Delimiting Europe: Greek State Formation as Border Making



Hoffmann C (2023) Delimiting Europe: Greek State Formation as Border Making. Uluslararasi Iliskiler (International Relations), 19 (77), pp. 1-19.

When the Greek prime minister admired Delacroix’ famous painting ‘The Battle of Chios’ in the Louvre Museum during a state visit to France in 2021, this was meaningful in more than one way. Not only did he and French president Macron celebrate the second centenary of the 1821 “Greek Revolution.” They also reaffirmed their 200-year-old geopolitical alliance in the Eastern Mediterranean. An alliance between two countries that see themselves as the birthplace of European civilisation. Then, as now, celebrating their Europeanness went beyond artistic depictions and symbolisms. The creation of a White European space by virtue of a concrete struggle against an Oriental other, thus, delimited not only the Greco-Ottoman, but also Europe’s South-eastern borders. What IR has come to understand as the ‘spatial turn’, a return to emphasising the (un)making of borders and space, took, and takes, place in the Aegean. Looking back at the significance of the Greek War of Independence, this article reveals that, much like the violence in Delacroix’ painting, this formation of inter-national modernity, far from merely being a civilisational achievement, was bloody and genocidal. The painting’s conventional Orientalist understanding sees a white European people massacred by an Oriental occupying force. A careful re-historicisation of the Greek independence struggle reveals, however, that it had highly specific social and geopolitical origins that cannot be reduced to a spreading European Enlightenment. An alliance between local social forces gave rise to a struggle that was consolidated by mass violence. The international invention on behalf of Greece didn’t represent a shift towards a liberal international order giving rise to a reborn Athenian Republic. It represented a compromise between otherwise divided conservative dynasties imposing their designs on the young state. Finally, the article will argue that this historical episode embodies a continuing social process of European border making.

International Historical Sociology; Greece; Ottoman Empire; Geopolitics; Social Banditry

Uluslararasi Iliskiler (International Relations): Volume 19, Issue 77

Publication date31/12/2023
Publication date online17/01/2023
Date accepted by journal15/12/2022

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Dr Clemens Hoffmann

Dr Clemens Hoffmann

Senior Lecturer, Politics