Yanni Kotsonis February 13, 2019
“Black, Greek, and Imperial: Race, Religion, and Nation in the Revolutionary Age, 1797-1830”
Could a Greek be an African? More generally, what was a Greek and what was an African? Greeks were stateless before 1830 and they served empires, and the empires opened up possibilities for movement and new forms of representation. The French empire recruited soldiers globally, including Balkan Greeks when Napoleon arrived in the region in 1797. Army clerks deliberated their identity and placed Greeks in regiments of Haitians and Africans (and Egyptians, and Orientals). In the process the French army debated the intersection of geography, color, and civilization, and arrived at multiple conclusions. All points were fleeting and unstable, including what it meant to be French. From this revealing story of Napoleonic Empire we turn to the late 1820s and the Greek War of Independence. By then Muslims had almost entirely disappeared from the territory that would become Greece and the French army was sent to evacuate the few survivors. Yet villages of Africans were still there. Could an African be a Greek?