Δευτέρα, 22 Νοεμβρίου 2010

No Borders, No Nations: Making Greece in Macedonia

"No Borders, No Nations: Making Greece in

By Dr. John Agnew

Department of Geography, University of California, Los Angeles
Article first published online: 24 MAY 2007 
Annals of the Association of American Geographers
Cover image for Vol. 97 Issue 2

June 2007, Volume 97, Issue 2, Pages 229–466

Macedonia’s centrality to the making of Greece over the past century provides the empirical grounding for an exploration of how cultural-symbolic borrowing rather than cross-border othering has been crucial for border making in Modern Greece and, by extension, everywhere in the world. There has been a recent revival in studies of borders between states and what they mean in relation to both the history of state formation and the effects of globalization on state power. Typically, however, the borders between modern ‘‘nation-states’’ are seen as originating in cross-pressures between pairs of neighboring states just the same in Africa today as, say, in nineteenth century
France. The wider contemporary geographical context may be invoked in terms of the ‘‘sides’’ taken in particular border disputes by other nearby states or by the Great Powers. Rarely, however, is the wider historicalgeopolitical context invoked as the primary source of the practices, simultaneously material and symbolic, that produce the desire for precise borders in the first place. With increased globalization, however, the making of  Greece in Macedonia may become increasingly problematic because the political logic of all national border making is increasingly in question. Key Words: borders, Greece, nationalism, Macedonia, statehood.
Worldwide, it is hard to find a single international
border that has not been inspired by
the example and practices of an originally
Western European statehood (De Vorsey and Biger
1995; Burghardt 1996). Much border making has been
the direct result of the imposition and subsequent
breakup of European empires outside of Europe into
statelike units. But it has also been more broadly the
result of the spread of a model of territorial statehood
and state-centered political economy from Western Europe
into the rest of the world. At the same time both a
political ideal and set of sociopolitical practices, the
imagination of territorial statehood rests on imitation
and diffusion of established political models that define
what is and what is not possible in the world at any
particular time and in any particular place. European
(and, later, American) cultural hegemony has thus
‘‘written the script’’ for the growth and consolidation of a
global nation-state system (e.g., Meyer 1999). The
model of statehood has had as its central geographical
moment the imposition of sharp borders between one
state unit (imagined as a nation-state, however implausible
that usually may be) and its neighbors. Previously
in world history a wide range of types of polity
coexisted without any one—empire, city-state, nomadic
network, dynastic state, or religious polity—serving as
the singular model of ‘‘best political practice.’’ It is only
with the rise of Europe to global predominance that an
idealized European territorial state became the global

This is not to say that there has been no ‘‘local’’ initiative
at all to ‘‘nation-state’’ making—far from it. A
wide array of locally-specific practices and influences
invariably enter into the process, from fighting wars,
drawing maps, and organizing ministries to forming alliances,
issuing decrees, and building schools. But emphasizing
one or more of such factors by themselves, as is
typical of most writing about state formation, has
downplayed the degree to which states are cultural
constructions invented out of practices and symbols
imported from elsewhere more than the result of an
everywhere identical instrumental reason or rational
choice (Steinmetz 1999) or a worldwide cultural evolution.
In particular, certain early-developed European
territorial states, France and England especially, have
served as both the primary sources and subsequent
audiences for the definition of a ‘‘successful’’ polity in the
modern world. That this polity should take the form of a
rigidly territorialized nation-state in the European style
has gone largely without saying (Winichakul 1994;
Duara 1995).

Not surprisingly, therefore, in studying borders the
wider geographical frame of reference has often been lost
as the particular origins of the border between this and
that nation-state have taken center stage and then, if
often subtly, generalized to all others.1 Additionally, the
presumed functionality of all borders drawn from the
example of a ‘‘typical’’ one (often France) has occluded
much sense of what all might have in common because
of their specific relationship to projections of the

1. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 97(2), 2007, pp. 398–422 r 2007 by Association of American Geographers
Initial submission, April 2006; revised submission, July 2006; final acceptance, November 2006
Published by Blackwell Publishing, 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, and 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, U.K.

quintessential European ‘‘experience’’ that they are now
repeating. Certainly, many of the now classic writings on
borders (e.g., Minghi 1963; Prescott 1987) and more
recent influential accounts (Sahlins 1989; M. Anderson
1996) have tended to adopt these more limited perspectives,
whatever their other, often important, differences.
Of course, this failure is symptomatic of the more
general difficulty of modern social science in ‘‘thinking
outside the conceptual and material grasp of the modern
state’’ (Abraham and van Schendel 2005, 10; Chernilo

In this article, I first briefly examine and critique the
mechanical ‘‘cross-pressure’’ view of borders, arguing
that this approach reflects a commonsense understanding
among many scholars that borders are invariably the
outcome of preexisting definitions of national identity.
They are either a primordial or a constructed result,
depending on theoretical predilection, of the distinctions
that national groups already draw between themselves
and neighboring ones. In other words, borders always
follow nations. I then turn to an alternative account that
focuses on how actors in specific cases are both inspired
by and invoke arguments about the functions of borders
that apply ideal typical European models of statehood to
their circumstances. From this viewpoint, borders are
primarily the result of cultural borrowing about how
states should be laid out. By this cultural definition a
state without rigid and rigorously controlled borders is
not much of a state. Borders thus make the nation rather
than vice versa. This general argument is then illustrated
by showing how the Balkan region of Macedonia has
figured for the past century in the making of Greece as a
modern nation-state: first with respect to the Greek
story about Macedonia as charted in a historical narrative
of the relationship between the region and the
making of Modern Greece and, second, in terms of a
theoretically informed analysis of elements of the
broader geographical, specifically European, context in
which the historical claims of Greece to the region have
evolved. I end by briefly examining the idea that the
making of Greece in Macedonia is now coming up
against a limit in a world in which both material political-
economic pressures and an old European discourse
about borders no longer conspire to reproduce longestablished
bordering practices.

Borders as Othering versus Borders as
‘‘Dear God,
Who draws the lines around the countries?
—(Hample and Marshall, Children’s Letters to God, 1991)

At one time borders were understood simply as
boundary lines between self-evident states whose existence
was presumed to reflect physical features or international
treaties and which, in a somewhat later
conventional wisdom, served various economic or social
‘‘functions.’’ The more recent literature on borders has
attended much more closely to how borders are socioterritorial
constructs reflecting the discourses and practices
of national identity and bordering under conditions
of globalization (Paasi 2005; van Houtum 2005; van
Houtum, Kramsch, and Zierhofer 2005; Newman 2006;
Rumford, forthcoming). Yet, whether naturalistic or
post-structuralist in conception, most border studies still
tend to conceive of borders in cross-pressure terms. The
emphasis on cross-pressures across a border between
adjacent states both making and maintaining it in place
reflects a completely territorialized image of spatiality in
which territorialized states are seen as monopolizing the
geography of power when, as is well known, power can be
deployed spatially in various networked as well as territorial
forms.2 Once it was ‘‘forces’’ and ‘‘functions’’ that
constituted the moments of cross-pressure, whereas it is
now ‘‘discourses’’ and ‘‘practices.’’ What remains largely,
if not entirely, the same in empirical practice is the
emphasis on ‘‘the philosophy and practices of b/ordering
and othering’’ (van Houtum 2005, 674), if not now just
at the physical border, but also about the border as a
regimen of territorial control outside of immediate borderlands
(e.g., passport regulation at airports, visa
checking at workplaces, etc.) That bordering has been so
powerfully about borrowing rather than about crossborder
othering elicits no comment.
Rather than recounting the history of border studies
or providing yet another typology of cross-border studies
(see, e.g., Kolossov 2005), I would just mention one
study that has been widely influential in border studies
and that is often seen as representing a radical departure
from ‘‘old-style’’ studies based on center-periphery and
top-down understandings of how borders come about
and are maintained. Indeed, in his widely cited and influential
book, Sahlins (1989, 7) does not at first reading
provide the epitome of a cross-pressure perspective. He
is particularly critical of what he calls the ‘‘received
wisdom’’ that ‘‘modern nations were built from political
centers outwards.’’ In its place, he argues that ‘‘the
dialectic of local and national interests . . . produced the
boundaries of national territory’’ (p. 8). In turn, ‘‘acceptance
meant giving up local identities and territories’’
(p. 8) as ‘‘local society brought the nation into the
No Borders, No Nations: Making Greece in Macedonia 399
village’’ (p. 9). Though confused about how ‘‘ancient’’ (p. 4)
or recent ‘‘the conception of a linear political boundary’’
(p. 6) actually is, he is nevertheless clear that it is
instrumental, totalistic, and oppositional. His archetypal
border, that between France and Spain in the
Pyrenees, was based on the ‘‘nationalization of interest’’
(p. 155) as ‘‘national identities were grounded in the
affirmation and defense of social and territorial boundaries
against outsiders’’ (p. 269) and as ‘‘village communities,
peasants and nobles, made use of the national
state and its boundaries’’ (p. 276). All this, of course,
only happened because political entities called ‘‘France’’
and ‘‘Spain’’ provided the alternative repertoires of interests
and identities around which the border between
the two was defined. So, although Sahlins emphasizes
the local sources of the interstate border, as opposed to
complete imposition on the locals implied by the more
typical stories of border making, the border is itself
viewed as the direct result of cross-pressures on identities
and interests. The local sources are thus mobilized as a
supplement to these forces from over-the-horizon as the
local places within a border-segment in the Cerdagne/
Cerdanya between France and Spain, on which he focuses
in his historical study, were incorporated into the
two countries. Concomitantly, he is leery of the association
between nationalism as a collective political
ideology and border-making, preferring to see borders in
strictly rational-instrumental rather than in culturalsymbolic
terms. In this way he can date commitment to
borders long before the nineteenth century when nationalism
first became the widespread phenomenon it is

