New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
Charles C. Moskos, Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University, wrote “The Greek Americans: Struggle and Success” in 1970, and the second edition of the book in 1988, but the book continues to evolve. The 3rd edition, by his son Peter C. Moskos, has just been published.
“ I was very keen to have a Moskos and Moskos book,” said Moskos in an interview with the GN prior to the presentation of the book by the Cultural and Education Committee of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce (HACC) at the Holy Trinity Cathedral Center on January 22.
“As I like to say, we were ‘slowly not working on the new edition’ for years before my father died. We were talking about it more than working on it, and as his health declined it became clear that nothing really was going to happen. We had boxes of clippings, and we were saying ‘what are we going to do with these!’ So I really started working on it in 2011.”
Revising the book was more time consuming than he predicted, especially because this wasn’t his main field. said Moskos, who is Associate Professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the City University of New York’s Doctoral Program in Sociology, “I was hoping to just do a little quick update, but I revised the entire book. It was a lot of work and a lot of research but I just slogged through it bit by bit.”
Asked whether he had to comb over every aspect of the 2nd edition of the book, Moskos replied, “Yes, very much so. I tried to leave as much as I could but this was a lesson for me. I cut a lot of things that were contemporary at the time of writing, because, of course, you don’t have the wonders of hindsight to say, ‘how much of what I’m writing will matter in later years. For example, my father talks about the new Greek town in Chicago, which I remember as a kid, but that fizzled… so I tried to not make it as contemporary as my father did, such as speaking of events in the late 1960’s in the present tense.”
Moskos’s HACC-sponsored talk on January 22 followed the book’s chapters about the early struggles of Greeks in America, the Greek Orthodox Church, success in America, and the survival and expansion of Greek identity.
Moskos began with a story comparing Christopher Columbus and the basketball player Giannis Antetokounmpo as “two people who may very well be the first and the last Greek immigrants to America” (although Moskos “doesn’t actually believe Columbus was Greek” (but concedes that he may have been from Chios).
He said the 3rd edition makes more explicit and vivid the late 19th and early 20th century Greek experience in America, including both the heroism of Greek labor activists, their readiness to use violence to defend strikes in Western mining communities (particularly the Cretans) and also the terrible exploitation of Greek adult men by Greek padrones and of “shoeshine boys” by other Greeks.
Moskos also gives credit to the Ottoman structure–as opposed to European serfdom–for Greek American business success in America, giving the example of Greeks from Laconia in 1900, who though they may have been farmers, were used to buying and selling at market. They were also educated. Their education was just basic, but reading and arithmetic were more than most immigrants knew.
He explained that because there is now so much new statistical material easily available via the internet, new material in the 3rd edition is based on survey statistics of various kinds about Greek immigrants that show Greek American social characteristics, for example, their higher educational levels in comparison to almost all other ethnic groups, their occupational/professional characteristics, etc.
His findings on claims to specific Greek identity heritage were particularly striking as they reflect developments in just the past 45 years. What he has found from survey data, he said, is a new wave of Greek “trump” identity, whereby there are more than 1.2 million more people identify first as being “Greek American”, many of them individuals with only limited ancestral connections to Greek immigrants, and even non-Greeks who have married into Greek-American families, which is a wide-spread phenomenon.
Thus, he noted, even as the old Greek-American identity based on affiliation with Orthodoxy and Greek language facility has greatly diminished, a new kind of “self identity” which he considers “light Greek” identity, has expanded. Moskos clearly believes that the loss of the old identity is inevitable and asks the audience to view the new identity as the only possible favorable outcome at this time.
Dan Georgakas, Director of the Greek American Studies Project at Queens University told the GN, “One of the interesting observations Moskos makes is that many young people of mixed ethnic heritage are currently opting to identify as Greek rather than the ethnicity of the non-Greek parent. He says this makes being Greek a “trump”
identity. If this trend continues, it bodes well for the future of Greek American.“
Moskos, who has studied and speaks Greek considers himself Greek American “although I’m only half Greek and third generation at that.” His mother, who was born in Germany, speaks Greek very fluently and the Moskos family have all visited the Greek villages, now in Albania, where her husband’s parents were born.
Some of the people who attended from the board of the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce were: Nancy Papaioannou, the new President of the HACC as well as the new President (and the first female president) of the Atlantic Bank division of New York Commercial Bank; Stamatis Ghikas, Executive Director; Lou Katsos, Executive Vice President. Other attendees were: Mr. Nikos Papaconstantinou, Press Consul, Greek Press Office in New York; Demi Savopolis of the Hellenic American Educators Association; Dr. James Koutrelakos, Professor Emeritus of Psychology.
Peter C. Moskos is also the author of “Cop in the Hood” and “In Defense of Flogging”.
Charles C. Moskos was also the author of “The New Conscientious Objection” and “The American Enlisted Man”.
For more information: www.transactionpub.com