The Greek Body in Crisis: Contemporary Dance as a Site of Negotiating and Restructuring National Identity in the Era of Precarity
This doctoral dissertation explores the development of Greek contemporary dance practices as a site for engaging with national identity construction during the recent (2009-2015) sociopolitical and financial crisis. Following archival research and ethnographic fieldwork, I argue that the financial crisis has become an opportunity to reassess and challenge rooted beliefs concerning the composition of national, cultural, and social identity in Greece through artistic practices.
The structuring axes of this work are the discourses of ‘Hellenism’ and ‘Greekness’, which are understood as two contrasting theoretical approaches to nationalism that inform contemporary Greek identity construction. ‘Hellenism’ is perceived as an aspired ideal pertaining to ancient Greek philosophical values, whereas ‘Greekness’ connotes a more modern manifestation of national identity following the establishment of the Independent Greek State (1832).
The dissertation explores the slow shift that occurred in embodied practices, which in their early stages were mostly associated with Hellenism, but later gave way to a different understanding of national identity, more closely associated with Greekness. This move away from ancient Greek narratives towards an engagement with previously marginalized histories became particularly evident during the late stages of the crisis (2013-2015), when artistic production became a site for critical assessment of many aspects constituting contemporary Greek identity, such as people’s relationship to their past, gender hierarchies, or the issue of racial construction of Greekness. While chapter one traces the historical shift in embodied practices from the beginning of the twentieth century till the early 2000s, the coming chapters comprise choreographic analyses of performances created during the recession. These works provide glimpses into the experience of navigating precarity, or inhabiting a precarious state of existence, such as immigrants or political refugees, and paint an image of the fluctuating social landscape.
Utilizing contemporary dance as a lens into a society that has been severely affected by the global financial crisis, this study raises questions about how national identity is critically examined and re-evaluated during the recession era. It aspires to serve as a framework for the ways that crises directly affect people’s bodies not just on a material, corporeal level, but also on a phenomenological one.