What is Greek? Understanding National Identity and Mass Migration

Conceptualizing Greek Identity in an Era of Mass Migration

Reviewed by Matthew Michaelides
March 30, 2014

In his paper “Conceptualizing Greek Identity in an Era of Mass Migration,” Colorado College graduate Philip Angelides delves into precisely what it means to be Greek, how the shaping of Greek identity came about, and its stakes today in the context of Greece’s immigration policy.

Angelides’s story begins in the present with a seeming contradiction: Greece receives the highest number of illegal immigrants of any state in the EU every year, yet continues to hold onto an extremely limited sense of Greek identity. “Why has this happened?” is the simple question Angelides poses.

Angelides’s response looks into Greece’s past in an effort to determine how Greek identity was originally formed. What he finds is that Greek identity, in its most recent reincarnation during the Greek war of Independence from the Ottoman Empire, is based chiefly on two things: first, an association with an Ancient Greek past, and, second, a tendency towards the cultural west over the cultural east. He argues that it is these two factors that drive both the way that Greeks in the present era think about immigration politics and the legal institutions that continue to oppress immigrants into the country.

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