"Living in the File": Kinship & Political Surveillance in Post-Civil War Greece

Katherine Pendakis


Little attention has been paid to the ways in which political surveillance practices have historically intersected with a cultural logic of kinship or actual kin relationships, despite the fact that intergenerational effects of state surveillance have been observed. This article aims to open up this important avenue of research through a reflection on the relationship between kinship, political surveillance and state persecution in post-civil war Greece. Drawing on narrative interviews and borrowing from the emerging ethnographic work on the agentic qualities of state documents, this article analyzes the unexpected ways in which the citizen file (fakelos) created a form of political inheritance for the children of leftists. I argue that a cultural logic of kinship was central to anticommunist surveillance practices after the civil war and that these practices ultimately rendered political identity a matter of lineage, something transacted through patrilines, fixing fathers and sons (and sometimes uncles and nephews) in a shared political genealogy. 


Greece; Surveillance; Kinship; Anticommunism; Political File; Generations

Full Text:




Alexopoulos, Golfo. Stalin's Outcasts: Aliens, Citizens, and the Soviet State, 1920-1936. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003.

Alexopoulos, Golfo. “Stalin and the Politics of Kinship: Practices of Collective Punishment, 1920s-1940s.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 50/1 (2008): 91-117.

Alivizatos, Nicos. “’Emergency Regime’ and Civil Liberties.” In Greece in the 1940s: A Nation in Crisis, edited by John Iatrides, 220-228. New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1981.

Borneman, John. Belonging in the Two Berlins. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Caplan, Jane, and John Torpey. “Introduction.” In Documenting Individual Identity: The Development of State Practices in the Modern World, edited by Jane Caplan and John Torpey, 1-12. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Corrigan, Philip, and Derek Sayer. The Great Arch: English State Formation as Cultural Revolution. Oxford: Blackwell, 1985.

Coutin, Susan, Bill Maurer, and Barbara Yngvesson. “In the Mirror: The Legitimation Work of Globalization.” Law and Social Inquiry 27 (2002): 801-843.

Das, Veena, and Deborah Poole. “State and Its Margins: Comparative Ethnographies.” In Anthropology in the Margins of the State, edited by Veena Das and Deborah Poole, 3-34. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, 2004.

Dirks, Nicholas. “Annals of the Archive: Ethnographic Notes on the Sources of History.” In From the Margins: Historical Anthropology and its Futures, edited by Brian Axel, 47-65. Durham: Duke University Press, 2002.

Ebner, Michael. Ordinary Violence in Mussolini's Italy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Fonio, Chiara. “Surveillance Under Mussolini's Regime.” Surveillance & Society 9/1 & 2 (2011): 80-92.

Fierson, Cathy and Semyon S. Vilensky. Children of the Gulag. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.

Glaeser, Andreas. Political Epistemics: The Secret Police, the Opposition, and the End of East German Socialism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

Gordillo, Gaston. “The Crucible of Citizenship: ID-Paper Fetishism in the Argentinean Chaco.” American Ethnologist 33/2 (2006): 162-176.

Herzfeld, Michael. The Social Production of Indifference: Exploring the Symbolic Roots of Western Democracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Hull, Matthew. Government of Paper: The Materiality of Bureaucracy in Urban Pakistan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.

Jacob, Marie-André. « Form-Made Persons: Consent Forms as Consent's Blind Spot.” Political and Legal Anthropology Review 30/2 (2007): 249-268.

Kaplan, Judy and Linn Shapiro. Red Diapers: Growing Up in the Communist Left. Chicago: University of Illinois, 1998.

Kelly, Catriona. Children's Word: Growing up in Russia, 1890-1991. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.

Kelly, Tobias. “Documented Lives: Fear and the Uncertainties of Law During the Second Palestinian Intifada.” Royal Anthropological Institute 12 (2006): 89-107.

Los, Maria. “Looking in the Future: Surveillance, Globalization and the Totalitarian Potential.” In Theorizing Surveillance: The Panopticon Sort and Beyond, edited by David Lyon, 69-94. Portland: Willan Publishing, 2006.

Lyon, David. “Surveillance as Social Sorting: Computer Codes and Mobile Bodies.” In Surveillance as Social Sorting: Privacy, Risk and Digital Discrimination. London: Routledge, 2003.

Messick, Brinkley. The Calligraphic State. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

Navaro-Yashin, Yael. Faces of the State: Secularism and Public Life in Turkey. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.

Navaro-Yashin, Yael. “Make-Believe Papers, Legal Forms and the Counterfeit.” Anthropological Theory 7/1 (2007): 79-98.

Nuijten, Monique. “Between Fear and Fantasy: Governmentality and the Working of Power in Mexico. Critique of Anthropology 24/2 (2004): 209-230.

Panourgia, Neni. Dangerous Citizens: The Greek Left and the Terror of the State. New York: Fordham University Press, 2009.

Panourgia, Neni. “Stones (papers, humans).” Journal of Modern Greek Studies 28/2 (2010): 199-224.

Riles, Annelise. Documents: Artifacts of Modern Knowledge. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006.

Samatas, Minas. “Greek McCarthyism: A Comparative Assessment of Greek Post Civil War Repressive Anticommunism and the US Truman-McCarthy Era.” Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora 13/3 & 4 (1986): 5-75.

Samatas, Minas. “Studying Surveillance in Greece: Methodological and Other Problems Related to an Authoritarian Surveillance Culture.” Surveillance & Society 3/2 & 3 (2005):181-197. (http://ojs.library.queensu.ca/index.php/surveillance-and-society/article/view/3408)

Stoler, Ann. Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010.

Tsoucalas, Constantine. “The Ideological Impact of the Civil War.” In Greece in the 1940s: A Nation in Crisis, edited by John Iatrides, 320-337. New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1981.

Weber, Max. Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology. Berkley: University of California Press, 1978 (1922).

Copyright (c) 2017 Surveillance & Society

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.