An academic miracle in the midst of contemporary Greek reality

The International Summer University had been maturing as an idea for many years until its realization, an idea stemming from the awareness of media’s immense power and of its latent possibility for strengthening its so far neglected educational function.

Instead of choosing the easy way of once more asserting the observation that media are permeated by ideological and propagandistic goals and that their product is heavily commercialized, the hard way was chosen; to provide a counterexample and instill media with those elements that would strengthen its educational function.

In parallel, what was also taken into account was the need to serve the goal of lifelong learning on the part of teachers, educators, journalists, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate students and researchers.

Within this framework, Assistant Professor of the University of Ioannina and fellow of Comparative Studies, CHS – GR of Harvard University, Nikoletta Tsitsanoudi – Mallidi, designed International Summer University “Greek Language, Culture, and Media”, with the goal to study various forms of language in various socio-political and cultural contexts, starting from the times of Ancient Greek Literature to today. An institution central and crucial to the realization of this project has diachronically been – and it still is – the University of Ioannina.

International collaborations

In all six years of the existence of the program, International Summer University has been guided by the aspiration to remain extrovert, by founding a tradition of international collaborations with prominent international institutions in the spheres of education, culture, and the media.

The International Summer University “Greek Language, Culture, and Media” has been supported throughout the years by the Center for Hellenic Studies of Harvard University (CHS – GR, Harvard University), the Greek division of European Parliament, the Greek department of the Association of European Journalists, the Crete Orthodox Academy, the French department of the Club of European Press (Club de la Presse Européenne, Paris), the Paris Centre Culturel Hellénique, as well as the institute De Letras of Rio De Janeiro University and the Euro – American Women’s Council, the Circle of Boston’s Academics, the Hellenic Canadian Academic Association of Ontario, and the French embassy in Athens, the Acropolis’ museum, bodies of local government, etc.

The program was under the auspices of H.E. the President of the Republic Mr. Prokopios Pavlopoulos, who honored it with his presence and by his offering a lecture and the exclusive presentation of two of his books.

The topics negotiated in I.S.U.

Among the various topics that have been negotiated until the present day in International Summer University, are the following:

  • The language of power in the era of the implementation of the memorandums.
  • Practices of censorship in the face of discourse and crisis. The limits of permissible discourse.
  • Errors in language use and communication. The contribution and dynamics of deviation.
  • Language of the ‘other’. The ethics of alterity. (5th I.S.U.)

The cultural aspect of the program and the aesthetic point of view

Apart from the strict, everyday schedule of academic nature (of 40 hours), all of the five I.S.U. programs involved an equally rich cultural aspect. Except for the prevailing academic character of the program, and its perfect adherence to a well-organized schedule, as recognized by the totality of the press, which was designed with a strong emphasis on detail, the students were also invited to engage with the local cultural identity of the place which hosted them.

In a constant effort to make I.S.U. better each time, the prevailing conviction was that a summer university of that form would be a much more fertile soil for interdisciplinary approaches, than a university lecture room where a focus on specialization is the more prevailing attitude.

In parallel to a particularly careful design, ISU summer school became a laboratory that constantly provided students and researchers with the opportunity to learn, in an experiential manner, unknown aspects of the topics investigated by scientific discourse.

Lastly, immense importance was placed on the aesthetic appearance of ISU’s printed materials, which were designed by Gutenberg editions. Recently, the Gutenberg publishing house also published a collective edited volume, titled Greek Language, Culture, and Media, comprising all the contributions given in the first two I.S.U. programs, as well as papers and studies by exceptional professors from various Greek universities, Harvard University and Rio de Janeiro University. Another collective volume will soon be available with the title Errors in language use and communication.

6th International Summer University held online due to Coronavirus pandemic

With great success and moving participation, despite the fact that it was a very demanding task carried out in very difficult circumstances, the online anniversary session of I.S.U. took place on the 2nd of May. As it was stated, “International Summer University develops in a pioneering way creative dimensions of dialogue as well as the intellectual apparatus needed for facing the crisis in culture, language and media”.

