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George N Leontsinis

Kytherian Associations and Foundations in Greece and Abroad

Purpose and aims – work plan – central themes of the Conference

My paper at this conference contains recommendations of a scientific nature, whose successful implementation would depend on a general acceptance by all concerned.* The conditions of the establishment, the structure, organization and function of Kytherian institutions, scientific and cultural centers, clubs and associations, fraternities, scientific societies and brotherhoods, within Greece and its parishes abroad, can make up the central themes of an international conference, which is being organized in Greece (Kythera), for the following year by the Open University of the Municipality of Kythera, in co-operation with the University of Athens and the participation of Kytherian associations and other cultural organizations of Kytherian origin abroad, as well as local associations.

The aim of the conference will be to distinguish the historic journey of those cultural organizations, as well as their social activity and their contribution to public affairs. The conference aims at closing a cycle of two previous professional activities. Two international, scientific conferences have already been hugely successful and the publication of their proceedings has already been scheduled for the end of this year. The first conference was called “Kytherian Migration: Historic Diaspora and Contemporary Massive Population Movement” (2004), while the second conference was the “Greek Benefaction and Kytherian Bequests” (2005).

Potential delegates will be recommended by the Executive Council of each organization, so as to be represented at the conference proceedings, could engage in presenting at the conference papers on their personal histories and social activities. Other researchers may also present aspects of this activity within each cultural organization. A basis of historical information could be the written sources of their personal archives, or other private or public archives and collections. Moreover, the extraction of information from key informants (from active members of Associations or from non-enrolled individuals of the Kytherian parish or from individuals who may have enjoyed the support and help of the association, as well as those who have never, either by chance or by conscious decision, wanted to achieve some kind of relationship, either direct or indirect, with the association). It would also be interesting for researchers to request information from individuals who do not happen to be affiliated with a particular organization. In other words, the opinions held by individuals who had not become members of an association or who had once joined but, for whatever reason, decided to leave.

As far as written sources are concerned, I would like to point out, for example, the importance of the study of institutional constitutions and other cultural or scientific associations; the revisions of their constitution; the minutes taken at general assemblies; the minutes of meetings held by the executive committee; any form of correspondence either with individuals or with institutions; private correspondence; the association’s newsletter; magazines; albums; exhibitions ; photographic material from activities and events organized by the association either at its birthplace or at its adopted country. The search for informative sources from the private archives of the members of the cultural organizations is also imperative, as is the retrieval of any type of information that can be provided by the local and the national-local press. A paper concerning the source of information that domestic cultural groups provide, and also concerning the national press, that always provided information about Kytherians of the same descent, will further support the aims of the conference. The above papers could include a sample of representative photographic material taken from the cultural organizations’ archives and from the member’s private archives and from those of other individuals, since it is thought as being valuable and supportive research material.

It is recommended that the conference could take the following structure. It is possible that it contains two main sections: one highlighting the theoretical problems encountered by social integration in modern times by recommending to delegates some possible, representative, scientific proposals of approach. Specialists – historians, folklorists, social-anthropologists, and sociologists– will comprise with their papers the theoretical base and they will pinpoint the directions that historical research should take. It would also be useful to all delegates if it were possible to have a paper presented on the relevant recent bibliography on the conference’s subject-matter. The second section of the conference could involve research referring to its specialized topic and should refer to one or more clubs or associations. I will go on to explain how this can be achieved in the following section of this paper. In what follows, I am presenting a typical organization plan of historical research that could be used by the delegates.

Typical Research Organization Plan– Research Focus and Conference Structure

Since it is obvious that local associations (in the birthplace), national associations (of domestic migration); and foreign associations, organizations, foundations, fraternities and scientific societies abroad (of Kytherian Diaspora) differ in their aims and objectives, it is imperative that emphasis should be given to the similarities and differences that will be detected amongst the associations as stated previously during their three-part classification. In addition, I hope that this three-part distinction of collective organizations might be undertaken as a research project by a specialized researcher who will comparatively examine the topic of organizations in their place of origin, the interior of the country, and the countries to which there has been migration. This researcher could investigate into the motivations behind the establishment of the various Kytherian cultural organizations either in their place of origin or abroad.

Within the limits of the conference proceedings, it will be necessary to illustrate the activities of the Associations and of the other cultural societies, focusing on topics relating to their structural organization and functions, as well as to their social and cultural activities which, typically, share in their members’ origin or place of settlement. Different issues will be addressed, such as the adverse conditions of settlement and the insecurities faced by the immigrant in his new homeland and work place, which led and continue to lead to the rallying of the migratory population. How a homogenous community is formed and, of course, how it takes root and develops within a homogenous population from the place of origin is aspects which need to be looked into. Thus the gradual, emerging disassociation of the members of the community and its organizations are sure to raise questions such as: When does interest in collective activities begin and why does it sometimes cease? How do the new associations differ from the old ones? What new objectives do they set, or for what reasons do new members –especially younger in age– alienate themselves and seek out other types of expression? Furthermore, for what reasons is there a lack of interest in relevant activities of a collective nature?

