Document Type

Honors Project - Open Access


This thesis engages a literary analysis of a corpus of songs and recordings known as the rebetika (sing. rebetiko), which prospered in the port districts of major cities throughout the Aegean in the early 20th century. Engaging the rebetika as literary texts, I argue, helps us understand how they have functioned as a kind of pressure point on the borders between nation and Other. Without making unproveable biographical claims about the motives of the music progenitors, I examine why so many have reached for the rebetika as texts with which to articulate various political and cultural desires. Using a multidisciplinary theoretical framework that includes Elaine Scarry, Stuart Hall, Edward Said, Mark C. Jerng, and Judith Butler, I track the ways the rebetika are implicated in the social marking and rendering of different kinds of bodies. I argue that through the devices of metaphor and metonymy, the songs, recordings, and lyrics of the rebetika preserve the memory of state violence and the experience of bodies in exile and, in doing so, clashed with contemporaneous processes of negotiating Greek national identity and policing the geosocial borders of "Europe." I also examine the kinds of meanings and body formations that secondary materials about the rebetika discursively produce. I ultimately argue that the rebetika provide a useful narrative vocabulary for talking about different kinds of marginality.



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