By Aria Socratous.
You received a BA in History and Archaeology and an MA in Art History from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and in your doctoral dissertation, you investigated the reception of icon painting in the broad Adriatic area from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century, emphasizing on the cross-‐cultural exchanges between the Eastern Mediterranean, the Italian Peninsula and the Western Balkans. How did you decide to follow this specific field of interest?
My interest in the dissemination of icon painting the Adriatic grew out of my travels in Italy and the Western Balkans, and my desire to trace the remnants of Greek culture outside the conventional borders of the Modern Greek state. You see, after the fifteenth century and the Ottoman expansion in the Eastern Mediterranean, hundreds of Greek refugees migrated to the West, carrying their cultural baggage with them – not unlike what is happening today with the current refugee crisis. My research aspires to shed some light on the cross-cultural exchanges between Greeks, Slavic, and Italian populations that coexisted in the Adriatic, and thus help trace our way back to a shared cultural past which has been largely obliterated due to contemporary political, religious and language barriers. In this regard, I hope that my research could in a way inspire a better understanding of our challenging present.
You are a postdoctoral researcher at the Seeger Center for Hellenic studies at Princeton University since 2015. In which field are you currently working on?
My primary field of interest is the art of the Early Modern Eastern Mediterranean. At Princeton University I am working on publishing my first book on the reception of icon painting in the Adriatic, which is basically a revised version of my doctoral dissertation. At the same time, I have embarked upon a yet another project focusing on the cultural relations of the Ionian and Adriatic Seas, expanding the scope of my research to the nineteenth century.
Can you describe a typical day of yours in the campus?
My typical day on campus usually revolves around writing my book, preparing papers for conferences, and also sending job applications. Most of my day I spend in my office at the Center, or studying at the University libraries, i.e. at Marquand Art Library, and in the Hellenic Studies Reading Room at Firestone Library. Once a week I host a Greek language table for learners of Modern Greek, which provides me an opportunity to interact with the undergraduate and graduate student community. Since I do not have any teaching requirements I have ample time to dedicate to my own research, and arrange my schedule as I see fit. That said, there are a wide variety of events on campus, such as lectures, exhibitions and workshops hosted by the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies or other Departments at Princeton, which keep us busy to say the least.
Princeton’s Program in Hellenic Studies has advanced the work of hundreds of scholars and teachers at critical points of their careers and presented and preserved Hellenic arts and collections that attract leading researchers and artists to Princeton from around the world. What did specifically attract your attention to Hellenic Studies program as a researcher?
Throughout its 35-year history the Program in Hellenic Studies at Princeton University has built a highly prestigious profile as an internationally leading institution in the field of Modern Greek Studies. My decision to apply for a postdoctoral position was triggered by my participation in the Sixth International Graduate Student Conference in Modern Greek Studies hosted by the Program in May 2014. For me this was an opportunity to experience directly the vibrant interdisciplinary environment of the Program in Hellenic Studies, as well as the sense of academic community and intellectual fellowship among colleagues, which ultimately convinced me that Princeton University would be the ideal institution for me to pursue my research project.
What are your future career plans?
Next year I will be re-locating to Europe for another postdoctoral position. It is extremely hard to make long-term future plans in this economy, and given the general crisis in the humanities. No matter how many applications you send out, it is not always certain that you will land a job – but at least it won’t be for the lack of trying. For the moment I am planning on finishing my book, and continuing my research and my writing.