Renegotiating Communal Identity in a Globalized World: The Case of Greek "Communal Associationss"

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 9:00 AM
Room: Booth 67
Oral Presentation
Chrysanthi ZACHOU , Sociology, The American College of Greece- Deree, Athens, Greece
As a follow-up research on “communal associations” in Greece, this case study of 16 internal immigrants’ hometown associations from the island of Lefkas, aims to examine their struggle to survive the intergenerational gap amidst the present conditions at the turn of the millennium. Established primarily during the post-war period in the country’s urban centers, thousands of “communal associations”, acting as “mediating stuctures”, undertook initiatives for the implementation of public projects in the villages;  played an active role in maintaining “local cultures”; and reinforced collective identity and belonging to an “imagined community” away from home.  Although their noble mission was initially very successful, during the last two decades these associations were confronted with a number of problems, the most important being the declining membership and participation of the second and third generation. This paper intends to understand the recent organizational challenges and institutionalization dilemmas, which impede their operation and threaten their continuity, in the light of three major changes that impact communal life: (a) The dissolvent extreme individualization with multiple identity trajectories that characterize postmodern societies; (b) the eroded sense of “topo-logical” conception and “self-placement” due to globalization  and (c) the weakening of  communal cohesion  due to the recent economic crisis. In addressing these problems, Lefkadian “communal associations” employ different strategies to overcome their current predicament and counterbalance the “homogenizing” effects of globalization:  Some, stressing the eternal qualities of traditional values, try to perform an almost religious “anabaptism” to old and unaffected identities through the ritualistic re-enactment of village customs and practices that promote group spirit. While others, introducing a “glocal” approach, adopt novel means and try to institutionalize new communal practices in order to appeal to youth. Thus, seeking to (re)establish communal bonds through “invented traditions”, they renegotiate local identity and culture.