This oppositional model of identity is hardly unique to
border studies such as that of Sahlins or others. Indeed, a
case could be made that it is a dominant element in a
wide range of types of contemporary social science and
political theory that rely theoretically on ‘‘othering’’ as
their main sociogeographical mechanism (see, e.g., Cohen
1986; Gregory 2004; Bahry et al. 2005). Territorial
social formations are seen as the root of all identities.3
The boundaries (including borders) between them are
then viewed as defined by opposing and exclusionary
identities that preexisted the coming of the borders. Thus,
nation-states are assimilated to a notion of social
boundaries of which their borders are simply just another,
if frequently more fundamental or definitional,
exemplar. Yet exactly the opposite process has often been
closer to the norm with respect to the relationship between
identity and borders: national identities have
been crafted after borders are more or less in place by
ethnic cleansing or expulsions, forced assimilation, and
other planned or spontaneous but usually violent efforts
at cultural homogenization by central authorities and
their local agents (Rae 2002; Mann 2005).
Two very different versions of the oppositional model
can be distinguished with crucial consequences for how
social boundaries in general and state borders in particular
are conceived (Abizadeh 2005). The stronger
version, the one that currently prevails in much writing
about boundaries and borders, rests on the assumption
that opposition between preexisting groups is necessarily
total, adversarial, and, typically, asymmetric. From this
point of view, national identities become mutually exclusive
through antagonism and hostility, or what Carl
Schmitt (1985), in a particularly influential account,
called the ‘‘friend-enemy’’ relation. In this way national
identities must transcend local or nonterritorial ones
(based on class, religion, or other status markers), particularly
for dominant (or potentially so) nation-states.
They do so by defining hard borders against discrete
enemies (Shapiro 2004, 123). In this way, politics are
reduced to ‘‘definitive identifications’’ (Shapiro 2004,
133). The weaker version, which considers opposition
between discrete groups as contributory to rather than
definitional of identity, also understands that any group,
weak or strong, needs to set limits to membership but
that exclusion is neither necessarily antagonistic nor
invariably territorial. After all, many identities are relatively
labile and not mutually exclusive of others
(Shoemaker 1997, 2004; Agnew 2003; Green 2005;
Bahry et al. 2005; Fuchs 2005). Many people everywhere
have relatively complex identities—across and among
class, ethnic, gender, and other divisions—that only
under extreme circumstances, particularly when forced
violently by political activists into taking sides, are redefined
in singular terms. In other words, ‘‘otherness’’ in
the sense of cultural or political difference is rarely the
outcome of us/them othering in Schmitt’s sense of territorially-
defined absolute friends and enemies. To think
that Schmitt is correct is to simply universalize the peculiarly
virulent enmity that he felt, one of the twentieth
century’s Great Haters, in his time and place, Germany
in the 1920s and 1930s, about Germans versus Jews and
Germans versus others, onto the world at large (Botwinick
2005; although see Ojakangas 2005, 37).4
At the same time, many academic accounts of nationalism,
in focusing exclusively on, say, vernacular
literacy, ethnic symbolism, or national self versus other,
also assume that once an exclusive national identity is
achieved it is readily perpetuated within the national
population (e.g., B. Anderson 1983; Greenfeld 1992). A
border is then defined around the national groups in
question. This assumption misses what is precisely one of
the main sources of the political strength of nationalism:
that being perpetually in question, national identity has
to be constantly reinvented through the mobilization of
national populations (or significant segments thereof).
Borders, because they are at the edge of the nationalstate
territories, provide the essential focus for such
collective uncertainty (Goemans 2006). Even as defined
strictly, therefore, but by also remaining in perpetual
question, state borders provide the center of attention
for more generalized elite, and sometimes popular, anxiety
about what still remains to be achieved by the state
for the nation (Krishna 1994; Zimmer 2003). Both the
journey to statehood and the anxiety it engenders,
however, are not directly defined by the borders themselves.
They reflect the aspirations and fears of an
everyday nationalism in which whole populations are
thought of (and they think of themselves) as if they
move and think as one. In this construction, the ‘‘national
economy’’ and the ‘‘national character’’ are likewise
presumed to represent a transparently obvious
collective identity and interest associated intimately
with a culturally homogenizing and territorialized national
space. It is this reified discourse, therefore, that
needs explaining, not the borders per se.

The everyday nationalism in which borders are implicated
as central moments, then, is not a project that
simply takes place at the border or between adjacent
states (Paasi 1996). Indeed, it is only secondarily territorial
in that its origins often lie in distant centers and in
scattered diasporas where elites and activists engage in
the task of defining and defending what they understand
as the nation-state’s borders, the better to imagine the
shape or geo-body of their nation.5 Two elite groups are
especially influential: ‘‘In the formation of national
states, the task of intellectuals seems in fact to be that of
providing arguments (historical, geographical, political)
to sustain the idea that a [national] frontier exists. The
role of politicians is to transform the affirmed frontier into
a political-administrative border’’ (Vereni 1996, 80).
The distinction between social frontier (boundary, in
more typical usage) and state border is analytic. In
practice the two become fused as the simple ‘‘mental
map’’ conjured up by the latter and its material enforcement
of ‘‘checkpoints’’ on the ground comes to
dominate the complexities of the former (Migdal 2004).
State borders are not, therefore, simply just another
example of, albeit more clearly marked, boundaries.
They are qualitatively different in their capacity to both
redefine other boundaries and to override more locallybased
distinctions (Anderson and O’Dowd 1999;
Rumford, forthcoming). They also have a specific historical
and geographical origin. If social boundaries are
universal and transcendental, although varying in their
incidence and precise significance, state borders, in the
sense of definitive borderlines, certainly are not. They
have not been around for time immemorial (see, e.g.,
Whittaker 1994; Ellenblum 2002). Attempts to claim
that bordering is historic in the sense of unequivocal and
definite delimitation or to take bordering as a given of
state formation are, therefore, empirically problematic.
What is evident has been the need to give borders a
deep-seated historical genealogy: if not for the ones
around here, for those over there, which ‘‘we’’ are now
duplicating (Febvre 1928; Whittaker 1994; Agnew
2001; M. Smith 2005).

The model of statehood that the boundary/ border
distinction relies on is in fact one that was only slowly
established beginning in parts of Western Europe in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and that has since
spread worldwide (Agnew 2001, 7–22; Jesne´ 2004). The
very idea of a ‘‘model’’ of anything is very much a
product of the same period. Toulmin (1990, 35) shows
that between 1610 and 1650 many leading European
intellectuals, such as Descartes, Leibniz, and Newton,
saw rationalism—the divorce of human reason from
the details of place and time—as a necessary and
revolutionary response to the religious wars and crises
of governance of the times. A universal language of
reason would provide general justifications for what
had previously been seen as particular and local phenomena.
In particular, one of the most important
requirements in constructing the new ‘‘cosmopolis’’ was
to abandon the overlapping jurisdictions and mixed
modes of political authority that had previously characterized
Europe. This was undoubtedly underwritten
by the pressure to improve revenue collection in pursuit
of improved military capacity in an age of religious wars
(Tilly 1994) and the need to legitimize the territorial
centralization of a wide range of administrative practices
(Loveman 2005); but the novelty of the nature of the
cultural logic deserves underlining.6 Ipso facto, borders
between states would henceforth be defined in the
boldest and most rigorous form rather than left deliberately

As a universalistic logic of clear definition replaced a
particularistic conception of accumulated local practice,
definitive maps of the new European states began to
appear. One consequence, as Biggs (1999, 396) has it,
was that ‘‘The land was now literally cut into pieces by
state boundaries: Each piece could be held in isolation
from its geographical context.’’ Also, in this way, ‘‘Putting
the state on the map meant knowing and imagining
it as real—and, so, making it a reality’’ (Biggs 1999, 399).
Eventually, and well beyond Europe, as Neocleous
(2003, 418) notes, No Borders, No Nations: Making Greece in Macedonia

Sovereignty does not simply imply space, it creates it; left to
itself, the earth has no political form. We need to therefore
appreciate the political function of maps in constructing
rather than merely reproducing the world and in creating
rather than merely tracing borders. Borders are constructed
through a socio-political process; to the extent that the
map helps create the borders, so it helps create the thing
which is being bordered: the geo-body created literally on
This visualization was encouraged by developments in
political philosophy that saw no political space in the
‘‘state of nature’’ but authorized it solely under the rigorous
bounding of absolute authority (as in Hobbes),
private property (as in Locke), or the general will (as in
Rousseau) as sanctioned by the social contract. Thus
emergent political territory not only separated the
modern polity from the feudal, but did so by ‘‘creating a
territorial grounding within which constitutional discourse
and political exchange could take place’’ (Neocleous
2003, 410).

Formalized with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and
then boosted by the American and French Revolutions
at the end of the eighteenth century with their stress on
territorial/national unity, in imitation of classical referents
drawn from democratic Athens and republican
Rome bestowed uniquely on Europe, the model state was
a rigidly territorial enterprise. To put this somewhat
differently, ‘‘The form of sovereign power that developed
in Europe from the sixteenth century onward conceived
space as bounded. ‘Sovereignty,’ like ‘state,’ implies
‘space,’ and control of a territory becomes the foundation
of sovereignty’’ (Neocleous 2003, 411). As a result, for
the ideal-type modern state there can be neither overlaps
in authority nor ambiguity in sovereignty. Borders
are brought into existence to hinder overlap and ambiguity.
Consequently, cultures are thought of as naturally
integral and territorial. Territory, the putative solution to
the early-modern European crisis in political authority,
thus became the leitmotif of modern ‘‘nation’’-statehood
everywhere. Politically ambitious elites with claims on
national genealogies were drawn to the territorial model
of statehood as the means for realizing their ambitions.
Such ‘‘political transfer’’ subsequently became a long-run
feature of even the most modest of institutional innovations
throughout Europe (e.g., Jacoby 2000; Pombeni

The elevation of the myth of a necessarily territorialized
statehood into a future perfect of political organization
is hardly the end of the story, however. What it
misses most powerfully is the impact of the nineteenthcentury
turn from absolute universalism to the universalizing
of the particular under Romanticism. In this
manifestation, the state, now invariably hyphenated
with the nation, ‘‘became the necessary form of civilized
social organization. The consequently more obvious
political fragmentation of Europe became the oxymoronic
source of its fundamental unity, just as ‘individualism’
became the equally paradoxical criterion of social
conformity; and in the most radical undermining of the
universalist agenda, many a culture appointed itself the
touchstone of European identity’’ (Herzfeld 1987, 81).
Crucially, time, in the sense of the historical contingency
that had produced this or that state, was thus fatefully
obscured by an emphasis on the now permanent territoriality
of nation-statehood as the culmination of history
(Pe´cout 2004). ‘‘Historical rights’’ to occupy a
territory, and usually to expand it, were based on claims
of first occupancy or on the central importance to national
identity of a particular territory or of sites within it
(Gans 2001).

