Social Sciences Conference 2006
The International Conference on Interdisciplinary Social Sciences
University of the Aegean, Rhodes, Greece
18-21 July, 2006
Anna-Efrosyni Mihopoulou, A.M.
Adjunct Lecturer, Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Program for Gender and Equality,
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and TEI of Patras
Researcher, Programme “The Concept of Gender in Natural and Social Sciences:
Contemporary Research and Teaching Issues”, Pythagoras II, AUTh, Dpt. of Architecture
“The Women’s Studies Group at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (1983-2003):
Aspiring to intervene in the academic and the social environment”
Τhe following paper presents findings from a research carried out for the project “The Concept of Gender in Natural and Social Sciences: Contemporary Research and Teaching Issues” (Pythagoras II: Funding Research in Universities), under the aegis of the Department of Architecture at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Fellow researchers have examined the diffusion of feminist theory within a number of disciplines in Greece today. My task has been to record, analyze and present the history of the only women’s studies group that has existed up to now in a Greek university, that is the Women’s Studies Group (W.S.G.) which was active at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki for about 20 years after its formation in 1983.
Revision of gender roles in Greece of the 1970s
The ideas of new wave feminism and of the movements for personal and political liberation that spread in Western European and Northern American countries from the mid-1960s were barred from being introduced to Greece due to the Junta of the Colonels, imposed in 1967. However, an established inclination to adapt to ideas and practices of the “advanced” West, dating back to the formation of the modern Greek state in the early 19th century, embraced even by the conservative junta, allowed for the diffusion of subversive images and attitudes regarding gender roles, introduced to Greece mainly through tourism, cinema and television.
Students of the then two Greek state universities, that of Athens and that of Thessaloniki, adhering to a 1960s tradition of youth movements of protest, like the Lambrakides, became agents of politically subversive ideas, leading to the student uprising of the Polytehnio that shook the junta in 1973. Students became also catalysts for new morals, especially since those coming from the provinces found themselves living on their own, often sharing small apartments with other students, outside the boundaries of the traditional protective –but also oppressive– Greek family, in populous urban centres. In this frame young people had chances to form sexual relationships, even to try extra-marital co-habitation, although not openly, but usually under threat of a family clash or even a tragedy in case of disclosure, especially for young women.
The fall of the seven year junta in 1974 marked the beginning of an era of intense politicization. Following the lifting of the outlaw status for communists, but also marking significant overturnings within the socio-economic body, a vast number of bigger and smaller political organizations aspiring to different trends of Marxism were formed. In this context alternative approaches to politics and new wave feminist ideas were not given enough space to grow; however, a considerable women’s movement took shape, indicating a fervent interest of leftist women, in particular, on “the women’s issue”.
The Greek women’s movement in the post-dictatorial era
Women’s organizations and the issue of the Family Law (1974-1981)
Immediately after the fall of the junta, in 1974, an organization umbrella of women of the left was formed under the name Movement of Democratic Women (Kinisi Dimokratikon Gynekon, K.D.G.). However, political affiliations to particular parties led in 1976 women of the Socialist Party PA.SO.K. to form an organization of their own, the Union of Greek Women (Enosi Gynekon Elladas, E.G.E.), and members of the Greek Communist Party (K.K.E.) to establish the Federation of Greek Women (Omospondia Gynekon Elladas, O.G.E.); in K.D.G. remained mostly women attached to the Greek Communist Party of the Interior (K.K.E. Esoterikou), which espoused eurocommunist ideas. Meanwhile, making a strong come-back, a historic women’s organization, the League for Woman’s Rights (Syndesmos gia ta Dikeomata tis Gynekas), established in 1920 and a leader of the movement for women’s suffrage in Greece between the two World wars, was about to play a critical role in handling the central issue of this era: the reform of the Family Law.
Given the new Constitution of 1975 (which, it should be noted, happened to be passed in the International Women’s Year), proclaiming explicitly the equality of men and women in the sight of the Greek law, and in view of Greece’s entry to the then European Economic Community (E.E.C.), scheduled for 1981, legal reforms had to be introduced, affecting in particular the Family Law. Officially promoting, yet by definition having reservations towards such a subversive project, the conservative government of the New Democracy (Nea Dimokratia) party set up an experts’ committee. The women’s organizations formed an oppositional front, through a Coordinating Committee of Women’s Unions and Organizations (S.E.G.E.S.), demanding their representation at the experts’ committee and the incorporation of their views and resolutions in the bill under formation.
