, in society. This works to empower those people with this identity; obviously, if they want to talk openly and publicly about this identity it is clearly their own decision, but as an organisation, the least you can do is to provide this safe space.

This conversation took place in November 2015, after the so-called “Summer of Migration” and the emergence of a broad-based, international solidarity movement with refugees. It was not until 2016 that groups such as LGBTQI+ Refugees Welcome Athens, LGBTQI+ Refugees Lesvos, Eclipse/Alkusuf LGBTQI+ Refugees Thessaloniki, began to be formed. However, as informal conversations with some activists engaged in these groups (to be expanded upon in a later stage of fieldwork) indicate, the response from the LGBTQI+ movement has been at times tokenising or marginalising of their voices9. An attempt at squatting a building for emergency women’s and queer refugee housing was quickly quashed by police in the summer of 2016, but the rest of the refugee solidarity movement did not come out to publicly support the anarcha-queer squatters and protest the eviction (as it did, later that summer, protest a wave of other squat evictions in Thessaloniki and Athens). To what extent are vocabularies of struggle reflective of these missed opportunities for genuine queer coalitions, defiant of nation-state borders, including those sustained by heteronormativity?

Anna: I noticed in your texts that you use various terms, and I wanted to ask you how you perceive the broader use of “racism” – I mean of the concept of “racism” – in relation to terms such as “homophobia,” “transphobia,” “sexism,” and so on. Is it clear what I am trying to ask?
Yiannis: Yes, essentially you’re asking about the use of the term “racism” that you’ve noticed we use, but is also used generally in various contexts, and to what extent I believe that it is combined with “homophobia,” “transphobia,” and sexism,” in particular through the prism, obviously, of LGBTQ activism, right?
Anna: Yes, exactly.
Yiannis: So, look, I think that this particular issue is quite complex, but while you were speaking, the first response that came to mind is that, actually, what many people claim is that homophobia, transphobia, and sexism are forms of racism. What do I mean: in Greece I think the definition – the word “racism” is used in a broader spectrum than in English, and it is no longer limited to discriminations due to ethnic origin, race, and so on. So, I think that “racism” in Greece is often in the context of intolerance and so on ... And, hence, in Greek – for example, the police, when they talk about a “racist motive” they include homophobia and transphobia, right? So, I think that “racism” has escaped the narrow sense it once had, and that “racism” has now been conceived as a more general situation, essentially, of relations of power towards a minority group or a minority identity, against the less powerful. This is just my opinion, right? I hadn’t really thought about it, honestly.
Anna: Nevertheless, you also often use the terms “homophobia,” “transphobia,” “sexism,” and “racial racism.” … I’d be interested to hear your opinion as to what these concretisations do; that is, if they have a different effect than the deployment of “racism” as an “umbrella term.”
Yiannis: Essentially, for me, what is the issue? It is that this division is needed to some degree. So, for me, it is very important that homophobia and transphobia are even mentioned in legal documents. And, okay, for me, that is to say, a person who is subject to precisely such discrimination…It makes an impression on me to be in spaces where homophobia is spoken of as form of discrimination. It has this kind of dynamic... Or, in essence, a recognition of experiences of individuals who are subject to these discriminations, it’s true. Then, okay, you start and expand the list, because you're talking about racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, fat-phobia, blah blah blah. Which, to a certain extent for me, they are necessary [terms], so it’s good that we are referring to them. Of course, they also have some drawbacks, like... from having one term and everything was framed by it as discrimination, suddenly, it