Can economic crises constitute collective identity crises?
: The case of Greek European identity during the Greek debt/Eurozone crisis

  • Ioanna Ntampoudi

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis consists of a socio-psychological study of Greek European identity within the context of the Greek debt/Eurozone crisis. Drawing insights from Social Representations Theory (SRT) and Social Identity Theory (SIT), it approaches the question of identity in a dual manner, as are presentation and a psychological experience. The motivation of the research is enacted through the questioning of whether economic crises can provoke crises of collective identities. Its contribution is both theoretical and empirical. The thesis argues that although the term ‘identity crisis’ is a frequently used one, especially in conditions of post-modernity, an analytical elucidation of the varied destabilising dynamics behind potential ‘identity crises’ is unclear within existing literature. Furthermore, it is postulated that as useful and enlightening a social psychological approach may be for the study of identities, and although SIT’s focus on identity threats as destabilising for group self-esteem can help us understand identity dynamics, the discipline still lacks a more systematic analytical framework of identity destabilisations. The thesis develops an elaborate typology and conceptualisation of identity destabilisations and operationalises it for the study of Greek European identity through a triangulated single case study research design, combining a variety of data sources, such as historiographical data, media texts, expert and elite interviews, and interviews with non-expert citizens. The typology includes the destabilisations of identity conflict,identity devaluation, identity overvaluation and identity deficit. The results of the study indicate that the public discourse of the debt/Eurozone crisis has been abundant in representations of all such identity destabilisations. The interviews with Greek experts and elites, called in this study ‘ideational leaders’, and with non-expert citizens, designate that the most prevalent forms of identity destabilisation, both at the level of representation and of psychological experience in Greek society are those of identity conflict and identity devaluation. The results show a distinct public preoccupation with ideas, such as national self-reflection and collective responsibility. The representations made by expert and non-expert citizens approximate each other quite closely, while comparisons across the data sources and across time bring to the fore continuities of narratives and identity representations, which are explained within SRT’s assumption of anchoring as a return to previously established knowledge for the comprehension of new phenomena, as well as within the constraints faced by discursive actors in their attempts to construct new realities. It is concluded that a new narrative is necessitated for Greek European identity.
Date of Award13 May 2017
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJohn Gaffney (Supervisor), Nathaniel Copsey (Supervisor) & Helena Carrapiço (Supervisor)


  • identity conflict
  • identity deficit
  • identity destabilisation
  • identity devaluation
  • identity overvaluation
  • social pschology

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