At this phase, of the three major women’s organizations related to political parties, E.G.E., attached to the socialist PA.SO.K., cautiously used a mild rhetoric concerning gender issues, mainly invoking human rights, not openly challenging gender stereotypes but rather promoting a new model for women, for whom constituting the ultimate factors for the achievement of worldwide peace was projected as a major political attribute. The same stereotype was reproduced by O.G.E., the women’s organization of the Greek Communist Party, which moreover was openly against feminism and a self-contained women’s movement, both considered to be part of bourgeois politics, destracting women from the class struggle. Contrary to that, the women of the K.D.G. embraced the idea of a “double struggle” for women, within both the class and the women’s movement, and were more open to the issues brought about by second wave feminism in other countries.
Besides the four major women’s organizations, numerous smaller ones, mostly of leftist orientation, bringing together women on the basis of political engagement, locality, employment etc., participated in the mobilizations for the Family Law, as well as against the imposition to Greek women of mandatory service in the army, proposed by officials of the government party. (It is worth noting that on this occasion the women’s organizations did not primarily call upon the alleged “natural” female peacefulness, but upon the fact that women were already carrying more burden than men; at the same time, the prospect of women’s military service met with leftist antimilitarist positions, but also with conservative reservations, since it indirectly put to question traditional gender roles and a process central to the making of manhood).
Massive public demonstrations, press-conferences, press-releases, declarations, leaflets and posters were among the means women’s organizations used in order to make their voice heard and their views taken into account. All major organizations and many of the smaller ones issued newsletters and magazines forwarding their particular approach to issues of public contestation as well as to the question of women’s participation in political and women’s organizations.
Introduction of new feminist ideas
Second wave feminist ideas found a friendly environment within a smaller women’s organization, the Movement for the Liberation of Women (Kinisi gia tin Apeleftherosi ton Gynekon, K.A.G.), which brought forward, as is obvious by its name, the demand for liberation from gender stereotypes and from all kinds of regulations restricting women within both the private and the public spheres of life. It was formed as early as 1975 by women of the extra-parliamentary left, trotskyists, anarchists, some who had participated in the anti-dictatorial fight but left, or never joined, political organizations, most of them embracing the idea of women’s “double struggle”. The K.A.G. participated at the demonstrations organized by the major women’s organizations. Meanwhile, among other more radical activities, the K.A.G. issued in 1976 a milestone booklet on contraception and in 1978, together with women of the K.D.G., organized a protest outside the Athens Hilton against the beauty contest of that year which was held there –paving the way for similar consciousness raising acts in the years to come.
The publication of a magazine was to become the central aim of a group of ten women wishing to systematically forward new feminist theory to Greece. All of them had participated in organizations of the eurocommunist party K.K.E. Esoterikou in Greece and/or abroad, since the majority had spent time studying in France and Italy. Their magazine, with the subversive name Skoupa [The Broom]. For the Women’s Issue (three issues in 1979, one in 1980 and one in 1981), presented the Greek public with translations of texts of feminist theory, articles on the –long forgotten– history of the Greek first wave feminist movement, and criticism of domains and factors of public life, including that of the politically affiliated women’s organizations. The women of Skoupa, offering a view of the debate that took place in France over the issue of “difference”, took position against any approach that would risk a return to biologism.
At the turn of the decade the general setting for feminism in Greece would shift, allowing more space for new feminist ideas to develop.
Emancipation and/or liberation in the 1980s
Formation of the Autonomous Women’s Movement
and the campaigns on violence - rape and on sexuality - contraception - abortion
In 1980 sit-ins were organized in most institutions of higher education in Greece by students opposing the so-called “intensification” forwarded by a governmental educational reform, contesting at the same time the theory and practice of the dominant marxist political parties and organizations. In this frame, the most advanced ideas of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the new feminist ideas included, found space to flourish for the first time in Greece.
