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‘Athens Now’ Global Seminar will explore contemporary urban cultural life

This year, PIIRS will launch four new Global Seminars, including “Athens Now: Culture and Politics in the Urban Space” with Effie Rentzou, an associate professor of French.
Thursday, January 18, 2018

By Pooja Makhijani, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies

Each summer, dozens of Princeton University students receive a firsthand education about an array of international issues in six-week courses taught by University faculty in locations at the heart of the seminar’s subject matter. These PIIRS Global Seminars, offered by the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, give students the opportunity to learn in the classroom, visit local sites and hear from people in the community.

This year, PIIRS will launch four new Global Seminars, including “Athens Now: Culture and Politics in the Urban Space” with Effie Rentzou, an associate professor of French.

The seminar will explore Athens and its culture as a response to increasingly complex political and social dynamics — and the city as a characteristic example of 21st century urban culture. Rentzou has long been interested in cities as places for cultural production historically; “Athens Now” allows her and her students to examine this phenomenon contemporarily.

Athens is the ideal location for such an excavation, explained Rentzou. “The city has undergone a radical transformation,” Rentzou said. “Its financial, political and social crises [of the past decade] have generated new expressions in culture.”

The seminar will not only use works of art — literature, film, theatre, graffiti and music — as points of entry, but also traditional and emerging institutions that manage and disseminate culture, such as museums, cultural centers, artist collectives and squats. “The course will include a series of workshops and meetings with cultural actors, like writers and cinematographers and curators, in Athens,” Rentzou said. “Together with these practitioners, we will learn how the city shapes its own culture.”

Rentzou hopes that her students come to appreciate that Athens continues to be an important global city, as it has been historically. “Greece is in Europe, but it is in the geographical position that points to the east, the south and beyond,” Rentzou said. “I would like the students to see what is happening in Athens culturally — the theatre that is created in Athens, the art that is created in Athens, the audience responses that are happening in Athens — are things that affect them as citizens of the world. There is an interconnection and response not only to local circumstances, but also to global circumstances.”

PIIRS Global Seminars are held over six weeks in June, July and August. Since the program was launched in 2007 by PIIRS in collaboration with the Office of International Programs, more than 800 students have taken part in 56 Global Seminars in Africa, East Asia, South Asia, Europe, the Near East and South America. Participating students earn credits for one University course.

 “Athens Now” is co-sponsored by the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies, with the support of The Erric B. Kertsikoff Hellenic Studies Fund.