has become very specific, so a term can lose its forcefulness. One criticism we have received is, “It’s great that you speak of homophobia and transphobia, but do not forget that most people do not understand what these words mean." For example, if you consider the etymology of “homophobia” [ομοφοβία/omofovía], in English they had called it homophobia, and in Greek, we took it as a loan, where “homophobia,” as a word, essentially means "fear of the same. ”So, the right term should be “homosexphobia” [ομοφυλοφοβία/omofylofovía], that is, the aversion toward, and fear of homosexuals, not toward the same, so-called “homophobia.”
Anna: Or, “homosexualphobia” [ομοφυλοφιλοφοβία/omofylofilophovía] –
Yiannis: Right. Yes, that would be more grammatically correct. “Homosexphobia” [ομοφυλοφοβία/omofylofovía] refers to “I fear the same sex.” You are right in that, yes. A similar issue is the following: since I take identity politics as a point of departure, increasingly, I’m being told, “What, another identity, what’s going on?” And I’m like, on the other hand, for the people who feel this identity expresses them, it gives enormous power to have found an identity that expresses them. And then there is the logic of the movement, that it is losing its momentum, when the gay men go out to talk about their rights, the lesbians for their rights, the trans people for their rights, the bis for their rights, the intersex people for their rights... that is the reason I’m in favour of the fact that all of these have been put together in the same bag. Rights regarding sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and the so-called “sexual characteristics”… So you understand, the issue has two sides, whether it’s the issue of identities or the use of a generic word, like "racism" and its subcategories… Specifically for the word “transphobia,” for example, it is incredibly important for such a community, whose rights are being continuously trampled, to refer very specifically to the term “trans” in “transphobia” – it is huge for a small, conservative society like Greece. I don’t know if I’ve answered your question…
Anna: Yes. So, would you say that there is a dilemma – and maybe it’s not a dilemma but a situation in which both coexist – between, on the one hand, of disintegration and specificity, and on the other, of unity and strength? Is that it? That is, on the one hand, if you use more specific terms, you give visibility to communities that are marginalised in society, or even within various movements, right?
Yiannis: Yes.
Anna: But on the other hand, if you do not specify, and, let’s say, you speak in general about “LGBT” rights, or even more generally about “antiracism,” there is the danger that… – On the one hand, there is the positive side, that you are uniting different communities or different identities, but on the other hand, you lose this visibility afforded by more specific terms.
Yiannis: Exactly. Of course, then the question arises, where do you stop? So, at what point will you say, “enough cuts” [φτάνει η τομή/ftániitomí]. Because, theoretically, you can say it at any time… “that’s enough now, though, because it is too complicated” – let alone now that a great many [identities] have emerged. It is related to the issue of where you use these terminologies, and I wanted to tell you: in a meeting of Colour Youth, for me, it is very important to refer to different identities and diversity. Because it empowers people [who have these identities] and informs other people. But when you address the outside [world] politically, you have to manage it quite differently. For me, somewhere there must be a golden mean [χρυσήτομή/xrysítomí], which, of course, speaking about identities and about social and political rights, cannot be absolute, right? … To put it very simply: when a specific struggle for trans rights takes place, obviously it should be led by trans people themselves, but the whole community should follow behind. This is the basic logic. That is, not [the logic of] absolute entrenchment [περιχαράκωση/periharákosi]… This is the reason, as I told you earlier, that I am in favour of everything being put into the same bag, which makes for a very different dynamicity.