It was this year, 1980, that saw the first public celebration of the International Woman’s Day on the 8th of March, in Athens, Thessaloniki and a few other Greek cities. On this occasion it became obvious that a substantial number of small women’s groups were operating in different ways than those of the large women’s organizations. Following that, these groups formed a loose network, which became known as the Autonomous Women’s Movement. The choice of the epithet “autonomous” pointed to the importance that this trend of the Greek women’s movement attributed, on the one hand, to the existence of a self-contained women’s movement, apart from that of the working class or of any other social group, and, on the other hand, to the ideological and organizational autonomy from the political parties, something particularly important in the specific political environment.
In order for the groups to be able to meet and co-ordinate their activities they used a number of meeting points: the “House of Women” (Spiti Gynekon) in Athens, another in Thessaloniki and a third in Ioannina, two bookstores in Athens (“The Book – The Child”, later named “Selana”, founded in 1975, and The Women’s Bookshop (To Vivliopolio ton Gynekon, founded in 1983), a Women’s Kafenio (coffee-shop, traditionally meeting place for men only) founded in 1982 by women of the K.D.G. in Athens and another one in Ioannina, and meeting places created by women in student areas or city neighbourhoods or working places. Some of the warmest gatherings took place in student or family homes.
The Autonomous Women’s Movement brought into the open a variety of issues and demands related to the quest for women’s liberation and the dissolution of gender stereotypes. Most groups rallied together in support of two campaigns: the first was initiated by the House of Women and put forward the issues of rape and violence against women, the second was carried out by an organization characteristically named Autonomous Movement of Women (Autonomi Kinisi Gynekon) in demand of women’s rights on sexuality, contraception and abortion .
“State feminism” and legal reforms
Meanwhile, the revision of the Family Law and other sections of legislation began to be implemented upon the entry of Greece in the E.E.C. in 1981 and the ascendance to power, that same year, of the socialist party PA.SO.K. Through the party affiliated women’s organization E.G.E. (who, it should be noted, was presided by the prime minister’s wife Margaret Papandreou) government policies espoused –though without paying homage to– the rhetoric and demands of the Autonomous Women’s Movement, giving shape to what the latter would call “state feminism”. Indeed, certain of the regulations in Greek legislation introduced at the time were of the most advanced internationally –such as the one stipulating that women maintain their maiden surname after marriage–, yet many of them were doomed to remain unused or become misused, since, one might argue, they were not the product of a fully evolved and mature political movement, which would allow for the development of the necessary collective consciousness among women, if not for men as well. The ascending political powers of the time seem to have perceived the reforms elevating women’s social status a substantial component to politics for progressive change, which, however, evaded any open contestation of patriarchy. In any case, legal reforms were forwarded, as were a number of E.E.C. programs promoting the financial status of women.
As it happened in other countries also, the implementation of institutional reforms generated feelings of contentment for part of the women’s movement, the one related to the political forces in power, relief for those more conservative –at both the right and the left wings of the political spectrum–, and ambivalence for the Autonomous Women’s Movement, anxious as to the ways its vision for a radical change in society would henceforth be handled. The situation generated among feminists of the Autonomous Women’s Movement discussions on “the crisis of the movement”, in the frame of which some proposed the development of more radical forms of activism, while others supported that further instruction in feminist theory and the development of feminist research would help the movement re-orientate within the new situation.
In this frame of growing unrest as to the theory and practice of feminism in Greece a group of Women’s Studies began to take shape in Thessaloniki. Besides the value of the initiative in itself, it is of special significance that certain of the stands espoused by this particular group differed from respective views prevailing at the time in Athens among the most vocal –regarding theory– feminists, thus arising as an alternative pole for the feminist quest in Greece.
The Women’s Studies Group at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki:
adventures in theory and practice
The first steps for the formation of the Women’s Studies Group (Omada Gynekion Spoudon) at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki emerged from a discussion between Zogia Chronaki-Papamichou and Giota Kravaritou-Manitake in the summer of 1982. Both women were members of the faculty of the School of Law, and were politically intensely active, though in different political organizations. They were members of the same women’s organization, namely the K.D.G., whose branch at Thessaloniki had however just been dissolved –a gap the two women aspired to fill with the development of relative activity in the frame of their university.
The two academics turned to some of their colleagues and asked them to participate in the venture. Thus a group was formed with the participation of Athina Kotzampasi and Theophano Papazissi, both members of the faculty of the School of Law, and with the addition of Eleni (Lena) Vogiatzi and Ekaterini (Katerina) Kamara, students and later members of the faculty of the same school, who were to leave the group after a few years, for personal reasons. In 1982 the Assembly of the School of Law recognized the group as a Committee within its frame.
