Accepted Paper:

Conceptualising cultural change in modern Greece  
Marina Petronoti (National Centre for Social Research)

Paper short abstract:

The transformation of Greece into a multicultural society has not so far been examined with respect to identity politics, probably because the significance that official discourse attributes to the integrity of the nation obscures the flexible means with which such discourse is reconstituted.

Paper long abstract:

Conceptualising Cultural Change in Modern Greece

Marina Petronoti

The so-called transformation of Greece into a "multicultural" society has not so far been fully examined with respect to identity politics, probably because the significance that the official discourse attributes to the integrity of the nation obscures the flexible means with which such discourse is reconstituted to suit arising situations. This paper focuses on the notions of cultural diversity and change as these emanate in narratives of multiculturalism and ethno-nationalism. By focusing on the contexts which support, while simultaneously circumscribe, acceptance of cultural change, I discuss the paradoxical co-existence of voices discriminating immigrants with the rhetoric on the country's "multiculturalisation". And I argue that these rhetorical positions are not opposed to, but interdependent with the nationalist logic. To account for this point, I look at two sources of data. First, at the ways in which daily press demarcates generalized thoughts about immigrants' contribution to the disintegration of national values and second, at the ambiguous relationships Greeks establish with Eritrean refugees in the domestic and school environment. As will be shown, the variety of linkages set up between them is empowering rather than shifting cultural boundaries. By projecting democratic and humanitarian principles as national virtues, Greeks aspire to substantiate their superiority against culturally "inferior" Others. In essence, however, even when they rigorously defend their openness to unfamiliar customs and modes of thinking, they do not engage in cultural exchanges with Eritreans: instead, they introduce subtle lines of distinction in order to safeguard the development of collective identity and economic interests.

Panel W094
Migration and cultural change in Europe