Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Southeast European History

Andreas Guidi

Andreas Guidi

Generations in flux: Rhodos’ transition from late imperial to totalitarian rule (1900-1930)


My dissertation project shall shed light on societal dynamics in the urban and multi-confessional context of Rhodes in the time spanning from the late Ottoman period until the institutional consolidation of Italian occupation. This particular historical background offers the opportunity for a case study in the framework of the post-imperial transformation and its consequences for the population of South-Eastern Europe. Soon after the seizure of power by the Young Turks and the proclamation of the Ottoman constitution, Rhodes was occupied by Italy, who ruled the city until 1945. Interestingly, the integration of the local context in the Italian Kingdom did not follow the pattern of a rash assimilation of the population and a political radicalisation under the banner of the dominant ethnic identification. Contrary to many other South-East European contexts, the ethnic-religious variety of the urban space in Rhodes – displaying a numerically balanced coexistence of Muslims, Jews and Orthodox and to a minor extent Levantine Catholics – could be preserved until well into the 1930s, until which the city was not affected by forced Population Exchanges and even hosted refugees of different religious affiliation from Crete, Thrace and Smyrna.

Under these circumstances, the leading question of my dissertation concerns the social practices adopted by individuals of different social background in shaping their relationship with the new institutions. Accordingly, the social agency approach, through which relevant biographical experiences of the local population become connected to the development in the political field, represent the methodological backbone of the research. A central indicator in this analysis is the interaction between generations, questioning the changing social value of the reference “Youth”. Adopting André Burguière’s suggestion, such a enquiry should follow a double track. On the one hand, stability factors which bolstered intergenerational cohesion in the family and broader societal structures are questioned; On the other hand, the research deals with the effects of impulses and ruptures which, on the contrary, favoured intragenerational solidarity and pushed for the formation of age-homogenous groupings. The dissertation investigates five social fields (family formation, education, time management, anomy and politics), in which the reference “Youth” often stood in correlation to the discourse on “Modernity”, thus creating the ground for a redefinition of social distinction through new practices.

The access to archival sources, ego-documents and contemporary press in various languages (Turkish, Greek, Italian, French) and their analysis in  a polyphonic socio-political context common to all local communities should offer an alternative to the dominant narratives on the post-Ottoman transition in Rhodes, still often characterized by a “groupism” focus along ethnic lines and a deterministic, a posteriori approach.

The first phase of the project was funded until 31 March 2014 by the “Humboldt-Research Track Scolarship”, as a part of the Excellence Initiative of the Humboldt Graduate School.


The “Elsa-Neumann-Stipendium des Landes Berlin” has been funding this doctoral research since 01 July 2014.