Espousing the cause of interdisciplinarity, the group based at the School of Law turned to women from other academic fields. Thus, the interdisciplinary Women’s Studies Group was formed in 1983 and was recognized as a Committee attached to the General Assembly of the AUTh.
Of the 14 women who were to participate in the W.S.G., 6 came from the School of Law, 2 from Architecture, 5 from departments of the School of Philosophy and 1 from Economics. Along with Chronaki, Kravaritou, Kotzampasi, Papazissi and Vogiatzi joined forces, for a short or a longer period, Alexandra Bakalaki, anthropologist, who had just finished her Ph.D. in the U.S.A., offered information on the developments in the field of Women’s Studies abroad, architects Anastasia (Sasa) Lada and Evangelia (Vana) Tentokali, the latter having collaborated with the Women’s Studies Program at M.I.T., both very keen on theory in a field building a bridge between social and natural sciences, Gianna Savvidou, of French Literature, who would later carry out postgraduate studies supervised by Hélène Sixous, two colleagues at the then department of Philosophy - Psychology - Paedagogics, Vasiliki (Kiki) Deliyanni-Kouimtzis (dpt. of Psychology) and Sidiroula (Roula) Ziogou-Karastergiou (dpt. of Philosophy and Paedagogics), investigating the interconnection of gender and education, Theodosia-Soula Pavlidou (Linguistics) and her sister Nelly-Eleni Pavlidou (Economics). At a later stage Ifigenia Kamtsidou, from the School of Law, would become member of the group.
Efi Manoledaki-Kounougeri is reported to have participated particularly at the early days of the group at the School of Law, while Morfoula, a student from Cyprus was for some time member of the interdisciplinary group. Anthropologist Nora Skouteri-Didaskalou contributed at the early discussions of the group, as well as at the seminars that they were going to organize, as did Alexandra Deligiorgi, professor of Philosophy, discussing literature, and Maria Andronikou (dpt. of Philology), on ancient Greek literature.
Sources of information about the WSG
Βesides drawing from available printed material (articles in magazines and books, pamphlets, posters, et al.), the present research is largely based on interviews with former members of the WSG.
The interviews were semi-structured, with reference to a questionnaire, the first part of which aimed to record some personal data of the women interviewed, while the second, inquiring their evaluation of the group’s history and its impact on academic life in Greece, included some of the questions posed by the other researchers of the program, thus adding to the spectrum of academic fields examined. The interviewer felt grateful for the opportunity to encounter women of outstanding contribution to the feminist cause in Greece, some of whom were long known to her through their publications. Thus she did not abstain from encouraging free elaboration of accounts and arguments, especially when she felt that unpredictable aspects of the issues in question might come forward, checking from time to time the areas of the questionnaire that had been covered.
Of the twelve women whose contribution to the W.S.G. appears substantial, seven have been interviewed so far, two others are scheduled for an interview in the near future, while one other provided the researcher with important information in the course of informal conversations.
Five interviews took place in September and October 2005 at the university offices of the interviewees, while two were conducted in the interviewees’ homes. The duration of one of the interviews was one hour and a half, while the rest lasted as much as two or three hours.
Activities within and outside the academia
In their aim to introduce to the Greek public the developments within feminist theory and the Women’s Studies in the West, the W.S.G. would invite a number of foreign personalities to give lectures: in 1983 prof. Libby Tata (Clinical Psychologist, University of Copenhagen), in 1986, in collaboration with the Goethe German Institute at Thessaloniki, Alice Schwarzer (writer and publisher of the feminist magazine Emma in Berlin), in 1987 prof. Dorothy Parker (jurist and anthropologist, Australia), and in 1991, in collaboration of the French Institute at Thessaloniki, prof. Michelle Perrot (historian, Université Paris VII).