Gavriil, a member of the anarcho-queer collective Queericulum Vitae (2004-2015), which was disbanded not too long after our conversation in the summer of 2015, made a similar point about the visibility that the multiplication and specialisation of concepts – beyond the umbrella term “racism” – afford to marginalised subjects whose experiences of oppression are obscured in hegemonic discourses.

Gavriil: I think it’s useful … to have all these descriptions. In the sense that we are defined through discourse. Discourse usually describes an experience and it is important for this experience to be recorded … with the features it has, because it's different for everyone, but it is significant for its voice to be recognised ... So, for me, it is especially important when it enters into speech … into hegemonic speech. Because, I don’t know... there’s an attempt... to hide the targeted violence ... the reason why this happened. As occurred, for example, with the young guy who was lost… Parents, [television] channels, relatives concealed the reason ... [They] concealed the fact that this was the reason he disappeared ... For months, right? Like, ... “he was somewhat timid”; “his friends made fun of him”; “he was not man enough” ... Various descriptions circling around it, but without it being made clear that it was a homophobic attack. For me it was very important that this be recorded somehow in public space ... So, no, a broader “racism” does not work for me.

Here, Gavriil is referring to the death of a young college student, Vangelis Yiakoumakis, which, in movement discourses was denounced as a “murder by brave young men” [λεβέντες/levéndes], referring to his continual torture by fellow students, which allegedly led him to take his life in early 201510. As I discuss elsewhere, much of my conversation with Gavriil, as with all of my interlocutors, concerned the atmospheric transphobic and homophobic violence against which LGBTQI+ activists in Greece struggle, at the institutional, interpersonal, subjective, systemic, and also representational levels (Carastathis 2018). Gavriil, here, emphasises the importance of naming homophobic violence, rather than retreating into a generic discourse of “bullying,” or appealing to a generic notion of “racism” that does not make visible the specificities of violence and the intersections of multiple systems of power in people’s lives.

Conclusion: travelling theories

I cannot say that my ongoing conversations with activists engaged in LGBTQI+ movements in Greece have assuaged my hesitations about the risks of appropriation inherent in certain linguistic and discursive choices. On the one hand, the etymology of “racism” and the transnational history of antiracist and anti-colonial struggle seems to legitimise the exclusive use of the term to refer to oppressions based on “race” – or, rather, to oppressions that racialise their targets precisely in order to legitimise racism. Even if folk usage, in Greek, untethers this term from this meaning and attaches it to other oppressions and discriminations, are LGBTQI+ activists and other political agents justified in doing so? Some activists, such as the now disbanded feminist group “Burnt Bras” (Καμένα Σουτιέν/KaménaSoutién) have tried to put a stop to this linguistic/rhetorical practice, defining “racism” as “the system of power that structures social inequalities to the disadvantage of non-white people,” and clarifying that “the term concerns only systemic inequalities on the basis of race and it is not correct to use it in other cases (e.g., ‘racism against women’ = wrong; ‘sexism/misogyny’ = right). We return, then, to the explanation of the generalised use of “racism” in terms of ignorance, error, or – still worse – misappropriation. Moreover, does “racism,” as an umbrella term, obscure the specificities of “non-racial” oppressions vis-à-vis “racial racism,” which enjoys a prototypical status, or does it make them easier, transitively or analogically, for a broader public to acknowledge and denounce? Or, following Foucault, should we be asking a very different question: is there such a thing as a “non-racial” oppression in a biopolitical/thanatopolitical age?

On the other hand, questions of misappropriation also haunt intersectionality, a concept that has travelled from the racialised-gendered margins of U.S. social movements to the centre of transnational feminist scholarship and legal anti-discrimination discourse (Carbado et al. 2013). In my ongoing research, I am searching for ways to resist methodological nationalism, by examining not only how concepts cross various kinds of borders, but also how they, sometimes, serve to demarcate certain bordered spaces, and how attempts to territorialise, or claim ownership, autochthony, or authenticity are rhetorical moves that carry various risks. The question is not only, can we spatially map concepts as belonging somewhere, and not belonging elsewhere; but, also, how do concepts secure a sense of belonging for some, while functioning to estrange others? The question, broadly speaking, has been posed before: “How do theories travel?” (Said 1983). And: “how do theorists travel?” More specifically, “How do theories travel among the unequal spaces of postcolonial confusion and contestation?” (Clifford 1989) But, also, how do theories dwell or are refused stay in certain contexts? If concepts cross borders, are some migrations licit, while others are illicit? Matters of translation have ethical and political dimensions. Can even liberatory concepts be said to “colonise” our embodied imaginations – or, conversely, can they be “appropriated and resisted, located and displaced?” (Clifford, 1989; Puar, 2012: 54). When speaking of linguistic loans, do we only borrow words, or do we borrow concepts, discourses, representations, or embodied practices condensed in words? Is the loan a gift, or, must we repay the debt?


