Details for Migrants and (In)tolerant Discourses in Greek politics

Name:Migrants and (In)tolerant Discourses in Greek politics

Hara Kouki and Anna Triandafyllidou

During the last 20 years the country has been rapidly transformed from a migrant sending to a migrant receiving country and currently about 0.8 million of its 11 million population is of foreign origin. Moreover, during the last three years Greece has been faced with a European and international migration crisis: while increasing numbers of people are fleeing war and poverty from Asia and Africa, the Greek Turkish border has become the main gate to Europe. The onset of the current financial crisis in early 2010 has deteriorated the situation. Unemployment grew dramatically among long term settled immigrants and working class natives. There has been an important increase in the crime rate and a generalized sense of insecurity in the centre of the capital of the country, while adding to this, extreme right wing groups have taken the situation 'in their hands'. Departing from images and incidents taking place in the centre of Athens, an all the more xenophobic discourse started spreading and dominating the way public opinion interprets the 'other' living in the city. Large parts of society appear as prone to morally accept incidents of racist violence and hate speech.
Central to this change has been the unprecedented rise of far right parties, actions and discourse in the public sphere. LAOS (The People's Orthodox Rally), is considered to be an extreme right wing formation that won 5.63% of the vote in 2009 national elections and 7.14% for the elections for the European Parliament. LAOS has participated in the provisional grand coalition government formed to deal with the crisis (from November 2011 till February 2012) thus further legitimising its position in the Greek political system. Golden Dawn, on the other hand, is a nationalist far right organization, whose members have been repeatedly accused of carrying out acts of violence and hate crimes against immigrants, political opponents and ethnic minorities. Golden Dawn, with a clear racist and Nazi political position, operates in certain 'troubled' urban areas in terms of 'field work' and establishes a state within a state offering security to local residents. This radical organization won a sit in municipal elections in the city of Athens (5.3%) and entered the parliament in 2012 national elections getting an 6,97% of the national vote.
This re-composition of the extreme right in the country runs in parallel with a conservative unfolding of Greek identity and a generalized political crisis unfolding in the 1990s, since when sensitive issues of national identity have re emerged and national particularities surfaced as the opposite pole to reform and globalization. Such a tendency appears severely intensified during the current crisis. However, the relationship and dynamics between the extreme right discourse and mainstream public opinion, party and official state discourse in Greece has not been thoroughly studied.
This study explores the recent discourses on diversity and tolerance in Greek political life. It investigates what has been defined by different political actors as intolerable, tolerable or acceptable cultural difference – hence it questions what intolerance/tolerance/acceptance means for each actor and how they re-define and use it to draw boundaries in Greek society. These boundaries cut across and overlap with different dimensions: natives/nationals and Others/aliens, tolerant and intolerant people/parties, racist and non-racist, democratic and authoritarian, right wing vs. left wing forces.
We examine here the political and discursive deployment of toleration in two different case studies and see how tolerance relies on the construction of images of 'ingroup' and 'outgroup'. Our main scope is to gain a better understanding of why and when some aspects of difference are rejected. We seek to answer the question what kind of difference is tolerable/acceptable in Greek society and why? We also examine whether Greek society is becoming more or less tolerant towards specific groups and why.

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Created On: 07/31/2012 13:48
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