Also promoting the issue of Women’s Studies, the W.S.G. would organize from 1984 to 1993 four meetings-conferences discussing the development of feminist theory and feminist studies –the texts of the last conference were published in 1996, including those of Johanna Kootz (Free University, Berlin), D. Richardson (University of Sheffield) and Marjolein Verboom (University of Utrecht). An article published by two members in 1986 constitutes an effort to present to the Greek public the quests and stands developed in the frame of Women’s Studies. In the 1990s the W.S.G. would become member of EU networks for the promotion of Women’s Studies, such as the programs GRACE, NOISE/ERASMUS, IRIS, ATHENA, SOCRATES.
Meanwhile, the backbone of the W.S.G.’s activities within the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki at its first –and most productive– decade would be a series of free courses offered at the amphitheatre of the School of Law, open to the general public as well. The lecturers, mostly members of the W.S.G., but also other academics and some artists, presented feminist approaches on subjects deriving from their academic or artistic fields. Six such series (of 10 to 12 weeks) were organized between 1985 and 1990.
Of special significance is an activity that the W.S.G. undertook, establishing tangible relations with society outside the academia, and a direct connection to the labour world: from 1987 to 1990 some of its members would participate in educational programs for women workers and university graduates, working or unemployed, organized in collaboration with institutions such as the Workers Centre of Thessaloniki, the Trade Union of Clothing Industry, as well as the General Secretariat for the Young Generation. In 1991 the WSG, together with the League of Greek Industries, the National Organization of Social Welfare and the Municipality of Sykees, co-founded the Centre “Ergani” for the Professional/Industrial Instruction of Women, in the frame of the E.U. program NOW.
In 1988 the W.S.G. was declared by the university an Intra-Departmental Research Program of Women’s Studies, something implying that the need for a feminist approach in science, as well as the value of interdisciplinarity were recognized by the majority –at least– of the faculty.
Yet, in the 1990s all attempts of the W.S.G. to obtain substantial support in order to develop scientific and educational activities within the frame of the academic curriculum seem doomed to fail. Departing from the free lessons and the seminars they had organized in the previous years, the group proceeded to establish interdisciplinary postgraduate programs of Women’s Studies and other academic projects. At least two of their propositions were, however, rejected: one for the creation of a Documentation and Information Centre on Women’s Studies Issues, submitted in 1995, as well as another for setting up an Intradepartmental Postgraduate Studies Program under the title “Areas of construction and representation of gender: Interdisciplinary and intra-cultural approach to Women’s Studies”, submitted by the Department of Architecture in 1997. A major obstacle was the lack of a competent legal frame regarding postgraduate as well as interdisciplinary studies in Greece. One project was realized, however, in 1995, when the W.S.G. undertook to index, register and classify under the entry “woman” the relevant books of the central library of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
In general, the presence of the W.S.G. in the university seems to diminish gradually. A symposium on the role of women in German and Greek Resistance during the WWII, organized in collaboration with the Goethe German Institute at Thessaloniki in 1994, and a publication of the material in 1999, were realized outside the university. This does not seem to have been a free choice of the W.S.G., but rather one forced by the fact that, apart from a superficial acknowledgment, the university did not offer substantial support or sponsorship for the development of academic activity on the part of the group.
The decline of W.S.G. activity seems to meet with the decline of the women’s movement in Greece and abroad, the substitution of collective activism by the provision of institutionalized services to women as to other social groups in need, and the conduct of feminist research becoming the main remaining practice of feminism.
The possible failures or insufficiency of the W.S.G. as to the securing for itself an academic niche within the university is an issue to be discussed. At any rate, individually many members of the group managed to introduce to the academic curriculum of their departments gender issues as components or as central themes of courses they taught. Finally, when the chance was given in the early 2000s for courses of Women’s Studies to be introduced to Greek institutions of higher education, in the frame of E.U. programs, many members of the W.S.G. would be among the organizers or participants of such programs at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
At this conjuncture, the historic W.S.G. of the AUTh was not in position to play a decisive role at the formation and organization of the courses; in fact, the new situation seems to have stricken the old group a fatal blow. Former W.S.G. members joined numerous other academics in the new intra-departmental network sustaining the courses. The dissolution of the W.S.G. would be sealed by the withdrawal of one of the founding members and most vocal member of the group from the academic field.
Sisterhood and “difference”: theory and praxis of the W.S.G.
and “other” Greek feminists
Some members of the W.S.G. had no involvement in political organizations, but others had been members or sympathizers of political organizations of the Left, and some continued to be active in political or unionist affairs, implicitly embracing the idea of “double struggle” for women. For some their participation at the W.S.G. was the only connection to the Greek women’s movement, while others had been members of the K.D.G. and/or other women’s groups.