As far as the activity of a local or national organization or another cultural group is concerned, the unique natural and geographical environment of their settlement of origin (such as the Karavas Federation), their historical journey, the people’s participation in wars of independence or defense, the genesis of myths and traditions relevant to the foundation of communities, their historical monuments, and the efforts by the associations towards the tourist development of areas that have cultural value, may become part of a research project. Past and present productive activities of the island of Kythera, such as agriculture, animal husbandry, fishing, industry and tourism, could also be of interest to researchers. In addition, researchers could also examine the new channels the population is seeking via seasonal migration.

It would also be useful to document the efforts made and the actions taken by the Associations and other organizations towards the tourist development of the island. In particular, it would be interesting to investigate in what particular time a historical settlement started to have tourist activity; the nationality of tourists; periods of peak tourist activity; the types of available accommodation (hotel, rooms, camping, etc.); the behavior of locals towards their foreign guests; the unique relationships that may have emerged and developed between them (the presence of inter-marriage); the local products available to tourists, as well as those sights that may exist in an area that has increased tourism. The contribution of the local Kytherian associations and societies to the support of the aforementioned productive activities and to the development of tourism –or, in some cases, their efforts against tourist development– could also constitute part of a research project.

Peak periods or periods of demographic decline of traditional Kytherian communities can be examined in conjunction with the expansion of the economic, political or social factors that instigated them. Within these parameters, the phenomenon of the migration of Kytherians, both domestic and abroad, can be looked on as something that has directly affected the demographic relocation on the island itself. The creation of Kytherian associations and societies with the sole purpose of providing economic and moral support to its members is also worth researching into. It would also be beneficial to collectively consider the cases of accession within an association, and the individual aims and ambitions realized, with or without provocation or dissent.

In addition, it would be of great interest to examine the political orientation of associations, as well as potential political differences amongst newer associations as opposed to those already established. It is recommended that various related issues be investigated, such as what countries were migrated to abroad and the final destination within the interior; living and working conditions in these new places of settlement; contact and support of members; ‘haunts’ frequented by immigrants and the topics of their conversations and interests; the economic help provided by those already established to newly-arrived immigrants; and the marriages amongst individuals who are from the same village at their new place of settlement. The structure and function of the family environment, both immediate and more general in the new place of residence, the relations developed amongst the other national and religious communities, and their comparative affinity with that of the place of origin of the Kytherians of the interior, no longer residing on the island, would also present issues deserving further investigation.

Historically, the foundation, organization and function of Kytherian associations and institutions, those operating at the island and elsewhere in Greece and abroad, could also be subject of study and research. The time and location of their establishment, their name, their logo and emblem, the number of the founding members – as well as their professions, their place of residence and the creation of a parish, their aims and objectives (political, social, cultural and others), could all become vital objects of historical research. A broader examination of the organization and function of these communities, with reference to the social and cultural status of the individuals who displayed personal initiative in this direction, should be given more consideration. The possible selective character of assimilation within the associations, as well as all types of exclusion, must be pin-pointed and placed within the framework of the historical investigation. Statistical research showing the percentage of the member assimilation within an association, in reference to the rest of the community that did not participate in these associations, is useful, as is the comparison of this information with data by other national associations, provided of course such reports exist.

Among others, topics that could be researched are the number of registered members in the associations and their interests in participating in the general assemblies and related activities of these associations; the social synthesis of the executive council and the duration of their office; how often general assemblies are called; the topics and problems that the members are interested in; the climate and the political juxtaposition that emerges during these assemblies; relations and bonds amongst members and the differences that may affect the overall function of the associations. The relationship of the associations with the greater community and the wider community of same origin, and the desire for understanding and resolution of specific problems and the assumption of initiative should also be considered. The economic state of the associations and, more specifically, the amounts of annual and contingent contributions; the subsidies provided by governmental agencies; grants given by members and the donations of sponsors; the emergence and handling of bequests, as well as the income that is acquired from the events organized by associations, are considered necessary research tool with which to document and investigate the structure and function of Kytherian associations and other cultural societies. The professions of the members and their age, as well as the professions of the founding members and those of the active members, could be an additional piece of information that could be examined and analyzed.

