We are… the flower of your nation

We are… the flower of your nation

Scene from the theatre play Γυναίκες από χώμα [Soil Women] (2018-2019) by Korais Damatis.


Είμαστε… ο ανθός του έθνους σας


Grievability and the possibility to mourn indicate the exclusionary rationality of the nation-state’s topology. Power does not only allot rights, privileges and wealth. Most importantly, power recognises – and through this recognition shapes – acceptable subjectivities, experiences and relations, administrates the possible schemas of being and attributes the status of the liveable and grievable lives. Being ungrievable or banned as a griever means to be deprived of the minimal community. A figure not suitable to mourn or to be mourned is, because of this status, already excluded from the common ground that all the members of the community share: death (and we should add here the story about this specific death and this particular life, in other words memory).


In this sense, performing public mourning for the ungrieved enemies of the nation, and doing so from a gendered internal enemy perspective, represents a treasonous deviation from, and a bodily refashioning of, the established national and gendered propriety of mourning and memory.

[Athanasiou, A. (2017). Agonistic Mourning: Political Dissidence and the Women in Black. Edinburgh University Press. p. 203]


Πόσες γυναίκες διαπομπεύθηκαν το 2012 ως «οροθετικές ιερόδουλες» και πέθαναν μετά την πολιτική τους εξόντωση; Και από ποιες/ποιους πενθήθηκαν;


There will be no public act of grieving (said Creon in Antigone). If there is a “discourse,” it is a silent and melancholic one in which there have been no lives, and no losses;

[Butler, J. (2004). Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. Verso. p. 36.]


Lucas Avendaño, searching for his disappeared brother Bruno Alonso Avendaño Martínez, explains: “I don’t feel the desire for the authority to explain us why Bruno disappeared. But we have the demand to say no one deserves to go missing.” [Miguel J. Crespo, La Utopía de la Mariposa (film), 2019, 14:05]. This kind of claim demands a rearrangement of the institutions that shape and police the borders of the “city” – among others, law. Lucas Avendaño refuses to be explained, him and his loss, by the state’s law. He understands that in his country, even to be recognised and named as a disappeared person is a legal status attributed by institutional mechanisms not always just and equally accessible [ibid., 26:28]. He refuses to be “completely translated” by the law and to exhaust his claim through legal remedies. His demand is a stubbornness to his own utopia:

“Searching for Bruno… Well, it’s a utopia. Because in this context where there are 40 thousand disappeared, it’s a utopia to think you can have a different ending for all those other 40 thousand. To think we might get to find him… and we can find him alive… and well is a utopia. Because it will refute all those other 40 thousand absences.” [ibid., 27:50]

His utopia disturbs the topology of the city exactly because it is claimed in awareness and despite of the danger, the failure and the injustice.


Without this absolute past, I would not have been able, for my part, to address you thus. We would not be together in a sort of minimal community – but also incommensurable to all others – speaking the same language or praying for translation against the horizon of a same language, if only to manifest disagreement if a sort of friendship had not already been sealed, before all contracts; […]

Is this incommensurable friendship, this friendship of the incommensurable, indeed the one we are attempting to separate from its fraternal adherence, from its inclination to take on the economic, genealogical, ethnocentric, androcentric features of fraternity?

[Derrida, J. (2005). The politics of Friendship. George Collins (trans.). Verso. pp. 236-237]


Πόσο χρόνο χρειάστηκε για να πειστεί το τηλεοπτικό κοινό και οι διαδικτυακοί φίλοι πως ο Κωστόπουλος δολοφονήθηκε;

Ποιος είναι «ο ανθός της ελληνικής νεολαίας»;

Antigone, risking death herself by burying her brother against the edict of Creon, exemplified the political risks in defying the ban against public grief during times of increased sovereign power and hegemonic national unity.

[Butler, J. (2004). Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. Verso. p. 46.]


This topological schema, that creates a national, sovereign territory by excluding the “region” and positions of those who are unimaginable members of the community, has further folds and multiple dimensions. In other words, there is not a clear inside, neither a clear outside of this territory, but different degrees of intelligibility destined for bodies, relations, experiences.


[The two men break apart suddenly, drop their trousers, and stand facing the wall with arms outstretched. Hodoshe calls John.\ Yes, sir! [He then pulls up his trousers and leaves the cell. When he has left, Winston pulls up his trousers and starts muttering with savage satisfaction at the thought of John in Hodoshe’s hands.]

Winston. There he goes. Serves him right. I just hope Hodoshe teaches him a lesson. Antigone is important! Antigone this!! Antigone that Shit, man. Nobody can sleep in this bloody cell because of all that bullshit. Polynices! Eteocles! The other prisoners too. Nobody gets any peace and quiet because of that bloody Antigone! I hope Hodoshe gives it to him.

[He is now at the cell door. He listens, then moves over to the wig on the floor and circles it. He finally picks it up. Moves back to the cell door to make sure no one is coming. The water bucket gives, him an idea. He puts on the wig and after some difficulty manages, to see his reflection in the water. A good laugh which he cuts off abruptly. He moves around the cell trying out a few of Antigone’s poses. None of them work. He feels a fool. He finally tears off the wig and throws it down on the floor with disgust.]

Ag voetsek!

[Hands in pockets he paces the cell with grim determination.]

I’m not going to do it. And I’m going to tell him. When he comes back. For once he must just shut that big bloody mouth of his and listen. To me! I’m not going to argue, but ’struesgod that . . . !

[The wig on the floor. He stamps on it.]

Shit, man If he wants a woman in the cell he must send for his wife, and I don’t give a damn how he does it. I didn’t walk with those men and burn my bloody passbook in front of that police station, and have a magistrate send me here for life so that he can dress me up like a woman and make a bloody fool of me. I’m going to tell him. When he walks through that door.

[John returns. Winston is so involved in the problem of Antigone that at first he does not register John’s strangely vacant manner.]

Listen, broer, I’m not trying to be difficult but this Antigone!! No Please listen to me, John. ’Struesgod I can’t do it. I mean, let’s try something else, like singing or something. You always got ideas. You know I can sing or dance. But not Antigone. Please, John.

[Fugard, A., Kani, J., & Ntshona, W. (1986). Statements. Theatre Communications Group, INC. pp. 62-63.]


In the above passage from the Island, a play written by Athol Fugard, John Kani, and Winston Ntshona, different and complex layers of intelligibility are exposed. Being a worthy, “serious” fighter cannot be understood as being in a womanlike body. Speaking out just political arguments as a woman provokes laugh and a fear of humiliation. In other words, under the apartheid law and under detention, the Island recognises more than the two and clear positions of the included and the excluded.


Athina Papanagiotou