The exceptional character of Europe, therefore, as
inherited from the ancient Greeks and Romans (and
also, when laudable, each nation’s own primordial ancestors)
sanctioned the construction of absolute borders
to distinguish each offspring’s claims to superiority from
the others (Schiavone 2000; Agnew 2001). Yet the new
borders were not simply a recapitulation of the ‘‘limits’’
of the ancients but ones that are always potentially labile
in an increasingly dynamic (and capitalist) world. In the
words of Aldo Schiavone (2000, 205–6), quoting Marx’s
The revolution of modernity meant, above all, abolishing
limits—sweeping away not only the obstacles that had
blocked ancient civilizations, but also the very nature of
limit as an insuperable barrier and the belief that cyclicality
was destiny. Boundaries were transformed into movable
frontiers, continually shifted forward. The new forms of
labor and science set potentialities in motion, ensuring that
the history of theWestern world would never again attempt
‘to remain something it has become’ (as in Aristides’ idea of
an eternal empire). Instead it would begin to be identified
with ‘the absolute movement of becoming’ (as in our
common sense notion that there is nothing that does not

The model of absolute territorial nation-statehood
has only worked effectively, if at all, if large parts of
national populations, at least for much of the time,
participate in the everyday nationalism that is centered
to a significant degree on the journey toward and the
anxiety engendered by the fixing of borders. As Foucault
(1980, 98) emphasized, modern subjectivity is intimately
related to the development of modern statehood and its
(relative) fusion with nation. But the achievement of
subjectivity is not simply the result of a direct coercion or
an unconscious acceptance of elite resentments and
complexes by the masses, as so many popular accounts of
nationalism seem to have it (e.g., B. Anderson 1983;
Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983; Greenfeld 1992). Rather,
at the same time as ‘‘persons’’ become ‘‘individuals’’
under the (not so) benevolent gaze of the state (as a
result of the constitution of modern subjects qua citizens
and the establishment of a national genealogy by rooting
these individuals in place), they also have the now socially-
recognized capacity as individuals to invest in their
own accommodations to the nation-state.7 Even as individual
persons come to see local folklore within a national
context, for example, ‘‘Their uses of that ideology
allow them to carve out personal maneuvering space
within the collective’’ (Herzfeld 2002, 143). Official
views become subject to ‘‘semantic lability’’ and ‘‘disemia’’
as individuals and groups challenge and violate
establishment terminology and rules (Herzfeld 1987,
154).8 All sorts of localized segmentary social relations,
resting on familial, ethnic, and residential ties, can
conflict with state-endorsed repertoires of political and
social behavior. It is in borderlands, places most symbolic
of the achievements of nationhood because that is where
the nation is most subject to cartographic anxiety
(Krishna 1994), that the persistence and/or efflorescence
of cultural variety are subject to the most systematic
assault from centralized power (Anzaldua 1987; Brady
2000). Such regions also acquire a mythic dimension
insofar as they evoke hybridity and the possibilities of the
chaos that could engulf the nation as a whole if such
complex identities spread elsewhere (Stokes 1998).
Nevertheless, everyday or ‘‘banal’’ nationalism ultimately
has a corrosive impact on nonstatist political
proclivities as the anxieties of individuals are conflated
with those of the nation. As Ernest Renan (1990, 11)
famously alleged in his classic essay of 1882, ‘‘the essence
of the nation is that all individuals have many things in
common, and also that they have forgotten many
things.’’ This emphasis on forgetting or on what cannot
now be said is crucial (Bruner 2005, 315–18). It draws
attention to the selective retention of past social affiliations
as people rhetorically fit them into the dominant
narratives of the nation. As the fate of individuals,
therefore, is inexorably tied to that of the nation-state,
the segmentary logic of nation-statehood itself is revealed.
The very claim to distinctiveness that underpins
everyday nationalism needs to be constantly revisited
and reinforced. The national stereotypes on which
claims to cultural distinctiveness rely are notoriously
unrelated empirically to the actual personality traits of
the ‘‘national’’ individuals to whom they allegedly apply
(Terracciano et al. 2005). Yet, they persist because they
are constantly repeated in national media, school textbooks
and lessons, and in everyday conversations.
The borders of the nation-state are crucial to this job,
even if only symbolically by designating where ‘‘We’’
begin and ‘‘They’’ end, as they also incessantly threaten
to give way before overwhelming flows of outsiders and
foreign influences. ‘‘Borders are fungible’’ (Brady 2000,
173), in the sense of performative phenomena that while
giving the popular impression of total barriers must
balance the contradictory tasks of allowing movement
across them and enforcing territorial order. Consequently,
border crises or threats to their integrity are
fundamental to national self-definition. Borders have to
be brought to mind often at great distances from where
they are performed in order to bring to mind who is
inside and who is outside their scope. This is how nations
are imagined as tangible entities that have an existence
beyond the mere aggregation of the people who make
them up. By extension, therefore, from this viewpoint
there can be no nation without borders; the former
follows from the latter. At the same time, it has always
been a ‘‘fallacy that one has to go to the border to encounter
it’’ (Serematakis 1996, 490). Borders are kit and
caboodle, then, to everyday nationalism.
‘‘Territorial Hysteria’’: Making Modern
Greece in Macedonia

Happy countries have no history.
—Antonio Salazar, Portuguese dictator

The imitation of statehood began at Europe’s margins
partly through local initiative but mainly through the
stimulation and recognition of the European Great
Powers (e.g., Tuma 1971; Bernal 1987). In one respect
Europe’s eastern and southern margins constituted a
resource ‘‘periphery’’ for the capitalist ‘‘core’’ of Western
Europe, as argued by Immanuel Wallerstein (1974). But
a philosophical geography already posited such regions as
lacking in the attributes needed for self-confident, locally
generated statehood. These had little if anything to
do with economic development per se but reflected the
taint of despotism imported from the Ottoman and
Russian Empires and, in the case of Southern Europe,
the need for a renewed reconquista for an idealized
‘‘Europe’’ of places that were clearly identified as the
seats of that very European civilization. In other words,
in the ‘‘mind of the Enlightenment,’’ to use Wolff’s
(1994) turn of phrase, and as expressed by such later
No Borders, No Nations: Making Greece in Macedonia 403
intellectual luminaries as Montesquieu and Hegel, ‘‘The
South is what Europe, simply, was’’ (Dainotto 2000,
383). If in one interpretation, in particular that of
Montesquieu, a fallen South stood in need of rescue by a
progressive North, in another, for example that of
Rousseau, the South represented an ‘‘older’’ Europe that
had to be reincorporated to fulfill a European identity
grounded in ‘‘multiplicity’’ (Dainotto 2000, 385–7). In
both cases, to complete Europe as a region defined as a
multiplicity of states and as a balance of power, these
southern places were to be the showcase in which the
initial universalizing of the European model of statehood
would take place.

The Ottoman and Austrian Empires that long ruled
in Southeastern Europe never insisted on cultural and
linguistic unification. Their rule also varied in its directness
and effectiveness from place to place (Jesne´
2004). If in Western Europe the quintessential states
such as France and England preexisted their respective
nations, in Southeastern Europe ‘‘the idea of the national
sovereign state was imported from the west by the
growing middle classes born in the empires or on their
periphery’’ (Jesne´ 2004, 166). The arrival of the modern
territorial state in this region (as in most of the world
beyond Western Europe), therefore, has always involved
drawing borders across complex ethnic settlement patterns
and sometimes using anachronistic arguments
about the present-day national affiliations of long-gone
polities (such as the ancient Macedonian Empire, an
ancient Hindustan, or the ancient Israelites) to justify
who should control a given territory and the naming
rights to it. A chronological narrative of the role of
Macedonia in the making of a Modern Greek nationstate
provides a vivid example of the way in which
borders crucially enter into the very definition of

In the Greek case, the desire to construct a state came
initially from the Greek commercial diaspora scattered
around the Mediterranean and Black Seas and in the
cities of Central and Western Europe allied to the romantic
aspiration, shared with ‘‘philhellenic’’ Western
intellectuals (most famously England’s Lord Byron), to
liberate Balkan Christians from the Ottoman Turks and,
hopefully, to reestablish the glory of ancient Greece. If
there was a concentration of identifiably Greek people
living in the southern part of the Balkan Peninsula, many
if not most Greeks (of either linguistic or religious
qualification) lived scattered well beyond this territory.
Of course, quite what constituted a ‘‘Greek’’ as opposed
to a Balkan Christian or even a Turkish Christian remained
very much in doubt. As Greece was made, so
were the Greeks.

The numerous popular revolts against the Ottomans
over the years had never taken a national cast until the
early nineteenth century but even then the first Modern
Greek state was a largely foreign enterprise financed by
Britain and France and in the hands of a Bavarian prince
and administrators.9 Only in 1843, following a coup
d’e´tat by the Greek army caste that had been recruited
from the klephtes, irregular fighters or bandits against the
Ottomans, did a more truly Greek state begin to
emerge—one now armed with a powerful mythic origin
in peasant revolt. At that time, however, the Greek state
only covered the southern part of the state as constituted
today (Figure 1A). The then northern border was
decided by French and British diplomats to ‘‘arbitrarily
include the places that figured in [their] historic
reminders’’ (Jesne´ 2004, 168) of the region as it had
been in classical times and to further their policy of
slowly dismembering the Ottoman Empire. A Renaissance-
era imagination of Greece as a compact zone
on the southwestern edge of the Sultan’s empire had
created an expanded perception of Greek territory
that covered ‘‘almost the entire Balkan peninsula,
part of Asia Minor, sometimes Cyprus, and even Sicily
and southern Italy’’ (Tolias 2001, 15). In this way, historic
association and present occupancy became fatefully
fused (and confused) in a cartographic representation
‘‘justifying the ‘liberation’ of the territories concerned
and their annexation to Greece’’ (Tolias 2001, 15). At
the same time, various apparently distinguishable groups
in and around the borders of the state (particularly
‘‘Albanians’’ and ‘‘Vlachs,’’ the largely Hellenized
speakers of a language akin to Romanian) were
accused of ‘‘brigandage’’ that Turkish misrule was
held to have passed on to them. They could be
Balkan Christians but only as Hellenized Greeks could
they be rescued from their outsider status. Until this
happened, they were the aliens against whom Greek
nationhood could be most readily defined (Tzanelli

