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Perspectives Review: Turn the Other Greek. How the Eurozone Crisis Changes the Image of Greeks and What Visual Representations of Greeks Tell Us about European Identity (by Daniela Chal

Original article by: Daniela Chalániová, PhD student in the study programme International Relations and European Studies at Metropolitan University Prague/the Institute of International Relations in Prague; lecturer at the Anglo-American University. Review by: Anja Grabovac, PR assistant at IIR

“The stereotypical representations of Greeks as lazy, incompetent, ouzo-drinking slackers presented throughout the European media can have a harmful impact on the Greek identity and self-consciousness.” This quote summarizes the process of the changing image of Greece in the eyes of the EU member states, especially citizens, since the 2008 financial crisis which hit the whole region with a great force. The media have played a considerable role in forming the picture of Greece and the European identity in the past few years. But what meaning does the EU attribute to “identity”? How does it affect the founding principles of the EU such as democracy, liberty or solidarity? Those are the main questions raised by Daniela Chalániová which she tries to find the right answers to with the help of analyses of political cartoon data over the period of five years (2008 – 2012).

It is in the times of crisis when terms such as ‘community’ or ‘unity’ become the centre of attention for media. A variety of perceptions of identity brings about a sense of togetherness or belonging on the one hand or a feeling of estrangement on the other. The sovereign debt crisis produced an increase of political and social differences in number of European countries, but most importantly, it led to a change of Greece’s image. Greece became a synonym for a financial crisis. With a unique approach, Ms. Chalániová explains this issue using visual concepts of political cartoons in daily print media of four European countries: Austria, France, UK and Slovakia. What comes across is a pattern to the communication: the communication increases around important events such as the Greek ‘bail-outs’ or around the discussions about possible Greek exit from the EU.

No matter if we evaluate the identity and image of Europe as a whole or specific member states, one similar pattern can be observed; our family, the environment we live in, and especially the media create and affect the way we perceive ourselves vis-á-vis the others. In other words, our views are easily defined and redefined, and the case of Greeks as the ones who became ‘outsiders’, or in Chalániová ‘s words the position of a significant Other to Europe, is just one example of what the media and insufficient political knowledge can create.

Read the whole article in the latest issue of Perspectives (Vol. 21, No. 1, 2013) in your library or order one online today!

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