Even though Christmas decoration was much more modest this year in Athens, still one could see on Omonoia Square an odd imitation of the natal scene, with plastic statues dressed in supposedly Biblical costumes, surrounded by Palm Trees. Until a few years ago, the mayors of Athens were proudly organising big fiestas on New Year’s eve, and were advertising the city’s Christmas tree as the tallest one in Europe.
Perhaps as one expects, Athenians’ mood was not lifted much from that decoration. The noise of the cars speeding around the giant roundabout (that Omonoia Square is) combined with a huge crowd of unemployed people in front of the job centre (ΟΑΕΔ) at the beginning of Stadiou Avenue dominate the rhythms in that part of the city during January morning. Along Stadiou, once a thriving commercial street, within the last year almost half of the shops are shut down, while the ones working are empty of clients with just a few sales personnel standing next to the piles of clothing. “People expect the big sales in a few days” a smiling sales woman in a big shop explained to me when I asked what happened to the customers “It was also Christmas and people did their shopping earlier” she added behind a tight and stressed smile. However, the deserted shop across the street said another story in just two words written on a huge yellow sign on its window: “TAKE EVERYTHING”. Another big poster under it states: “CLOSING DOWN”.
The street is one of the key ethnographic sites since the birth of urban anthropology. At the same time the street and the rest of the urban routes/passages (arcades, boulevards, squares etc.) have been recognized as spatial-material entities formidable of modern urbanisation. The routes of central Athens combined dialectically with the spontaneous or unspontaneous public socialities and social practices are today the entities that give material and social shape and significance to the Athenian version of crisis. In this project the materiality and ontology of urban passages are not examined only from an elevated viewpoint but down from the street level, both as spatial-material expressions of the social and financial crisis, but also as infrastructures/socio-material agents of these crises.