To push beyond their dependent status and to live up
to the nationalist imagination of a Greece that included
most Greeks within its compass and that was ‘‘true’’ to its
Hellenic genealogy, Greek nationalists used their fusion
of ethnic and historical arguments to justify territorial
expansion. By the late nineteenth century this was part
of what has been called a ‘‘territorial hysteria’’ (Bibo´
1986) as Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians, and Macedonian
Slavs (and others) all strove to carve out nation-states
for themselves from the European rump of the Ottoman
Empire.10 Guerrilla warfare in Ottoman Macedonia between
1904 and 1908 and the subsequent two Balkan
Wars of 1912–1913 saw major efforts at expanding the
northern borders of Greece. At the time, the local
peasants were still immersed in religious and regional identities. In
order to reply to the game of terror initiated by the Bulgarian
bands, the Greek struggle aimed at forcing Exarchist
peasants [followers of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church] to
revert to the Patriarchate [the Greek Orthodox Church],
and to protect those who still adhered to it. In doing so, the
element of violence was essential. ‘‘Nationalism,’’ whatever
that meant in the early 20th century, rested on the barrel of
a gun. Violence proved the only way of securing the allegiance
of the peasants.
—(Livanios 1999, 220)

The role of violence in creating modern ethnic identities
in Macedonia is evident in anecdotes such as the
following gathered by an international inquiry into the
brutalities of the Balkan Wars:
The fugitives from Strumnitsa are simple people. One man
spoke rather naively of his first horror at the idea of leaving
his native place. Later, he said, he had acquiesced; he
supposed the authorities knew best. Another fugitive, a
village priest, regretted his home, which had, he said, the
best water in all Macedonia. But he was sure flight was wise.
He had reason to fear the Bulgarians. A comitadji early in
the first war pointed a rifle at his breast, and said: ‘‘Become
a Bulgarian, or I’ll kill you.’’ He forthwith became a Bulgarian
for several months and conformed to the exarchist
—(Carnegie Endowment [1913] 1993, 107–8)

It was precisely the fluidity of ethnicity and its complex
relationship to kinship, class, trading, religion, and attachment
to place in a region where many people were
multilingual (if just as frequently illiterate in any language)
and national preference had hitherto not been of
primary significance (Schein 1975; Mazower 1996; Hart
1999; Gounaris 2001; Detrez 2003) that made the
conflicts so bloody. More specifically, and writing of the
district of Monastir (Bitola) in the early 1900s
Urbanization (and emigration) in the era of nationalism
had broken a tradition which was characterized by loyalty
to church, family, clan, and village; secret organizations
offered young men living outside their clans and away from
their villages an alternative point of reference and support.
Yet the idea of a nation was a long way off. The traditional
cultural division of labor kept Slavs in the fields and Vlachs
in the markets.
—(Gounaris 2001, 59–60)

The heterogeneity of the region, not just with respect
to the distribution of discrete ethnicities but, more important,
with respect to shared social practices and linguistic
hybridity, as represented by the fruit salad that
has become a well-known trope of Macedonia in a
number of languages, worked against the drawing of
clear borderlines. In this context, local people had to be
forced by politically dominant nationalist activists into
choosing sides.11

The territorial accretion of Greece, 1830–1947.
B. The partition of Macedonia. C. Ethnic traces in Greek
Macedonia and Albania after partition. (Source: Author.)
No Borders, No Nations: Making Greece in Macedonia 405
On the Greek side, a Hellenic ideal of past cultural
greatness in need of discovery and revival was the
overwhelming thrust of the cultural redefinition involved
in the process of popular recruitment to the national
cause (Herzfeld 1982; Peckham 2001; Bien 2005).
From this viewpoint, Byzantine and Ottoman influences
had corrupted the ancient mores. Local folklore studies
(dances, music, clothing, etc.) were used to both reveal
and teach how the ‘‘masses belonged to the nation or
ethnos’’ (Peckham 2001, 67). Capturing Macedonia was
particularly important in this endeavor.12 Not only would
this bring together ancient and Byzantine conceptions of
the Greek nation, thus reconciling the Church and the
modern nation, it also justified a popular imperialism in
which modern Greece was tied historically to Alexander
the Great through the potential occupation of his
homeland. Out of this confluence developed a romantic
Hellenism in which Macedonia was defined as the ‘‘lung
of Greece’’ and its possible ‘‘loss’’ as a mutilation
(Dragoumis 1907; Vakalopoulos 1987). In this construction,
Macedonia was potentially a repository of
ancient Greek ideals as well as a pocket of cultural
pollution. Paradoxically, therefore, it was at one and the
same time both vital to the nation and a threat to its

Macedonia is the historic name for a large area that
was shared following the border delimitations after the
First World War between Bulgaria, Greece, and Yugoslavia.
It comprises the watershed of the Vardar River
with the two main cities of Salonica in northeastern
Greece and Skopje in Yugoslavia providing the communication
and transportation axis through the region.
The region was populated predominantly with Slavo-
Macedonians and Bulgarians at the time of the Balkan
Wars (1912–1913), although the cosmopolitan city of
Salonica, with its large Jewish, Muslim, and Greek
populations, was exceptional (Mazower 2004). Macedonia’s
division into Pirin (Bulgarian), Vardar (Serbian),
and Aegean (Greek) segments left a significant Slav-
Macedonian population in Greek Macedonia, particularly
in rural areas and in and around Florina in the west.
The fervently held nationalist goal of incorporating the
whole of Macedonia into Greece came up against a
complex local reality that long seemed to challenge the
ideal. The border now ran through a potential zone of
expansion rather than simply delimited the limit of a
territorial claim (Figure 1B). For a time Greek territorial
claims in Macedonia became increasingly inseparable
from a vision of a Greek state that would incorporate
Crete, Macedonia, the Aegean islands, Cyprus, the west
coast of Asia Minor, Constantinople (Istanbul), and areas
around the Black Sea. Rather like the analogous
claim to a Greater Serbia devoted to uniting all Serbs
under one government, the image of Greater Greece
(known as the Great Idea) was to lead to disastrous wars
against the Turks first in 1897 and then, most devastatingly,
in 1922. Such an expansive irredentism was at the
root of Greek ‘‘cartographic anxiety’’ from the founding
of the state down to the 1920s (Peckham 2001, 40).
With so many potential Greeks scattered beyond the
territorial limits of the state, the possibility of incorporating
all of them in a territorial form was always problematic.
The initial success in Macedonia compared to
failure in many other places was to be reinforced,
therefore, when in the aftermath of the failed attempt at
expanding into Asia Minor in 1922, the Orthodox
Christian population of Anatolia was exchanged for
much of the Muslim population of mainland Greece,
with the majority of the transplants to Greece settling in
Greek Macedonia. In this way a Macedonia still ambiguously
Greek at best was ethnicized or made increasingly
Greek by the transfusion of refugees
(Pentzopoulos 2002; Hirschon 2003).

Uncertainty about the Greek status of Macedonia,
however, did not disappear (Figure 1C). Indeed, with the
incorporation of only one part of the historic region into
Greece, Macedonia became, if anything, even more
central to the self-definition of the nation. In the 1930s
authoritarian Greek governments attempted to impose a
cultural uniformity in Greek Macedonia by forbidding
the use of languages other than Greek and denying the
contemporary existence of any degree of regional ethnic
heterogeneity. In the aftermath of the Second World
War, when Greece had been invaded and devastated by
the Axis powers of Italy and Germany, a Communist
insurgency broke out against the Royalist Greek government
as it returned home from exile. The Greek Civil
War came to be as much about the ‘‘Macedonian
Question’’ as it was about a change of government in
Greece as a whole (Jones 1989, 66–67, 200–1, 222–23).
Particularly in its later phase, as the insurgents were
forced into pockets near the Albanian and Yugoslav
borders, the issue of the political future of Macedonia
divided the Communist leadership as one group attempted
to mobilize Slav-Macedonian support by backing
an autonomous Macedonia that would then join
Yugoslavia. Of course, by this time the great majority of
people in Greek Macedonia saw themselves as ethnically
Greek, so this meant largely abandoning whatever support
they may have offered. Splits among the Communists
in 1949 over whether to back a Yugoslav or
Bulgarian association and successive defeats following
the fateful adoption of a conventional military posture
that played into the hands of the U.S.-supported Greek
army led to an ever greater reliance on non-Greek recruits.
Many people who fought on the Communist side
or who found themselves targets of Greek government
revenge, including their families or just their children,
left Greek Macedonia as the war wound down. Most
never returned home, either staying in Yugoslav Macedonia
or emigrating to Australia and other countries in
the early 1950s (Danforth 1995, 2003).
The U.S. military and economic assistance to the
Greek government from 1947 to 1949 was the first fruit
of the Truman Doctrine of U.S. commitment to back
governments struggling with Communist insurgencies.
Even after the defeat of the Greek Communists, collective
memory of the critical position of Macedonia in
the Civil War combined with the continuing dynamic of
the Cold War to create a popular ideology, particularly
powerful on the political right, in which leftist politics
(whether truly Communist or not) was labeled as
‘‘Slavic’’ and its proponents as ‘‘Slavs’’ or ‘‘Bulgarians.’’
This ethnicization of political ideology fits into a pattern
of Greek nationalist thought that long predates the Civil
War (Herzfeld 1982, 55-60).13 Classical and, by extension,
modern Greek culture are associated with individualism,
whereas the Slavs are associated with
conformism and collectivism. Harking back to the
challenge to Hellenism from the ‘‘execrable’’ Jakob
Fallmerayer, the Austrian writer who in the 1840s had
denied modern Greeks any racial affinity with the ancient
ones and thus viewed them as definitely not European
but as a mix of Slavs and Albanians (Herzfeld
1982, 75–81), the recycling of this opposition serves to
rescue the Greeks from such a fate. In 1950, it not only
made leftist politics un-Greek, it effectively situated
Greece in the modern First or ‘‘free’’World of the United
States and Western Europe in counterpoint to the
Communist or ‘‘captive’’ Second World of Eastern Europe
and the Soviet Union. The Makronisos prison camp
established to detain and reeducate leftist guerrillas, for
example, required inmates to build replicas of ancient
Greek monuments to show ‘‘not only the inmates but to
all dissidents in Greece that the ancient Greek ‘spirit,’
which had survived to the present, was incompatible
with modern radical ideologies. Communists and other
left-wing citizens were associated with the national
‘other,’ which in the context of the Civil War and Cold
War was ‘Slavo-Communism’ ’’ (Hamilakis 2002, 318;
also see Van Steen 2005). The Modern Greek historical
experience in Macedonia, therefore, continued to have a
negatively charged valence in postwar Greece, even as
the symbolism of ancient Macedonia as integral to
Greece retained its hold on Greek nationalism. If anything,
this latter acquired ever greater importance because
of continuing difficulty on other irredentist fronts,
particularly in bringing Cyprus into the national fold and
because of the disaster of 1955 when a pogrom in
Istanbul was directed largely against that city’s Greek
minority, most of whom were forced to flee the city
(Kuyucu 2005;Vryonis 2005).

