The Perpetual Immigrant and the Limits of Athenian Democracy
Cambridge University Press 2018
New Books in European StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in LawNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Political ScienceNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network June 3, 2019 Lilly Goren
Demetra Kasimis’s new book, The Perpetual Immigrant and the Limits of Athenian Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2018) interrogates the role and unstable place of the metics (metoikoi) in Athenian society. The book focuses on three different presentations and discussions of the metics, in Euripides’ Ion, in Plato’s Republic, and in Demosthenes’ Against Euboulides. The metic, as Kasimis explores, is a classification of individuals within Athenian democracy for those who do not have Athenian blood—they are neither insiders nor outsiders. This whole class of people, who were free and enjoyed certain rights within the society, were, nonetheless, in a kind of liminal space, on the border between citizenship and those excluded from citizenship, like slaves, children, and others. The Perpetual Immigrant, which is the kind of position that metics found themselves in, since neither they nor their offspring could become citizens, exposes the “fraught and shifting meaning of the democratic citizen itself.” Kasimis’ deep research and theorizing about the metics, as discussed in these three classical texts, is not limited to ancient Athens, and the questions she considers are as important to pose to contemporary democracies as they were to Athenian democracy. Her work here, in this Cambridge University Press series, “Classics After Antiquity,” is vital in a number of ways, since the arguments are not only about the substance of the text, but also about how and why we read texts. Thus, we learn a great deal from The Perpetual Immigrant in terms of the substance of classical texts, and our understanding who is or is not a citizen within a democracy, and how that contributes to the way that the democracy understands itself and those who live within it. We are also to consider, as readers and scholars, the way in which we read and why we read certain texts, what we hope to learn from them, and what makes them important to consider.
This podcast was hosted by Lilly Goren, Professor of Political Science and Global Studies at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. You can follow her on Twitter @gorenlj