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Annex: Conversations Cited

Conversation with Gavriil (Queericulum Vitae). Athens, 4 July 2015, 90 minutes.
Conversation with Marco, Nektarios, and Sany (Terminal 119) and Jenny. Amphipolis, 21 August 2015, 114 minutes.
Conversation with Alexis, Haris, and Rea (Antifa Negative/Fight Back!). Athens, 28 October 2015, 160 minutes.
Conversation with Yiannis (ColourYouth). Lisbon/Athens (via skype), 5 November 2015, 141 minutes.
В цій статті я прагну очуднити концепт «расизму» шляхом вивчення його вжитку в соціолінгвістичному контексті ЛГБТКI+ активізму в Греції, де він фіґурує в значенні, що для англомовної аудиторії може видатися незвичним. У своєму дослідженні, присвяченому концептуалізації множинних пригнічень в контексті соціальних рухів Греції, я прагну зрозуміти зв’язок між часто вживаним терміном «расизм» - який є парасольковою категорією на позначення форм пригнічення, вкорінених не тільки в «расі», «етнічності» та «громадянстві» (себто, расизму, націоналізму, ксенофобії), але також в ґендері, ґендерній ідентичності та сексуальності (себто, сексизму, трансфобії і гомофобії) – і щораз більшим залученням «інтерсекційності» у дискурси різних рухів. У повсякденному вжитку, при звичному використанні слова «расизм» як парасолькового терміну залишається очевидним його етимологічний зв’язок з «расою», навіть коли воно позначає ширші режими домінування/підпорядкування, привілеїв/дискримінації. Якщо інтерсекційність передбачає, що пригнічення онтологічно множинні і їх можна аналітично відділити одне від одного, то «расизм» як парасольковий термін, схоже, рухається в протилежному керунку: він передбачає, що всі форми пригнічення мають спільне джерело, схожу онтологічну основу або породжують привілеї для тих само соціальних актор_ок, які застосовують схожі тактики в стосунку до пригноблених груп. У своєму дослідженні я вивчаю, яким чином інтерсекційність – багатокомпонентна теорія пригнічення, яка стверджує, що стосунки влади є множинними і не можуть бути зведені до одної спільної основи, хоч і можуть водночас співіснувати в досвіді пригнічених за кількома ознаками соціальних груп – пов’язана з використанням слова «расизм» як категорії боротьби у грецькій та інших поширених у Греції мовах, зокрема в албанській (racizmi) і арабській (eunsuria). В цій статті я вивчаю, як ці два вокабуляри – расизм й інтерсекційність – функціонують в дискурсах соціальних рухів, а також, як вони, з одного боку, формують активістські ідеї, підходи і теорії пригнічення, а з іншого, формуються ними. 
Ключові слова: інтерсекційність, мандрівна теорія, ЛГБТКІ+ активізм, «раса», расизм, антирасизм, соціальні рухи, Греція.
В этой статье я хочу остранить концепт «расизма», исследуя его использование в социолингвистическом контексте ЛГБТКИ+ активизма в Греции, где он фигурирует в значении, которое может показаться необычным для англоязычной аудитории. В рамках моего исследования, посвященного концептуализации переплетенных угнетений в контексте социальных движений Греции, я стремлюсь понять связь между часто используемым  термином «расизм» – который является господствующей категорией для обозначения форм угнетения, основанных не только на «расе», «этничности» и «гражданстве» (например, расизме, национализме, ксенофобии), но и на гендере, гендерной идентичности и сексуальности (например, сексизме, трансфобии и гомофобии) – и все более частым включением«интерсекциональности» в дискурсы разных движений. В обиходной речи привычное использование слова «расизм» как зонтичного термина сохраняет этимологическую связь с «расой», даже если оно обозначает и другие режимы превосходства/подчинения или привилегий/угнетения. Если интерсекциональность предполагает, что угнетения онтологически множественны и аналитически отделимы друг от друга, то использование «расизма» как зонтичного понятия, по-видимому, указывает в противоположную сторону: оно предполагает, что все формы угнетения происходят из общего источника, имеют cхожую онтологическую базу или порождают привилегии для одних и тех же социальных актор_ок, которые применяют похожие тактики к угнетенным группам. В своем исследовании я изучаю то, как интерсекциональность — обычно понимаемая как многоосевая теория угнетения, утверждающая, что отношения власти множественны, отличны друг от друга и несводимы друг к другу, но что в то же время они сходятся в опыте множественно угнетенных социальных групп, – соотносится с использованием «расизма» как понятия борьбы в греческом и в других языках, распространенных в Греции, в частности в албанском (racizmi) и арабском (eunsuria). В этой статье я рассматриваю, как два эти словаря – расизма и интерсекциональности – функционируют в движенческих дискурсах, как они, с одной стороны, формируют активистские идеи, подходы и теории угнетения, а с другой, формируются ими. 
