European Americans in U.S. Multiculturalism: The Greek American Angle

Guest lecture by Yiorgos Anagnostou, Associate Professor ved Ohio State University

The figure of the "European American" carries a particular cultural and political valence in U.S. multiculturalism. It represents an exemplar of national openness, progress, and equal opportunity; a self-sufficient figure, whose toil and determination were key in overcoming poverty and discrimination to realize the American Dream. These represent the now well-entrenched topoi of the Eurocentric approach to U.S. multiculturalism, a narrative of inclusion that constructs the United States as a progressive and benevolent democracy, which has dismantled racial exclusion.

This lecture briefly explores the making of this European American identity, and identifies its cultural expressions and political ramifications today. It questions the construction of European Americans as a uniform category, and draws from the Greek American example to imagine European ethnicity differently. The notion of “usable pasts” and a corpus of “popular ethnographies” serve as the analytical and textual point of departure to reclaim alternative ways of expressing ethnicity in the United States.