In Cyprus and Istanbul it was Turks, not Slavs, who
were the barrier to Greek destiny. Turkish irredentism,
however, was seen as a threat elsewhere too, including in
Macedonia. Indeed, the existence of Muslim minority
populations in Greek Thrace, Bulgaria, and Albania was
taken as prima facie evidence for a potential encirclement
of Greece by the descendants and affiliates of its
historic (Ottoman) rulers. Macedonia again figured as
the prime zone of contestation in which Greece itself was
defined. This contest involved three factors during the
years of the Cold War: (1) the subordination of local
difference to presumed national homogeneity such that
any evidence for distinctive cultural identities in Greek
Macedonia was officially denied; (2) the confusion of
religious and ethnic modes of identity, particularly with
respect to the label ‘‘Turks’’ which could be applied to
people of various linguistic and ethnic affinities but that
thereby produced a fusion between any kind of ethnic
difference and geopolitical threat from a historic enemy;
and (3) the belief, encouraged by Greek national
governments but with self-evident empirical plausibility,
that Greece was vulnerable to attack both from an allegedly
expansionist Turkey to the east and an expansionist
Communist empire to the north (Kofos 1999;
Herzfeld 2003).

Increasingly, however, two conflicting images of Greek
culture threatened to divide Greek nationalism: the
‘‘Hellenic’’ as directly derivative of the ancient Greeks
from whom ‘‘modern’’ Greeks descended and the
‘‘Romeic’’ in which Greeks were more immediately the
inheritors of Byzantine and Turkish influences (Herzfeld
2001, 17). The succession of post–Second World War
military governments and, in particular, the Colonels
dictatorship of 1967–1974 attempted to resolve these
contradictions finally. The dictator George Papadopoulos
aggressively pursued what he called a ‘‘Greece of the
Hellenic Christians,’’ managing in one slogan to bring
together both strands of the origins of national culture
yet also to draw attention to their mutual exclusivity as
pagan and Christian. Herzfeld (2001, 18) notes how
much these official efforts related to
the Greeks’ often tense engagements with their country’s
immediate neighbors. The denial of the existence of a
Macedonian  minority, for example, is commonly
assumed to be a reflection of fears about Turkish manipu-
lation of [Slav] Macedonian sentiment, and this is certainly an
important part of the picture. But it is equally significant
that Greek politicians have long felt the need to claim
Macedonia as an integral part of what one might call the
‘‘prehistory’’ of the Greek state. It is important to keep
these details in mind when contemplating present day
struggles over the definition of the past in Greece.
The very discursive lability or unredeemed nature of the
border supports the absolutizing of the differences between
us and them upon which claims to a distinctive
national past rest.

This absolutization of differences became crystal clear
at the end of the Cold War. Rather than the euphoria
that greeted the collapse of the Soviet Union and its
sphere of influence in the United States and Western
Europe, in Greece there was a sense of foreboding. The
worry was that as its northern neighbors lost their geopolitical
anchorage Greece would be drawn into the
ensuing instability (Kofos 1999, 228–29). Above all, the
1980s had seen the emergence in Yugoslav Macedonia
and in the Macedonian diaspora (particularly in Australia
and Canada) of a ‘‘Macedonism’’ or Macedonian
nationalism that drew exactly opposite conclusions
about the ‘‘ethnicity’’ of ancient Macedonia and Alexander
the Great than did Greek nationalism (Danforth
1995, 2000; Brunnbauer 2005). The Greek diaspora
around the world as well as Greeks at home felt compelled
to respond both in public and in their newspapers
(Danforth 1995, 2000).14 This controversy would not
have achieved much of a critical juncture but for the
breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991–1992. The declaration of
an independent ‘‘Republic of Macedonia,’’ replete with
symbols redolent of ancient Macedonia—such as the
‘‘Vergina Sun’’ and the head of Alexander the Great in
profile—was widely seen in Greece as a provocation and
threat to the established geopolitical order as well as to
Greek nationalist aspirations.

The following four years saw a rising tide of rhetoric
on both sides of the border (Brown 2000, 2003; Roudometof
2002; Skoulariki 2003). The slogan ‘‘I Makedonia
einai Εlliniki’’ (Macedonia is Greek) was adopted by
many Greeks. Its ambiguity, given that the former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) had freely
used the word ‘‘Macedonia’’ and that Greek Macedonia
did not seem to face any sort of immediate military
threat, points more to the degree to which Greek nationalism
was at best ambiguous about the border rather
than to the malign foreign interpretations of Greek
motives (e.g., Kofos 1999, 235). Be this as it may, what
became clear is that to the majority of Greek public
opinion, and across the political spectrum, ‘‘no other
people, apart from the Greeks, were entitled to use the
Macedonian name either as a cultural-ethnic or a geographic-
regional appellation’’ (Kofos 1999, 235). Many
Greek intellectuals were particularly active in providing
archeological, textual, and historical arguments for why
this should be the case (Karakasidou 1993, 1994; Kofos
1999). Of course, the violent path taken elsewhere in
the former Yugoslavia as the country unraveled in the
1990s understandably suggested that naming practices
could become more than just that. Controlling place
names has long had material consequences when, as in
the Balkans, those doing the naming have mutually incompatible
nationalist goals (e.g., Garde 2004).

Though the Macedonian naming and symbol dispute
has now been ‘‘resolved’’ diplomatically, largely under
external pressure and because of the dilemmas of Macedonian
Slav identity in relation to the sizeable Albanian
minority inside the FYROM, the Macedonian
Question has long remained alive in Greece. The Macedonian
naming controversy has had a continuing resonance in Greece
well away from the border concerned.

Naming is a powerful social practice in Greek
society, indicative of heritage and familial continuity.
Thus, given (Christian) names are never chosen casually
or on a whim. Using grandparents’ names is particularly
widespread. In this way, ‘‘parents were carrying out the
sacred duty of ana´stasi, or bringing the ancestors back to
life’’ (Vernier 1984, 40). According to research by Sutton
(1997), on the island of Kalymnos (in the Dodecanese
Islands that passed to Greek from Italian sovereignty
only in 1947 and which is just three miles from the
Turkish coast) local ideas about naming children and the
inheritance of property, major facets of kinship, were
explicitly related to the Macedonian naming dispute.
But this was not simply that ‘‘naming is about owning’’
but that, as one respondent put it: ‘‘it’s not the name, it’s
the falsification of history that I object to’’ (Sutton 1997,
421). The reasoning here goes to the heart of the matter,
reaching back to the raison d’eˆtre for Greek nationalism
from its beginnings: ‘‘the restoration of the glories of the
Classical Greek past’’ (Sutton 1997, 427). The seemingly
ever-challenged Macedonian border is thus a critical link
in the chain that connects local social practice
throughout Greece to the everyday nationalism that has
defined what it is to be ‘‘Greek.’’
‘‘Europe’’ and Border Making in Macedonia
Nationalism allows [people] to forget contingency.

—Gregory Jusdanis, Belated Modernity and Aesthetic
Culture, 1991

Greece is undoubtedly unique in having to combine
the contrasting ‘‘roles of Ur-Europa and humiliated
oriental vassal at one and the same time. These two roles
might seem mutually incompatible, were it not for the
fact that both imply inferiority to the ‘true’ Europeans of
today’’ (Herzfeld 1987, 19–20). This implied inferiority
obviously sets the country apart from other cases, except
perhaps Italy, where only the first role ever comes into
play. But in its very exceptionalism, Greece does bring
into clearer focus the importance of the European model
of statehood exported from Northern Europe as the ideal
type around which border making in Macedonia, as well
as border making in the world of neostates well beyond
European shores, has revolved. As one of the putative
seats of European civilization in the distant past it is to
Greece that Europeans have looked for historical legitimation
as to their political lineage. Yet, tainted in the
European geopolitical imagination by centuries of Ottoman
rule, Greece has had to follow the lead of the
northerners in recapturing the world they had lost during
Byzantine and Ottoman times. To a considerable
extent, therefore, the nature and meaning of the Greek
past as well as the model for its political future were
imported from Northern Europe. If the present focus is
mainly on the latter, in practice they cannot be readily
disentangled from one another. In this section I offer an
analytic breakdown of the main practical and discursive
components of the argument implicit in the narrative
provided previously.

On the southern edge of modern Europe, Greece was
the first place where the model of the European territorial
nation-state was made from scratch with the full scale
importation of spatial-political imaginary, liberators,
political leadership, and bureaucratic personnel
from elsewhere. Greece achieved formal political independence
(1832) at a relatively early date before the
other Balkan countries and also before Italy (1861),
Germany (1871), and Norway (1905). It also was the
first modern state to acquire independence from an
empire. Of course, this prototype has been followed since
then to one degree or another all over the world. If the
Ottomans were forced to give ground, Greek nationalists,
like nationalists since the world over, still relied
heavily on foreign sponsors to both inform their national
project and to protect its achievements. Indeed, for the
Greeks the reliance on and domination by foreigners has
never really ended. Its national sovereignty has always
remained pro forma (Faubion 1993, 124; Gourgouris
1996). From the outset and down to the present, Greek
governments have depended heavily on imitating dominant
foreigners in order to realize their limited effective
sovereignty within the national territory. The founding
Greek nationalists of the 1820s received their education
in the romance of the nation from French and German
experience with a later generation more affected by
British ideas of both Greekness and the nature of their
state-making. This imitation followed from the fact that
the Greek War of Independence was supported materially
by the Great Powers such as Russia, France, and
Britain, and the nationalist claim to nationhood relied
on either the French idea of ‘‘civilization’’ or the German
rhetoric of ‘‘race’’ in the face of Ottoman imperial rule.
In using such language, ‘‘The Greek revolutionaries
. . . did not expect to persuade the Ottomans of their
righteousness. But they did expect to persuade the
Europeans, from whom, after all, they had imported the
spirit, if not the letter, of their verbiage. They met with
some success: recall the hordes of philhellenes who came
to their defense’’ (Faubion 1993, 123).

