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Graffiti slogans and the construction of collective identity: evidence from the anti-austerity protests in Greece

Dimitris Serafis, E. Dimitris Kitis and Argiris Archakis
From the journal Text & Talk

Abstract

This article examines the way that collective identity was discursively constructed during the anti-austerity protests of 28 and 29 June 2011 on the environs of the Greek Parliament. Drawing on the framework of critical discourse analysis, we study the interrelation between macro-level (dominant) values and views, and micro-level individual positions as expressed in graffiti slogans that appeared during the protests. The graffiti data comes from a personal archive which consists of 40 slogans, collected during June 2011. We conduct a systemic-functional analysis to scrutinize the transitivity structures of graffiti slogans, employing the notion of anti-language as central to the micro-level. We then draw on the notion of collective identity to frame the graffiti at the macro-level. Among our main findings is that the writers of graffiti slogans construct their collective identity on a two-fold oppositional axis: the first consists of the dominant institutions or “others,” which are negatively represented, while the second consists of a positively represented and inclusive in-group or “we.” The focus on graffiti has two manifest and interrelated goals: (a) to scrutinize the protesters’ semiotics in order to piece together their identity, thus avoiding subsequent hegemonic interpretations of the participants’ identity; and (b) to preserve the elaborate counter-reality constructed by these ephemeral messages against the official and “mainstream” discourses and their reality.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Eliza Kitis, Tommaso Milani, Seraphim Seferiades, Villy Tsakona, Rania Karachaliou and Eirini Maniou for their valuable suggestions in previous versions of this article as well as the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.

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Published Online: 2018-10-30
Published in Print: 2018-11-27

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