introduction
C
This book traces the social and cultural construction of the nation, the body,
gender, and sexuality in Greece, a nation that is in many ways located at the
crossroads of East and West, a charged site of conflict and conjunction be-
tween modernity and tradition. This process of construction is a deeply politi-
cal project. My ostensible focus is on abortion, of which there have been
anywhere from 150,000 to 400,000 annually throughout the 1990s, and on
the perceived national problem of a low birth rate, approximately 110,000
births annually for a population of close to 11 million, that is popularly called
to demografiko.∞ Even The Economist noted in a special 2002 issue on Greece,
‘‘Greece has an exceptionally high incidence of abortion.’’
What can we learn about the construction of the subject and the nation in
late modernity from this high rate of abortion in Greece? Rather than asking
why there are so many abortions in Greece at the present, I ask how is it that
there comes to be a high incidence of abortion in a country where the low
birth rate is a national issue. In pursuing this paradox, the book attempts
to chart the discursive production of the gendered and nationed subject in
present-day Greece. My objective is to trace the vexed operation of power in
the recesses of the national imaginary, as it is expressed, for instance, in press
coverage of the demografiko and in the capillaries of daily social life, such as
sexuality and erotic relationships. In e√ect, this involves an exploration of the
meanings of love, life, the divine, and agency and their very intimate a≈lia-
tions with stories about what it means to be Greek.
Unraveling this tangled set of discourses, I find that the same stories of
Greekness that produce the specific construction of the demografiko as a
major national problem also yield forms of sexuality, personhood, and ‘‘the
couple’’ that result in the high rate of abortion, which the demografiko dis-
courses penalize even though the medical act itself has been legal since 1986
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