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Anti-Americanism and Americanization in Greece


          Greece has long been viewed as "the black sheep" of Europe for its audacity to challenge and to criticize regional and global powers, like the United States. Firebrand criticism of US policy has been a trademark from national leaders, like the late Andreas Papandreou, through the sea of small political parties, all the way down to neighborhood coffeehouses and town squares. The story of Greece is rooted in a series of wrenching conflicts that had US fingerprints and/or stamps of approval that caused great dislocations, long-term domestic strife, and of course violence and death. At the same time, Greece‘s history, religion, and geographic location often served to temper anti-American strands, and in fact sometimes fueled processes of what we may call "Americanization."

 

          Debates about Americanization, often used interchangeably with the term "globalization," abound in Greek popular culture. Older Greeks, and those of more traditional or religious bents lament the erosion of tradition and the concurrent explosion of the "xeno," the foreign. Meanwhile the modern Greek language, music, and leisure activity are heavily infiltrated by American influences, easily penetrating and affecting change on what we may call the "Greek lifestyle." Such debates are all the more developed due to the country’s dependence on tourism, and its image and reputation for "philoxenia," or hospitality of "Old World" style. As such there has been an on-going transformation and crisis in "identity" for many Greeks, deeply-rooted in our analysis of "anti-Americanism" and "Americanization."

 

          For all of the brazen rhetoric and controversy of many of its political and cultural figures, Greece has remained firmly and squarely within the Western domain. The United States‘ Truman Doctrine explicitly aimed to keep Greece (and Turkey) within the Western sphere through an anti-communist program directed from Washington. Greece was also a beneficiary of the Marshall Plan, involved itself early in the process of European unification, and is one of only seven nations in the world that the US had as an ally in every major international conflict in the 20th century.

 

          What we see then is a divide between the sentiments of popular Greek culture and the actions of its government. We encounter a "knee-jerk" anti-Americanism married to a more sophisticated and empirically-grounded anti-Americanism. And while this evolution has proceeded, we also witness an accelerating Americanization of cultural artifacts, social changes, and belief systems — not "wholesale" but syncretic in nature.

 

Brief History of American and Foreign Intervention in Greece

 

          Greece‘s history of foreign invasions and occupations is well-known and documented. For the time frame we are examining here (1945-Present) the interventions and consequences have been dramatic and significant. It is important to emphasize, however, that historically this represents a continuation o

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