Professor Dimitrios Theodossopoulos
Professor of Social Anthropology
Political and environmental anthropology; ethnic relations and stereotyping; globalisation and indigeneity; resistance and protest
- - D.Theodossopoulos@kent.ac.uk
- - 01227 (82)3360
School Roles and Responsibilities
Deputy Director of Graduate Studies; Director of the Centre for Ethnographic Research
I am a social anthropologist interested in anti-austerity politics, resistance, populism, authenticity, indigenous representation and exoticism. My engagement with these topics brings forward invisible local perspectives, is ethnographically inspired and attempts to reconfigure social theory from the grassroots.
I am also interested in creative ethnographic mediums, such as ‘graphic ethnography’, a new visual subfield that relies on sketches, drawings, photography and cartoons—not merely to illustrate—but, more importantly, to generate social analysis. My experimentation with graphic anthropology has led me to the theoretical reconsideration of the role of the author in the production of ethnography. In my recent (2016) monograph, Exoticisation Undressed, I problematise the singularity of anthropological narration, re-representing myself—for the first time, and in graphic form—as a younger and older author who debate the production of ethnography (see also, graphic review at the JRAI). This experimentation has paved the way for exploring new avenues of ethnographic reflexivity. It has also made available a new representational angle for the re-evaluation of anthropology as a political project.
In the last twenty-four years I have conducted anthropological fieldwork in urban, rural and rainforest contexts in Greece and Panama. I supervise PhD dissertations on the following topics:
- The social consequences of the financial crisis; anti-austerity discourse
- Local discontent with politics, populism, protest and political activism
- The anthropology of Panama; Emberá culture and ethnography
- Indigenous tourism, commodification, and cultural authenticity
- Nationalism, stereotypes and constructions of Otherness
- Environmental Anthropology, attitudes to animals and environmental politics
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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository
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I also convene the postgraduate writing-up seminar.back to top
Austerity, populism, non-hegemonic politics
A uniting thread in my published work is a commitment to making visible the rationality and nuanced critical views of local social actors, particularly in non-hegemonic politics. I have engaged anthropologically with political processes that range from environmental issues to local discontent with globalisation, from ethnic stereotyping and nationalism to the anthropological theory of resistance, and, more recently, anti-austerity discourse and populism.
I am currently the PI of an ESRC project that investigates the consequences of austerity in Greece and Portugal—the outcomes of which call attention to the precarious position and impoverishment of the lower middle classes.
Indigenous and ethnographic representation, ethnographic nostalgia
I am also concerned with cultural representation, in particular among indigenous groups, such as the Emberá in Panama. I work with an Emberá community that receives visitors on a regular basis and specialises in indigenous tourism. Its inhabitants have developed a remarkable representational self-awareness, claiming their right to be both indigenous and modern. I explore the issue of indigenous modernities in my recent monograph Exoticisation Undressed, an experimental ethnography that reveals the many layers trough which our understandings of indigenous cultures are filtered and the inherent power to distort understanding.
I am also working towards developing a general theory for understanding exoticisation and self-exoticisation and their role for shaping local and global identities. See in particular a recent monograph, Against Exoticism, which I edited with Bruce Kapferer.
My work on exoticism has led me to critique a particular nostalgic approach in anthropological writing: the tendency to pursue nostalgic connections between a present social reality and what other authors — or even ourselves — have said about a particular society before. I have introduced the analytic concept ‘ethnographic nostalgia’ to capture the representational and political challenges structured by this type of nostalgic predilection.
I am fascinated with the global dimensions of anti-globalisation, its political repercussions for local communities and the imaginations of a worldwide community of peripheral actors discontented with the Western civilisational priorities. My publications on this theme include the edited volume United in Discontent (Berghahn), which examines the dissatisfaction of communities on the periphery of power with globalisation and Western versions of cosmopolitanism. As I argue in the introduction to this volume, globalisation paradoxically encourages its own critique by facilitating the circulation of the very ideas that make its denunciation possible.
I also have a long-term interest in the anthropology of nationalism and the politics of ethnic identity-making, with a focus on perceptions of other ethnic groups, the use of ethnic stereotypes and the meaningfulness of international politics at the local level. My publications in this field include the volume When Greeks think about Turks (Routledge), two edited collections on ethnic stereotypes in Southeast Europe, and a special issue of Social Analysis that sheds light on how local actors discuss the Great Powers. My own ethnographic contributions to this project examine anti-Americanism in Greece and Panama.
I have worked in the field of Environmental Anthropology, in particular the politics of Environmental Conservation. My first anthropological fieldwork and the monograph Troubles with Turtles (Berghahn) examined a dispute between a community of farmers and mostly urban, middle-class environmentalists. Despite my previous involvement in ecological conservation, I engaged in a sustained critique of environmentalism, inspired by the axiom that a thorough study of indigenous cultures is a fundamental step to understanding conflicts over the environment. In the context of this work, I have also written about human-animal relationships, hunting and the social dimensions of environmental conservation.
Current Research Projects:
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Current PhD students:
- Ilektra Kyriazidou – Solidarity, impoverishment, and the consequences of austerity in Thessalonica.
- Boana Visser – Poverty and indigenous identity among Ngobe workers in Bocas del Toro, Panama.
- Lisa Rodan – Crisis, austerity and the lives of Portuguese migrants in London.
- Frederika Treeby - Isolation, social networks and belonging among ex-detainees of UK Migrant Removal Centres: a phenomenological approach.
- Mick Bonnington – National Parks and Nationalism in Catalonia.
- Kahir Abdhul – Indigenous tourism and ethnic commoditisation in Madagascar.
PhD students who have received their doctorate under my supervision:
- Nicoletta Paphitou - (competed in 2016) Cultural tourism and the image of Aphrodite in Cyprus.
- Konstantinos Ardavanis – (completed in 2013) Navigating a hyphenated Identity: an ethnography of the Greek-American community in New York City.
- Michael Pearson - (completed in 2013) The Discordant Accord: Romania and the European Union.
- Mackenzie Paige Belt – (completed in 2012) Hosts and Domestic Workers: From Maintaining Social Distance to Creating Cultural Intimacy between Sri Lankan Migrants and Greek-Cypriots in Nicosia, Cyprus.
- Alexis Karkotis – (completed in 2012) ‘Now we live together’: The poetics of everyday life in a spatially concentrated Ngöbe community in Panama.
- Mark Burchell (completed in 2011) Military enculturation: an anthropological exploration of discipline and ritual practices among the Royal Marines.
- Nikitas Palantzas (completed in 2011) Perplexed by the European Union: Examining Euro-sceptic manifestations towards Turkey’s accession to the European Union among citizens of Istanbul.
- Sandra Yolanda López-Rocha (completed in 2009) Identity, adaptation and community making among the Chilean diaspora in England.
- Costas Constantinou (completed in 2009) Transplanted selves: kidney transplantation in Cyprus and the reconstruction of normality.
- Steve Adam (completed in 2007) Culture heritage preservation among the Tigua Pueblo of El Paso, Texas.
- Lina Sistani (completed in 2005) Native Dilemmas: Histories, Memories and Identities in Macedonia.
- Paul Cooper (completed in 2002) Live and learn: the educational and social experience of adult, returning learners.