In the eighteenth century in Northern Europe as
sovereignty shifted from dynasties to peoples, a parallel
search was under way both to define European uniqueness
and to vest it in the character of the particular
nation. If until this time European intellectuals and
political leaders had understood their history as Roman
and Christian in origin, during the eighteenth century
the emphasis shifted to distinguishing Europe totally
from elsewhere (what is often termed ‘‘Orientalism’’)
and to grounding modern Europe in an idealized Hellenic
Greece (Morris 1994; Settis 2006). Initially continentalist
rather than nationalist in geographical orientation, by the
time of the American and French Revolutions,
many of whose proponents proclaimed
ancient Athenian ideals, Hellenism ‘‘created an idealized
ancient Greece as the birthplace of European spirit and
western civilization. It constituted a powerful ideology
that had as its ultimate objective the legitimation of
Eurocentric beliefs’’ (Athanassopoulou 2002, 280). All
over Europe attempts at creating the ‘‘new Athens’’ were
proclaimed as the northerners—from Edinburgh to
Munich and many points in between—claimed the historic
mantle of the ancient Greeks (Reszler 2004). Because
Greece had fallen from its historic grace, however,
any restoration had to reflect the fact that its best values
had been revived by European nations other than the
Greeks who now needed their help in removing the
Ottoman yoke. Most famously, the ‘‘sunset melancholy’’
of the English poet Lord Byron’s philhellenic poetry
conjures up both the ‘‘plundered ruins of the Parthenon
[in Athens]’’ and ‘‘a Hellenic glory now noticeably absent’’
(Leask 2004, 99–100). Byron, of course, at least
committed himself physically as well as emotionally to
the cause of Greek independence and died during its

Arguably, it is Byronic imagery more than ancient
Greece tout court that subsequently became the overriding
inspiration for foreign, particularly Anglo-American,
concern for Greece and what separated it from its
neighbors. When they thought of ancient Greece,
northerners held on to an image of the Parthenon, and
‘‘when they thought of modern Greece, they recalled
[Byron’s] Childe Harold and ‘The Isles of Greece.’ When
they thought of Bulgaria, they might well remember
that, according to Shaw, Bulgarians did not wash their
hands’’ (Roessel 2002, 148). In this construction, the
‘‘resurrection’’ of Greece was more than just releasing a
people to build a nation-state; it was about the positive
effect this would have on returning the whole of Europe
to an idealized ancient Greece of heroic individuals and
purposes. Only with the self-destructive immolation of
the First World War and the Greek Catastrophe in Asia
Minor in 1922 did the romantic image of Greece begin to
lessen. Even then, the value of the Hellenic past as an
ideological currency remained clear to all, including
those who might try to argue for the counterclaims,
in Macedonia or elsewhere, of Turks, Bulgarians, and

The ‘‘idea’’ of Greece, however, always threatened to
escape out of the hands of the northerners and into the
hands of the local Greeks, including those directing the
Greek state. The Greek ‘‘neohellenes’’ were faced from
the outset with a border that left most of those whom
they defined as ethnically Greek outside the confines of
the state. The ‘‘artificial’’ borders of the Helladic state
were increasingly contrasted to the ‘‘natural’’ boundaries
of the Hellenic nation, with the former seen as a creation
of European diplomats. To some, above all a writer-activist
like Dragoumis, this took the form of ‘‘communitarian
nationalism’’ in which the topos or land of Hellas
was wherever Greeks lived according to Greek norms
(Leontis 1995, 81–83). Of course, this standard ran up
against the singular ‘‘territorial ethos’’ of statehood. In
this construction, the borders of Hellas needed to include
the ‘‘unredeemed’’ Greeks within a single state
territory. It was the state that ultimately had the fate of
the nation and its civilization in its hands. This fed into
the Great Idea (mega´li ide´a) of expanding the state
throughout a space well beyond that of the Greek
Kingdom as it then was. At the same time, an aesthetic
nationalism more in tune with northern proclivities
identified the topos of Hellenism not with the unredeemed
nation but with the landscape of the Greek
peninsula. From this viewpoint, one that became more
powerful after the failure of Greek irredentism in 1922,
the pull of Hellenism is centripetal, toward the natural
features and folk traditions (necessarily not immediately
Hellenic) of the Attic coast and the adjacent Aegean,
and away from external expansion (Leontis 1995, 84).
Greek territorial aspirations were subject to powerful
external questioning. Successive British governments, in
particular, at the height of British global geopolitical
influence in the late nineteenth century, regarded the
Great Idea with considerable disdain. Though sympathetic
to expansion in Thessaly, Epirus, and Crete, they
consistently frowned on the larger ambitions of Greek
nationalism. The Ottoman Empire was seen increasingly
as a bulwark, if a dangerously crumbling one, against
Russian and German ambitions in the Mediterranean
and the Middle East. As Tzanelli (2004) has shown at
some length, the rhetorical strategy of British ministers
and journalists was to dismiss Greek territorial ambitions
as too bold for a country that was now simply a prote´ge´ of
Britain. Using a language of ‘‘family’’ and ‘‘protection,’’
Greece was portrayed as a wayward ‘‘child’’ to Britain’s
stern (and masculine) parent. Yet, concurrently, given
the degree to which both sides shared a Hellenic ideal,
‘‘the Greeks tried to present Modern Greece as the
resurrected progenitor/parent of British culture, who had
to be helped to be a great nation. By invoking the ghostly
Hellenic past that haunted the British present, the
Greeks hoped to apply to Britain the same disciplinary
attitudes that British commentators had ‘tried on them’’’
(Tzanelli 2004, 117).

The idea of Greeks as childlike people experimenting
with statehood, however, has not been easily erased from
the collective attitudes of Northern Europeans. Greece
has long remained not fully European even in the declarations
of many long-term foreign residents, whose
images of a timeless place beyond modernity recall
Montesquieu’s image of a fallen Southern Europe (e.g.,
Wills 2005). In the face of such recalcitrant imagery,
Greek nationalists have veered between retreating into a
past of ‘‘eternal verities’’ (Herzfeld 1987) to justify
themselves or adjusting pragmatically to demands made
on them from outsiders (Faubion 1993, xvii–xx).
Ultimately, demarcating a definitive Greece relied
more on establishing historic landscape traces than on
redeeming Greeks abroad. Not surprisingly, given the
importance of the ancient ruins in the philhellenic
imagination, a Greece ‘‘purified’’ of its post-Hellenic
accretions was an important part of both the Byronic
legacy and post-independence Greek attempts at monumentalizing
the heroic Hellenic past in the contemporary
landscape. Concern with identifying, dating, and
saving ‘‘ruins’’ and antique objects long predated Greek
independence. But, as illustrated by the notorious removal
of the Parthenon marbles by agents of the British
Lord Elgin, there had been little commitment to keeping
objects in situ or preserving major monuments in
something approaching what might have been their
original splendor. Remains such as these served to help
vindicate English (and other) affinities, both racial and
cultural, with ancient Greece but at the expense of the
locals (Leoussi 2001). During the 1820s, however, the
idea of ‘‘purifying’’ ancient monuments, preventing the
export of antiquities, and establishing the archeological
record connecting past to present became firmly established
in Greece. It was as if the antiquities formed a sort
of ‘‘symbolic capital’’ that could be used to establish
political legitimacy in the eyes of significant foreigners:
‘‘On that symbolic and authoritative resource, rights to
political self-determination for the Greek population as a
whole could be built’’ (Hamilakis and Yalouri 1999). The
archeological ‘‘record’’ has subsequently become one of
the main bases upon which Greek claims to territory and
the resurrection of the Greek nation to statehood have
come to rest. By isolating individual monuments and
sacralizing the landscapes in which they are embedded,
most importantly in the case of the Parthenon on the
Athenian Acropolis, ‘‘the palimpsest was rearranged to
reflect the fundamental role of the classical past to the
national cause’’ (Athanassopoulou 2002, 299).

If Athens was the undoubted center for this activity,
the provinces necessarily provided the settings where
archeology could reveal, alongside folklore, the buried
landscape of the ancient nation undergoing revival.
Finding artifacts and discovering hidden linguistic usages
would expose the true spatial writ of the nation-state
(Herzfeld 1982; Peckham 2001, 115–22).15 ‘‘Mining the
landscape’’ thus became a major enterprise particularly
at times when regions such as Macedonia were subject to
active contestation or when domestic politics led to
competitive nationalism between political groups. Thus,
for example, in 1896 when the Macedonian struggle was
heating up, the philologist and geographer Dimitsas
published a detailed study, Macedonia in Speaking Stones
and Surviving Monuments, that was ‘‘The product of years
of laborious library field work from one end of Macedonia
to the other, this book stimulated among Greeks
interest and pride in their national roots, as well as a sense
of legal ownership of the land with the hidden testimonies
of its Greekness’’ (Kofos 1990, 107). This approach
combined both the vertical appropriation of the material
remains of the past with the horizontal claim to lands
beyond present borders (Peckham 2001, 120–21).