A central theme of the forthcoming conference would be the documentation of social and cultural activities realized by the Kytherian associations and by other cultural societies. Many beneficial public works have been conducted or are still being conducted by these associations at their headquarters will be stressed. Examples of this would be works of construction, road maintenance and the maintenance and renovation of traditional buildings, ancient cathedrals and historic monuments. At the same time, reports of presentations that are being realized under the responsibility of the associations will be required at regular intervals. These would be the annual Greek custom of New Year’s Vassilopita, the association’s annual dance, the organization of excursions and theatrical plays, the resurgence of traditions, the organization and function of youth groups within the associations, the foundation of folk-dance clubs and the teaching of folk dance. The participation of these associations in the establishment of Museums of Folklore, the display of folk art, as well as their efforts in publishing calendars, albums, newspapers and magazines, should also be noted. Of interest is the initiative taken by these associations, as in the organization of presentations of a national character, speeches and seminars of general interest, the celebration of the Patron Saint, achievement awards to outstanding students, the realization of cultural exchanges and co-operation with other associations and, finally the support given to women and youths in the local association by virtue of their participation in events organized by the association.

Since the activities of Kytherian foundations, organizations, associations, societies and fraternities in Greece and in the Kytherian communities abroad, are associated with the phenomenon of benefaction, it is necessary that this should be recognized. The phenomenon arose, and still does, from the outset of its genesis in the horizons of the Kytherian Diaspora and the local communities, in a state of continual interaction with the local community and problems that may arise, according to expectations and demands. Benefaction and voluntarism should be recognized as collective cultural phenomena that aim at from what man can offer to the communal whole by way of sponsorship and the voluntary initiative of members of the domestic Kytherian parishes and those abroad. I would like to note that the International Conference, that was organized in 2005 on ‘Greek Benefaction and Kytherian Bequests’, emphasized on many of these issues; nevertheless, an examination of the connection between the phenomena of benefaction and voluntarism with the various Kytherian Associations will further illuminate the field.

The conference proceedings should conclude with the submission of proposals as to the future activities of Kytherian associations, as well as to the undertaking of similar initiatives in the future in order to contribute to the further improvement of the quality of the life of their members, including not only the permanent inhabitants of the island, but also those who live in other parts of Greece or abroad. The possibility of the foundation of a confederation of Kytherian associations, organizations and societies may also be announced at the conference. The cataloguing of all associations falling under the three aforementioned categories would be among the conference goals. A corpus of the collective organizations, that should also entail a brief outline of their historical course, will indicate the collective and beneficial activities of Kytherians to the rest of the world. In this sense, this could mark the beginning of further research undertaken into the history of clubs and associations of other areas of Greece.

This scientific proposal is, however, merely suggestive. The central themes of the conference, as defined here, may contribute to the realization of the aims and objectives of the conference. Of course, in every case, research strategies of a personal character will be devised for the collection, processing and analysis of the research material which, by its very nature, will be of assorted types and quantities while, at the same time, a combination of research methods and techniques to best display the nature and identity of the specific research area will be required. The apportioned thematic units and objectives which have been suggested for research by presenter-researchers of the conference will hopefully distinguish the role of people and cultural organizations showing initiative, as well as the results of anticipated actions and offerings by the organizations’ regulatory bodies. The actions of the cultural organizations in the communities outside Greece, within the existing boundaries of existence and function in a multi-cultural community (Australia, U.S.A., Canada, Germany and elsewhere), in relation to their aims for the maintenance of a Greek cultural tradition will, no doubt, comprise a key parameter of the relevant research criteria. However, after the timely publication of this scientific proposal, a dialogue is expected to commence that will result in its improvement until the circulation of the first conference circular.

The possibility (or not) of the development of a co-operative web amongst associations and other cultural organizations is necessary to show the differences and specialties of each association. Furthermore, from this co-operative effort possible interaction of activities and copies of cultural minutes from other associations may be located. It goes without saying that within the aims of the conference, it will be possible for matters of public interest, such as the unique characteristic features that identify each cultural organization, as well as the potentially unique cultural direction of the organization, if it is, for example, a scientific society or a charitable institution, national association or co-operative.

A digital cartography of the cultural organizations, as well as cartography of the base of an evaluated hierarchy of the cultural activities amongst the collective organizations, will also prove useful. A specialized delegate could undertake this task, possibly by categorizing cultural organizations (Kytherian foundations, spiritual and cultural centers, local and national associations and fraternities, scientific societies and brotherhoods at their place of origin and in the Kytherian parishes, both domestic and abroad). Their valuation, in relation to the consequences and results of their efforts may also be necessary, as it is imperative to define the degree and level of acceptance of the cultural differences by those around at the new place of settlement. In the context of a community –that constantly reinvents itself locally, nationally and globally– it is useful to trace the efforts of the various associations to promote the cultural tradition of their birthplace, as well as the cultural activity of these collective associations that has not indeed so far being thoroughly investigated. The fact that the first conference circular is expected to include the existing – small, but certainly not unimportant – bibliography is indicative of this.

Professor of Modern Greek History
and of Teaching of History
20 Hippocratous St., Athens 106 80

Tel.: +30 210 368 8488-90

Fax: +30 210 368 8489

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