By definition, the women of the W.S.G. promoted the idea of institutionalization of Women’s Studies within the university; at the same time, they were keen to addressa broader –common– audience, as is obvious from the open access seminars of the first decade and from their collaboration with a variety of non-academic institutions contributing especially to the general instruction of women labourers.
An important component of the particular W.S.G. was the initial group of women involved with the law, being faculty members or students of the relevant school; given the underdevelopment of feminist theory in their field, the existence of their sub-group has influenced, at some points, the dynamics of the group, but not the general course of the group. The latter seems to have been defined by those members who were more committed to the venture.
As regards feminist theory, the women of the W.S.G. represented different backgrounds and schools of thought, some embracing post-modern quests on –and dismantling of– gender, others more prone to retaining the implementation of the woman vs. man categories in their studies and research. It is probably due to this that they did not produce substantial and original theoretical texts as a group, their few –and brief– collective ones aiming rather to present the general principles defining –and inspiring– their activism, on the basis of which stood a “pro difference” stand. Meanwhile, they took to presenting to the public the work of foreign and Greek feminist academics and to opening a discussion among Greek feminist intellectuals about the potentialities of Women’s Studies in Greece. The interdisciplinary composition of the group meant that a broad –though relatively narrow– spectrum of issues was offered to the public through the courses and other presentations organized.
Individual courses and collective activities established for the W.S.G. a particular character, which, interestingly enough, proves to have been quite different from that of other initiatives involved in feminist theory at the time. Feminists who issued the magazines Skoupa (1979-1981) and Dini (1986-1997) in Athens had a number of historians as their core group; with a rather homogeneous strong theoretical background, influenced largely by French feminist theory, they supported, as we have seen, an “anti-difference” stand; even for those previously involved in political organizations feminism turned to be their main commitment; at the same time, rejecting the role of revolutionary vanguard, assigned by communist tradition the task to “enlighten” the masses, they valued women’s quest for liberation through consciousness raising self-awareness processes; thus, their publications appear to have aimed to present feminist theory and research to those involved in the feminist movement; their disinclination to support the institutionalization of Women’s Studies derived, for some, from disputing the scientific value of interdisciplinarity; at the same time, the character of their publications in itself ruled out their use as educational or training material.
Evaluation of the W.S.G. venture
and the cause of Women’s Studies in higher education
If the views of the W.S.G. on the one hand and of Skoupa and Dini groups on the other represent two different approaches to feminist theory and practice in Greece, the impact of which can be traced in some of the developments that followed, it must be clear that not all –if not only a few– women active in the movement at the time could appreciate their significance. The superficial public discussion on the “women’s issue” in Greece, in the frame of a generally thin theoretical background, did not allow for the systematic examination of different standpoints, whenever these occurred. Generally, a study of the ideas and actions of a group as the WSG is likely to bring to light aspects of discourses that remained marginal or obscure, in which case the scarcity of published sources makes personal accounts indispensable.
The interviews of the members of the W.S.G. and an elaboration of their views are yet to be concluded, however a first review of the responses already collected allows for several of their assessments to emerge:
To start with, all interviewed former W.S.G. members value their participation in the group, both for offering them an environment of –women’s– solidarity (though cases of conflict and rejection are reported), for the strengthening of their feminist consciousness and for the consolidation of their academic commitment to women’s issues. It is generally admitted that there were considerable differences among them as to the mastery of feminist theory and that those who made considerable progress in this field achieved it either during studies abroad or in the course of their subsequent academic carreer, rather than in the frame of their W.S.G. work. The W.S.G. did promote several theoretical positions, such as the recognition of subjectivity in human sciences, but this proved to be a rhetorical rather than a substantial position. It is also quite generally acknowledged that certain members of the group were more committed to the issue of the W.S.G. than others and consequently played a more decisive role as to its course. Cases of conflict or rejection were not openly discussed.