Today little explicitly remains of this strategy. The
roadside maps of classical archeological sites scattered
throughout Greek Macedonia today, while emphasizing
through their use of routes the connectivities within the
territory, also boldly demarcate the present border

Figure 2. A map of archaeological
sites and connections in Macedonia
displayed in central Serres, Greek
Macedonia. (Source: Author, May
2004.) No Borders, No Nations: Making Greece in Macedonia

without explicit claims as to what may lie beyond
(Figure 2). The excavations at Vergina associated with
Alexander the Great, fortunately within the confines of
Greek Macedonia, obviously can inspire a vision of a
Greater Macedonia with very much a Greek patina.
Simultaneously, ethnological and general local museums
in northern Greece reinforce the image of Greek ethnic
homogeneity in the region, for example, by highlighting
as ‘‘pure Greek’’ the Sarakatsani nomads who once
grazed their flocks across Epirus, Macedonia, and Thrace
and beyond (as in the Sarakatsani Folklore Museum in
Serres). This is to nationalize a group whose wanderings
actually would defy the territorial limits today associated
with being of Greece and to neglect the intimate association
such groups often had with non-Greeks and
cultural hybrids of one sort or another (such as Greek-speaking
Vlachs). The very mountain ranges that once
provided summer pastures for the pastoralists became
borders between new states, in the process destroying
the way of life now celebrated by the colorful costumes
and household relics displayed in the museums as symbols
of an essential Greekness (Wardle 2003).16

The Hellenic elements in (or, more usually, under)
the visible landscape obviously offered the most direct
evidence of prior occupation of Macedonia by Greeks
and thus validated the claim of ‘‘historical right’’ to the
region. Elements from Byzantine and Ottoman periods,
however, obviously offered the greater difficulty in incorporating
the region into a coherent national genealogy
(Mazower 2004, 429–40). Though the Sarakatsani
and others might be territorialized in museum representations,
physical remnants of previous eras have
proved more difficult. Old Byzantine Orthodox churches,
for example, signify a Christianity long shared
across ethnic lines rather than neatly Greek in progeny.
Mosques and other buildings from the Ottoman centuries
have been converted to other uses (as in the
conversion of the house of one of Salonica’s leading
Jewish families into the Folklore and Ethnological Museum
of Macedonia and Thrace), demolished, or left in
place either because of bureaucratic inertia or deliberate
purpose to remind locals and visitors of liberation from
Ottoman rule (e.g., Figure 3).

Of course, efforts at idealized homogenizing of the
actually heterogeneous and transversal are not peculiar
to Greece. They have been absolutely central to the
entire project of nation-state building as begun in
Northern Europe. For example, when ‘‘minority’’ groups
are identified they are presumed to be wholly identifiable
in terms of state-based nationalities rather than unique
cultural compositions with sets of distinctive traits.17
Thus, European human rights discourse when applied to
Greek Macedonia is all about ‘‘Greeks’’ and ‘‘Macedonian
Slavs’’ and rarely if ever about the mixed and hybridized
identities of many localized households and
groups.18 This discourse reflects all too well the experience
of Northern Europeans in territorializing ethnic
difference or expunging it from their territorialized maps.
Yet, the very identification of distinctive identities across
the border raises the specter of an uncertain parallelism
between ethnic boundaries and national borders that
Greek everyday nationalism both vehemently denies
explicitly yet implicitly relies on to succor the image of a
nation-state ever under siege. The 1994 report of Human
Rights Watch/Helsinki Watch on Denying Ethnic
Identity: The Macedonians of Greece, for example, played
right into this uncertain parallelism by asserting a blanket
distinction between Greeks, on the one hand, and
Macedonians, presumably entirely Slavic in language
and identity, on the other, as the only two ethnic categories
at work in the region. Not surprisingly there was
a blistering response from the Greek side pointing out
both the ‘‘uses’’ to which the report could be put by the
FYROM side in the ongoing dispute over the naming of
the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the real
Figure 3. The mosque in Edessa, Greek Macedonia. (Source: Author,
May 2004.)

ambiguities surrounding the use of the term ‘‘Macedonian’’
as employed in Greek Macedonia (Vlasidis and
Karakostanoglou 1995).
In a similar vein, the much more carefully calibrated
research of the Greek-American anthropologist Anastasia
Karakasidou (1993, 1997) set off a firestorm of
criticism in Greece for its portrayal of coercive measures
practiced by the Greek state down the years to limit any
expression of a Macedonian Slav or Slavo-Macedonian
cultural idiom in Greek Macedonia (see, e.g., Gounaris
1993; Hatzidimitriou 1993; Zahariadis 1993; Karakasidou
1995; Roudometof 1996). As Karakasidou
(1995, 113) noted: ‘‘what could have been regarded as a
latently benign sense of ethnic identity among . . . Slavic-
speakers [has been redefined] as a potentially hostile
national identity.’’ What she failed to consider was that
this is precisely how national identities use historically
fuzzy borderlands to enforce the perception of national
borders under threat.19 Human rights talk about rights
for a geographically concentrated foreign minority in a
borderland region of great symbolic importance to
Greek nationalism, then, provides a simple either/or
conception of ethnic identity that encourages exactly
what it claims to abhor.20 To Greek nationalists, with
their powerful sense of Macedonia as an inherently
Greek region, there could be no better way of raising
their ire (Figure 4).21
A Balkan Border Facing a Fraying Global
Political Logic?
There are no longer any barbarians.
And now what shall become of us without any barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.
—(Constantine P. Cavafy, ‘‘Waiting for the Barbarians,’’

Though hardly yet passing into history, the Macedonian
border of Greece is one of many whose cultural
logic of exclusion may seem less obvious today than at
any time since the eighteenth century. If at one time, as
the British ‘‘expert’’ on borders Lord Curzon (1908, 7)
said: ‘‘Just as the protection of the home is the most vital
care of the private citizen, so the integrity of her borders
is the condition of existence of the State,’’ today this
singular exclusionary logic shows signs of fraying in the
face of challenges to the legal, economic, geopolitical,
and military functions of borders (Du¨rrschmidt 2006).
For one thing, Greece is now part of the supranational
European Union which increasingly has come to superintend
many of the regulatory activities once monopolized
by the government in Athens. For another, the
Greek economy is ever more tied into the global economy
through its reliance on tourism, shipping, and
financial services. These are undoubtedly powerful

Figure 4. ‘‘Macedonia is Greek’’: A
residual graffito from the early 1990s
in Salonica. (Source: Author, May
No Borders, No Nations: Making Greece in Macedonia

trends that portend diminished material pressures for the
imposition of rigid national borders. In particular, with
globalization the scope for the flowering of local complex
identities has expanded considerably (Agnew 2003).22
At the same time, however, even if only temporarily,
the Macedonian border has become an external border
to the European Union as whole and, because of
Greece’s location between the Middle East and Europe,
an important setting for the biopolitical policing of Europe
to prevent or regulate the influx of groups of one
sort or another. The rise of an ‘‘integral’’ Europe, concerned
about declining internal cultural homogeneity,
has not surprisingly coincided with the immigration of
‘‘unmeltable ethnics’’ overwhelmingly from the Balkan
states to the north of Greece, the Middle East, and
North Africa (Holmes 2000). This has led to greater
efforts at preventing or limiting immigration in the first
place. From this perspective, the border of Greece in
Macedonia remains very much in play.
National identities are never given; they are produced
historically under particular geographical conditions
(Balibar 2002). As those conditions change, so, even
after some lag, should the continuing pressures towards
reproducing national identities at borders. In Europe it
has become common to ask if the nation-state is not
facing a political crisis with the end of the Cold War,
economic globalization, and the increased ambiguity of
political identities, defined across geographical scales
(European, national, local, etc.) and social groups (class,
religious, ethnic, etc.). This crisis seems particularly
acute in the periphery of Europe, not least because it is
here that the state has been most hollowed out by globalization
since states such as Greece never did have
much of the welfare orientation found to the north. In
other words, there has been less to hollow out. With the
end of the ColdWar, states such as Greece have also lost
the political leverage they once had over their geopolitical
sponsors such as Britain and the United States. Yet
the European Union does not seem to have provided
even the beginning of much of an alternative to the
nation-state in the construction of a Europe-wide
It seems irrefutable, however, that people in Greek
Macedonia (and more broadly across Greece) have begun
to think politically well beyond the confines of the
Greek state. Some of this thinking is a direct result of the
conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s that have spilled
over into Greece, including significant streams of refugees
from Albania and elsewhere as the states there
imploded (e.g., Serematakis 1996; Hart 1999; Green
2005). Many Greeks have begun to see themselves as
both European and Balkan (Calotychos 2003, 289; Farinou-
Malamatari 2003). The meaning of ‘‘European’’ has
also begun to change, as hitherto excluded groups (such
as the Slavs and Albanians) are drawn into the project of
European unification. Even more important, the possible
accession of Turkey to the European Union undermines
the way in which the drawing of firm cultural and geographical
boundaries between Europe and Asia has
underpinned Greek nationalism’s Europeanist conception
of Hellenism. Much of this was heralded and validated
by the reaction of Northern Europeans to the
dispute over the FYROM naming controversy in the
1990s. In particular, the European press did not react to
the dispute in terms of the exotic romanticism kindled by
Byron but with sympathy for a land-locked statelet faced
with intransigent Greeks using arguments about their
ancient occupation of Macedonia to officially justify
their intransigence (see, e.g., on the German press,
Kentrotis 1995). A ‘‘new’’ multicultural Europe had no
time for an old-style border controversy that was widely
(if incorrectly) blamed entirely on Greek nationalism.
Perhaps even more apparent than the widening of the
geographical frame of reference for political identities has
been its simultaneous narrowing for many people
(Leontidou, Donnan, and Afouxenidis 2005). The
mania for fifth columns and enemies within has undoubtedly
eased in official Greece. This has meant that a
variety of local-ethnic identities have appeared from
hiding, so to speak, such as those Vereni (2000, 47–67)
reports from western Greek Macedonia: ‘‘simply Greek,’’
‘‘Macedonian-Greek,’’ ‘‘Slav,’’ and ‘‘Bulgarian.’’ But this
is not simply the reemergence of ‘‘ancient, suppressed
but still pristine identities, rooted in the Macedonian
soil. Rather, such politics need to be understood as a site
where a transnational array of actors are renegotiating
identities and making claims within a reconfigured global
political context’’ (Cowan and Brown 2000, 14). Key
have been such factors as the political activism of Diaspora
ethnic nationalists (Schwartz 1997), the cultural
or segmented division of labor in many villages with
Turkish refugee offspring relatively overrepresented in
state jobs and with land ownership as a continuing
source of political dispute and ethnicization (van Boeschoten
2000), distinctions between Turkophone and
Greek-speaking Orthodox refugees over land, jobs, and
the need to prove ‘‘Greekness’’ (e.g., Koliopoulos 1994;
Voutira 1997), and increased intermarriage between
Dopii (Patriarchist ‘‘Bulgarians’’), various Greek refugee
groups, and Sarakatsani, producing less exclusive identities
in terms of local ratses (population categories;
Agelopoulos 1997).
Yet it would be a mistake to see this apparent pluralism
as a sign of widespread acceptance of an
ideological multiculturalism in relation to the established
menu of political identities. This localized phenomenon
in areas largely of declining population has been eclipsed
in official priorities by the rise of relatively large immigrant
populations (of Albanians, Bosnians, Bulgarians,
ethnic-Greek immigrants from Bulgaria, and others)
particularly in and around Salonica (Agelopoulos 2000;
Hatziprokopiou 2004; Mazower 2004, 432–40). If non-
Greek indigenous ‘‘others’’ still seem in the past and not
in the present, it is the recent immigrants who are more
likely to pose the much greater challenge to the future of
a culturally homogenized Greek national territory.23 Indeed,
as Salonica is reestablished as a metropolis for the
whole of Southeastern Europe, as it was during the late
Ottoman period, and ceases to be overwhelmingly ethnically
Greek in population, political tensions within
Greek nationalism are likely to shift away from Macedonia
at large and to that city in particular.
Meanwhile, European integration has hardly deprived
EU member states of their sovereignty, as a fashionable
argument would have it (e.g.,Wallace 1999). Rather, the
member states still ‘‘successfully claim a sovereign status
vis-a`-vis other states and international organizations and
still enjoy the rights and powers related to that status’’
(Werner and de Wilde 2001, 304). The sovereignty
debate has shifted, however, in two respects: to the issue
of the borders of the EU and thus away from the continuing
importance of national borders in themselves
and to the position of the respective states within the
institutional apparatus of the EU and other international
organizations. It is the former that concerns us here. As
the liberalization of trade and finance has made borders
more permeable, anxieties about crime, terrorism, illegal
immigration, and trafficking in women and children
have increased commensurately. These concerns have
taken a new shape in Europe because since the Treaty of
Amsterdam (1997) movement of people within most of
the EU has been freed by transferring checking to the
external border. Greece’s Macedonian border is one of
these. Even with Bulgaria’s accession to the EU this will
remain so for many years because Bulgarians will not
have free access to residence elsewhere in the EU.
The so-called Schengen zone (named after the town
where the original decision was made in 1985 to abolish
barriers to movement within the EU) has revalued the
external border as defining a ‘‘security field’’ to keep out
those foreign undesirables associated with the various
anxieties that globalization has engendered (Walters
2002). In this way the external border of the EU substitutes
a new alien threat for the old (ethnic-national)
one of Greece’s national border. This substitution is
primarily biopolitical in the sense of being about regulating
populations through the ‘‘filter function of border
controls’’ (den Boer 1995, 92). Of course, borders have
carried out such functions for some time, particularly
since the early twentieth century. What is new is the
extent to which border controls now extend throughout
the national territories of the EU (enforced by national
police forces) rather than just at the external land borders
and the classification of ‘‘types’’ of populations who
can pass through easily and others who cannot (ethnic
profiling). Traveling by train in Macedonia near the
border with FYROM when Romani are picked out by the
Greek border police through obvious ethnic profiling for
special scrutiny of their passports and visas is a reminder
of how much the border still matters not just in policing
distant others who might want to cross but those who
have long lived their lives across this particular border. If
the Greek borderland in Greek Macedonia is today less
threatening because its population has become largely

