Years before announcing its high-profile “Belt and Road” global infrastructure initiative in 2013, the Chinese government earmarked Greece as a strategic, geopolitical gateway for Chinese manufacturing into Europe (China’s largest trade partner). Prior to 2000, the modern Chinese and Greek nation-states shared no significant historical relationship. Yet in wake of China’s accession to the WTO and Greece’s accession to the Eurozone, Sino-Hellenic bilateral relations were kindled and rapidly intensified. At the same time as Chinese commodities and capital investments started flowing into Greece, Chinese merchant migrants also began entering Greece in meaningful numbers, changing the physical landscape of the nation’s city centers and rural periphery.
This talk is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Greece and China from 2004-2012 among Chinese migrants and Greek merchants involved in the textile sector (a traditional sector of the Greek economy that was in the midst of collapse). It begins by providing an overview of the turbulent moment of global, political-economic transformation in China and Greece to ground critical transformations in Greek political identity and practice. I will focus on the transformation of Athens’ historical center (Emporiko Trigano) to chart how the rapid expansion of Chinese shops fell along pre-existing lines of economic and ethnic tensions within Greece. An analysis of a clash between neo-Nazi and anarchist groups in Athens “Chinatown” will provide context to understand how the spatial transformations of the city center occasioned by the new Chinese presence both exacerbates and complicates these fault lines.
Dr. Tracey Rosen is a sociocultural anthropologist and teaches in the Committee on Degrees on Social Studies at Harvard College. She is also a fellow in Community Psychoanalysis at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. Her current book manuscript “How ‘Made in China’ is Made in Greece” tracks the introduction of Chinese merchants, commodities, and capital into local Greek markets (2004-2012) to examine how ethnonational identity is transformed within the context of new patterns of global trade. She has conducted ethnographic research in Greece, Italy (Prato) and China (Zhejiang) and has abiding interests in global capitalism, subjectivity, and value.