The general impact of the seminars organized by the W.S.G. cannot be easily estimated –occasional feedback is provided to former W.S.G. members by women who have attended lectures organized by the group and proceeded with further Women’s/Gender Studies courses. The reception of the W.S.G. by the faculty of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki is reported to have ranged between indifference and disdain, though the venture was invested with certain types of formal status –it is worth noting, at this point, that making an impact on the academic community is considered to have been a primary goal of the group. Different estimations as to the general value of the W.S.G. enterprise are given by its former members. One interesting remark points to the fact that the cause of Women’s Studies’ institutionalisation in Greece did not enjoy an open and wide support on the part of feminist intellectuals. Shortage of premises, money and time –the latter related to the overall demands of academic life– are mentioned as some of the handicaps in the course of the W.S.G., but also political grounds are pinpointed by some as to the problems the group came across in the course of time.
For some of the former W.S.G. members Women’s Studies can substitute for the Women’s Movement at times of recession of the latter. As to the academic form of Women’s Studies suitable for Greece today almost all agree that feminist theory should be diffused within the curriculum of all disciplines, and not constitute a first degree subject but a second degree one. Interdisciplinarity is considered possible only among related disciplines.
Reflections on the course of the Women’s Studies Group
at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Being a student at the School of Philosophy in Athens in the early 1980s, active at the Women’s Group of my school and then of the Women’s Bookshop Group, I remember Zogia Chronaki visiting us and bringing posters and pamphlets of the Women’s Studies Group at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, intrducing us, together with certain articles of Skoupa and Dini magazines, to the notion of Women’s Studies.
It is not easy to estimate the impact of such an enterprise. Feminist theory and research in Greece, as has happened with other areas of theory and science, have suffered from underdevelopment due to a combination of socio-political factors amidst turbulent historical circumstances. This entailed a disadvantage, in comparison to similar initiatives in countries of Western Europe and North America, as to the theoretical grounding and range of the group’s academic work, and a considerable paucity of recognition, support and interaction with the academic as well as the political environment of the time.
The interdisciplinary undergraduate and postgraduate courses on gender and equality organized in the past few years in Greek universities do not seem to have any direct connection with the legacy of the W.S.G. of the AUTh. Yet, for many of the women teaching feminist theory or developing feminist research in Greece today the journey of this group has been a milestone. In the meantime, the challenge to efficiently develop Women’s Studies in Greece remains to be answered.
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Levin, Tobe, “The WISE Feature” – “Borders and Differences: The Risks and Pleasures of Transitions. University of
Florence, 25-28 September 1997”, The European Journal of Women’s Studies, 5:3 (1998), σ. 513-519.
Mihopoulou, Anna-Efrosyni, “Skoupa” Magazine. A “Broom” that Swept Feminist Theory in Greece, 1979-1981,
M.A. dissertation, Women’s Studies Centre, University of York (U.K.) 1994. Also in Dini. Feminist magazine,
8 (1995-1996), p. 30-72.
Mihopoulou, Anna-Efrosyni, “The Greek Women’s Movement in Space and Time” in: National Technical University
of Athens / Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Women in Public Space. Experiences from North and
South. International Conference , Athens 13-21 April 1994, p.5-17; translated into Greek and revised in 2004
for the students of the “Women’s History” classes, Department of Primary Education Paedagogics / AUTh
“Omada Gynekion Spoudon A.P.Th.” [“The Women’s Studies Group AUTh”], Katina, 1 (1987), p. 53.
Papagaroufalis, Eleni, Greek Women in Politics: Gender ideology and practice in neighborhood groups and the
family, Ph.D., Columbia University, 1990.
Skoupa. For the Women’s Issue, 1-5 (1979-1981).
Publications by members of the Women’s Studies Group at AUTh.
Women’s Studies Group at AUTh pamphlets, posters etc., “Delfys” Women’s Archive, Athens.
Vasiliki (Kiki) Deliyanni-Kouimtzis (AUTh, 27.9.2005), Sidiroula (Roula) Ziogou-Karastergiou (AUTh, 27.9.2005), Athina Kotzampasi (AUTh, 26.9.2005), Giota Kravaritou-Manitake (Thessaloniki, 26.9.2005), Anastasia (Sasa) Lada (Thessaloniki, 20.11.2005), Theophano Papazissi (AUTh, 23.9.2005), Evangelia (Vana) Tentokali (AUTh, 27.9.2005), Zogia Chronaki-Papamichou (Thessaloniki, September 2004).