Ключевые слова: интерсекциональность, странствующая теория, ЛГБТКИ+ активизм, «раса», расизм, антирасизм, социальные движения, Греция
  • 1.“Circular migration” refers to repeated migration between an “origin” and a “destination” and is usually ascribed to the temporary, repeated movement of a labour migrant between “home” and “host” countries. It is distinguished from “return migration” which involves a single emigration and subsequent return to the country of “origin,” usually after a long absence. I use this term under erasure (hence the quotation marks), as, in what follows, I trouble the notions of “origin” and “home,” and the politics and phenomenologies of belonging and nonbelonging that they articulate.
  • 2.“Faggot,” here, translates the terms πούστης/poústis, or αδερφή/aderfí; the literal meaning of the latter is “sister.”
  • 3.Although Jenny was not a member of Terminal 119, she was fortuitously present and contributed her insights from her own activist engagement to our conversation.
  • 4.To exemplify this claim, Marco quotes a passage from a poem written by a Black feminist that he remembers as “Forget that I am Black. Never forget that I’m Black.” The Black feminist poet to whom he was referring is Pat Parker, who opens her poem titled “For the white person who wants to know how to be my friend” (1978): The first thing you do is to forget that I’m black. / Second, you must never forget that I’m black. The feminist collective Migada translated a selection of Parker’s poetry into Greek and published in collaboration with the literary Teflon it as a brochure in 2014. They also translated Angela Davis’ Women, Race, and Class (also in 2014). See: https://migada71.wordpress.com/βιβλία-μπροσούρες/ and https://teflon.wordpress.com.
  • 5.Words in italics were originally uttered in English by the speaker.
  • 6.Here, I am more colloquially translating Haris’ expression «εχθρεύομαι»/ehthrévomai (to bear malice) to better capture the register of his speech.
  • 7.The more colloquial “rátsa” (a transliteration of the Spanish/Latin raza) is used mainly to refer to animal “breeds,” in contrast to “fylí,” which refers to human “races.”
  • 8.While riot police watched, Church Patriarchs and believers of the Greek Orthodox Church joined forces with Golden Dawn fascists to attack the thespians and the audience during the performance of Terence McNally’s Corpus Christi, which deals with issues of sexuality and Christian faith, depicting Jesus Christ and his apostles as gay men in contemporary Texas, U.S. Unknown creator, «ΜΑΤ Χυτήριο Θέατρο». 2012, http://goo.gl/4HDN4G. See also Angélique Kourounis’ documentary film, Golden Dawn: A Personal Affair, 2016, 1:30 minutes.
  • 9.Personal communication with members of LGBTQI+ Refugees Welcome Athens.
  • 10.See Mytilene Gender Group [Ομάδα Έμφυλου Μυτιλήνης], “In this Nation Where Everyone was Born Brave, Our Stones are Feminism.” [«Σε Αυτό το Έθνος που Όλοι Γεννήθηκαν Λεβέντες, Ο Φεμινισμός Είναι οι Δικές μας Πέτρες»], Poster, Mytilene, 2015. Antifa Negative/Fight Back!, “Don’t Fall from the Clouds Every Week: (With Free Slaps in the Face and Male Hazing) All of Greece is an Abusive Home [«Μην Πέφτετε από τα Σύννεφα Κάθε Εβδομάδα: (Με τα τσάμπα τα χαστούκια και τα ανδρικά “καψόνια”) Μια Εστία Κακοποίησης Όλη η Ελλάδα»], Poster, Athens, 2015. Unknown artist, “Murdered by Brave Young Men” [«Δολοφονημένος από Λεβέντες»] Graffiti, Yiannena, 2015). The above were accessed at: https://anatopia.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/αφίσα-με-αφορμή-τον-βαγγέλη-γιακουμάκ/. A court case is currently being held where the accused face multiple charges, including homicide.

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