With their motto being “a pandemic, a cancellation… we resist, we communicate!”, the organizers of International Summer University “Greek Language, Culture and Media”, responded in their own way to the pandemic and the isolation that it entailed. Thus, after the obligatory postponement of the program that was to be held in the Phanar Greek Orthodox College in Istanbul and that was to become an important cultural event, I.S.U. planners decided to organize on the same day an anniversary online session, in which 75 people participated in total, among them being prominent academics, journalists, and artists from Greece and abroad, as well as students from various parts of the planet. Part of the live session was later broadcasted by the television channel of the Greek parliament.

Harvard University and its Center for Hellenic Studies had an important presence, through the participation of Gregory Nagy, Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Comparative Literature and Director of the Center for Hellenic Studies, Nikolas Prevelakis, Lecturer of Social Sciences and Deputy Director of the said Center, as well as Zoie Lafis, Executive Director of the Center in Washington. The Greek academic presence in the United States of America was further represented by Kelly Polychroniou, Lecturer of Greek Language at Boston University, and Director of the Modern Greek program in the Department of Classical Studies, as well as by Elena Panaritis, visiting Professor in Stanford University.

“The program will take place in Istanbul”

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we were unable to go to Istanbul, despite the fact that in our minds and deep into our hearts, we all feel that we are already there, in Phanar Greek Orthodox College, this hearth of culture and education. Our goal is to reorganize our visit in collaboration with the director of the Phanar Greek Orthodox College, Mr. Dimitrios Zotos”, according to Nikoletta Tsitsanoudi – Mallidi. Until then, everyone interested can visit ISU’s website where the abstracts of all the studies that were to be presented are posted.

International Summer University Alumni Association

Tens of students participated in the live session of May the 2nd, with the alumni president, Dimitris Vardavas, postgraduate student of Philosophy at Kingston University (London), connected through London. Within the general framework of ISU, the alumni association will organize in July the Alumni Summer University, which will negotiate the topic of “Ethics and Ideology in Media Discourse”. It is a stable conviction of Nikoletta Tsitsanoudi – Mallidi, the academic director of ISU, that “if we do not engage the younger generation in the good things we make, the good, will never become better”.

In conclusion

Hundreds of people, highly important academics from Greek and foreign Universities, intellectuals, journalists, artists, authors, and researchers, as well as exceptional entrepreneurs as kind donors, participated actively in the development and enrichment of the initial aspiration of systematically connecting media with Greek language and Greek culture. Academic knowledge could not but be complemented and sustained by an aesthetic point of view which would upgrade the content through a detailed form.

Media, Greek and international, not only did not ignore the initiative taken by ISU, as some might pre-estimate but, on the contrary, appeared eager to contribute. They showed sharp reflexes in promoting all five ISU programs. In the last three years, ISU’s media donors were CNN Greece, ERT (National Radio and Television), ERT3, and the 1st program of Greek National Radio, as well as the television channel of the Greek parliament. In this context, television advertisements were produced in which exceptional Greek actors and journalists embodied the leading roles.

Within and behind all these collaborations, one can find people who believed in this initiative and helped keep the spirit of the organizers lifted. This is a program for which its creative team, under the supervision of its International Scientific Board, works for an entire year in order to produce a week-long program of the highest quality, a program focused on supporting Greek culture and language in contemporary Greek and European media, and which cannot but pursue an ever-growing amelioration. Besides, the recent foundation of ISU’s Alumni Association seems to affirm the program and its continuation, promising for the future the ever-greater participation of young people, who are, in any case, the main reference of the program.

Keeping the awareness of the weight of the responsibility entailed by undertaking such a project in mind, a powerful effort is made each and every year in order for the International Summer University to remain capable of opening new research paths and offering its Greek and foreign participants a valuable and exciting experience that is worthy of its high academic quality.