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Citizen identity through the encounter: a kaleidoscopic view of Athenians’ encounters with migrants in a city of compounded crises

Koulaxi, Afroditi-Maria (2022) Citizen identity through the encounter: a kaleidoscopic view of Athenians’ encounters with migrants in a city of compounded crises. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004442


This thesis investigates the construction of citizen identity through difference, not commonality. Specifically, it examines citizens’ embodied and mediated encounters with noncitizen migrants in the spatio-temporality of compounded crises. It does so by zooming in on a multicultural Athenian neighbourhood undergoing many changes: most apparently, economic due to the post-2008 financial crisis, and demographic due to arrivals of new migrants post-2015, the so-called ‘migration crisis’. Within this spatio-temporality of perceived or experienced crises, the study examines how citizens construct a sense of Self through the Other, more particularly through their encounters with noncitizens on streets and screens. Aiming to contribute to the literature on media and identity, I draw on an interdisciplinary framework that cross-fertilises theories and methods from media and communications, sociology and urban studies. The study’s multi-method approach combines 30 in-depth interviews with Greek citizens with offline and online participant observation. The empirical chapters investigate citizens’ self-making through the Other in three distinct ways. The first empirical chapter (Chapter 4) focuses on crisis reflexivity: it thus shows how the constitution of crisis, both in temporal and in discursive terms, shapes meanings of the Self and the Other. The predominance of imaginings of identity through and during crisis becomes more apparent when citizens have few or no embodied encounters with migrants and largely depend on the media to learn about migration. The second empirical chapter (Chapter 5) examines culturalist reflexivity: it demonstrates how citizens’ co-occupation of local spaces with migrants opens up space to consider what unites or divides citizens and noncitizens. However, when such encounters remain ephemeral, pre-existing conceptions of the citizen Self dominate. Core references here are hegemonic systems of knowledge, including the media, which bind meanings of identity within narratives of cultural distinctiveness. The third empirical chapter (Chapter 6) discusses convivial reflexivity: it moves beyond the ephemerality of the encounter, and instead examines the consequences of sustained encounters that include more systematic engagement between citizens and noncitizens. In many of these cases, reflexive negotiations of the boundary between ‘us’ and ‘them’ become more common. Theoretically, the contribution of the thesis is twofold: firstly, it reveals that the process of citizen identity-making through embodied and mediated encounters is shaped through a tripartite process of embodiment, mediation and affect; secondly, it foregrounds crisis as a context of citizen identity construction and explores how identities are configured and reconfigured when certainties about the (citizen) self have been destabilised because of the interaction of perceived and experienced crises.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2022 Afroditi-Maria Koulaxi
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Supervisor: Georgiou, Myria and Chouliaraki, Lilie

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