The struggle for modern Athens: Unconventional citizens and the shaping of a new political reality
Faubion, James D.
Doctor of Philosophy
The dissertation is based on over one-and-a-half years of ethnographic field research conducted in Athens, Greece, among various diverse populations practicing unconventional modes of citizenship, that is, citizenship imagined and practiced in contradiction to traditional, prescribed, or sanctioned civil identities. I focus specifically on newcomer undocumented migrant populations from Africa, the broadly segregated and disenfranchised Roma (Gypsy) community, and the rapidly growing antiestablishment youth population. The work maps the shifting narrative, physical, and ideological topographies these communities occupy separately, and during times when they coalesce. I posit that, both in their everyday struggles and at times when their actions spill into public spheres, be it for economic, social, political, or other reasons, these communities influence how the broader population perceives and practices modern citizenship. To outline the wider socio-political and economic context of this work, an ethnographic account of each of these communities is provided separately, exploring both their contemporary circumstances and the historical trajectories and conditions that brought them about. This is followed by a closer examination of two cases in which these communities come together. The first case concerns the cooperation of members of the undocumented African migrant and Roma communities in the transportation and selling of various illegal and gray-market goods. The second case concerns the spontaneous coalescence of anti-establishment youth, undocumented migrants, and the Roma during the December 2008 civil unrest in Athens. Through these ethnographic accounts and case studies I develop the conceptual and theoretical framework that supports the central arguments of this work. In conclusion I demonstrate that citizens are turning away from state-sanctioned discourses descriptive/prescriptive of a nation-centered citizenship and, crucially, are beginning to reconsider modern civic identity and democratic engagement in relation to the influence unconventional citizens are having on the various public and private spaces where these are negotiated and enacted.
Cultural anthropology; Economics; Political science; Sociology; Social structure