Figure 5. ‘‘No Border, No Nation’’:
One of several graffiti on a storefront
shutter in Salonica. The use of English
suggests that the sentiment is
directed beyond a Greek audience.
(Source: Author, May 2004.)
No Borders, No Nations: Making Greece in Macedonia

Greek (of one sort or another), the border still matters
but now because of new external threats that can come
across it. That these are threats to ‘‘Europe’’ rather than
just to Greece would make generations of Greek nationalists
smile with a certain self-satisfaction (Figure 5).
The nation-state everywhere as we know it today is
the product of the European model that emerged in the
seventeenth century and was then progressively imposed/
exported elsewhere. In this historical-geographical
context, the case of Greece provides some illuminating
points for understanding the course of nation-statehood
everywhere else. It was one of the first places where a
new nation-state was made from part of an old but non-
European (in progeny) empire. Perhaps because Greece
has been seen by Europeans as one of the sources of their
own civilization, Greek nationalists seem also to have
adopted to an extreme degree the binary view of world
space-time (modern/traditional) that came along with
the nation-state. Yet, Greece shows that a dual sense of
identity, in this case an externally-oriented Hellenic face
and an internally-oriented demotic one, can coexist and
provide a practical potential opening of Greek territory
to the development of complex local identities. The
dynamics of the Macedonian Question reveal—and this
is supposedly one of the best examples of ancient hatreds
to be found anywhere—that there is nothing natural (or
ancient), pace the cross-pressure perspective, about the
collective enmities to which hard borders are supposedly
the best solution. Rather than emerging in response to
absolute antagonism between primordial or essentialized
groups, antagonism, like the groups to which it refers,
has to be made.
This is where borders come in. The original European
model was a direct response to the religious bloodletting
of the early seventeenth century. Its projection into the
margins of Europe and beyond was marketed as a solution
to the problem of providing a cultural justification
for statehood: the nation. Making the nation requires
reaching deep into the past to provide a genealogy with
which the national group can identify. Territory or topos
has been crucial in this regard. Territory provides the
ground on which to stake the claim for nation. It does so
by using the authority of a common cultural heritage to
establish a unified past for that bloc of space, assembling
folklore traditions, associating critical historic incidents
with specific sites, and using evidence from archeological
and historical studies to justify current or expansive
borders, create a capital city, and sanctify national
monuments. Territory, and the borders that define it,
thus gives material shape to the national ‘‘dream of
emancipation’’ (Leontis 1995, 35). In Greece, the
Western tradition of a classical Hellenic past proved
especially compelling in providing the national genealogy,
but this offered no ready solution to where to place
the borders of the modern nation-state. This is where
Macedonia came in. It provided the critical regional
confluence between the national memory of a heroic
Hellenic past and the existence of an uncertain present
focused on the border in question. In this construction,
it is borders and the threats to them from beyond (and
before) which they conjure up that makes the nations
and not vice versa. Once the borders are oh so tentatively
in position and not before, the nation-state in its
turn begins to make its place.

I would like to acknowledge the assistance of the John
Simon Guggenheim Foundation in providing a Fellowship
(2003–2004) for research in Macedonia.

1. The recurrent crisis in the United States over the ‘‘broken
border’’ with Mexico is a case in point. Rarely if ever is the
U.S.-Mexico border ‘‘issue’’ placed in a wider geographical
field of reference (such as the fact that both the United
States and Mexico belong to NAFTA) or related to the
question of borders in general (e.g., that U.S. borders no
longer really define the U.S. polity given the national government’s
increasing penchant for unilateral military interventions
and extraterritorial definition of judicial

2. Unfortunately, most current discussion of alternative spatialities
in geography and other fields is usually expressed in
either/or rather than more nuanced overlapping/shifting
incidence terms (see, e.g., Marston et al. 2005 versus
Brenner 2005). For a theoretical perspective drawing on the
writings of Michel Foucault and others that tries to do so,
see, for example, Agnew (2005, chap. 3) and Coleman and
Agnew (2007).

3. Another way of putting this would be to say that bona fide
boundaries (such as coastlines, rivers, etc.) are frequently
confused with fiat boundaries involving human demarcation
such that the latter are seen as at least akin to natural
occurrences that deserve no further explanation (on the
two types of boundaries, see Smith and Varzi 2000).

4. In the aftermath of the events of 11 September 2001
Schmitt’s emphasis on the ontology of friends and enemies
would seem to have undergone a significant revival, particularly
in the declarations of the G. W. Bush administration
in the United States and its radical adversaries in the
Muslim world (Norris 2005). Whether this necessitates a
revival of thinking in terms of friends and enemies a`
la Schmitt, however, is another thing entirely. Why
should Schmitt’s contempt for others be turned into a
universalistic self-fulfilling prophecy? This is not to say that
there may not well be aspects of Schmitt’s thinking that are
worth investigating for their analytic usefulness. It is a
particular aspect of Schmitt’s thought that I am concerned
with here, not with his writing tout court.

5. In this construction, it is often concrete kinship and place
connections more than an abstract ethnicity that are key in
constituting the social worlds from which border claims
emanate and in which national identities are negotiated
(Eriksen 2004).

6. Most theories of the state in geography are crudely materialist
and functionalist in character, reflecting their origins
in either rational choice theory or versions of Marxism
of an economic base–political superstructure variety. They
have no place for the cultural logic of nation-statehood.

7. Etienne Balibar (2002) argues that just as the ‘‘nationalform’’
is intimately related to the ‘‘production of individuality’’
(p. 66), so all nationalisms ‘‘stand in a relation to the
nation-state’’ (p. 64) even if not all nationalisms at any one
time are necessarily statist. All nationalisms, by definition,
aspire to nation-statehood.

8. Disemia, or cultural intimacy, as Michael Herzfeld (2005,
14) has termed it elsewhere, refers to the ‘‘tension between
official self-presentation and what goes on in the privacy of
collective introspection’’ or the opposition between official
and vernacular cultural forms. Sarah Green (2005, 125)
points out that the possibilities of agency in regard to the
vernacular are often limited ‘‘particularly in relation to
the state, where ‘definitional’ and ‘legalistic’ ideologies tend
to be given political, bureaucratic, and economic ‘teeth.’’’
The ethnographic research of Karakasidou (1997, 2002)
provides ample evidence of the subsequent ‘‘bite’’ in Greek

9. The use of the qualifier ‘‘modern’’ in front of Greece presumes,
of course, that otherwise all Greeks and Greece are
considered ‘‘ancient.’’ This is precisely what the philhellenes
had on their minds.

10. By ‘‘territorial hysteria’’ I mean a popular fear and panic
about losing or missing out in the ongoing partition, not the
medical or psychoanalytic meaning of the word as a neurotic
disorder associated with dysfunction or dissatisfaction
either in general or as unique to the ‘‘Balkans.’’ Although,
as Slavoj %i&ek (2005, 116) notes, citing Mladen Dolar’s
reading of Freud’s references to the region: ‘‘that the European
unconscious is structured like the Balkans, is thus
literally true: in the guise of the Otherness of ‘Balkan,’
Europe takes cognizance of the ‘stranger in itself,’ of its own

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