Greek landscapes through the spectrum of crisis. An ethnographic approach to perceptions and meanings of insular landscape in times of recession
The Greek crisis in 2010 was a rupture spread across all aspects of the country’s social milieu causing a discontinuity in its evolutionary course. This abrupt shift of society was transmitted to its produced space, namely landscape, through the changes in institutional structures, livelihood and both individual and collective cognition. My thesis’ aim is to examine the interplay between landscape perception and spatial practice within the emerged reality of crisis. I focused on the crisis impact upon two interconverted phenomena, the way people perceive and experience their landscapes and the way they act upon them. The main interest was the process they (perception and practice) inform each other by reciprocal reactions, producing and reproducing the landscape. The spotlight was on landscapes that are both rural and tourist, on the premise that Greece, without an industrial economy, has been promoting agriculture and tourism as the crisis exodus plan, —both significant factors of landscape change. My research centred on the island of Naxos, where agriculture and tourism have an equal share in local life and economy, defining the island’s landscape; also, tourism is not overdeveloped like in adjacent islands. In my thesis, landscape is construed as Lefebvre’s spatial triad (1991) of perceived, conceived and lived: (society’s) spatial practice, (experts’) representations of space and (users’) representational spaces. On this basis, I aimed to explore the Naxiótes’ perceptions of their landscapes, their assigned meanings and their translation into landscape practice and impact, within the social context of crisis. My theoretical apparatus was Moscovici’s theory of social representations (1963) assisted by Vaisey’s dual process model of culture in action (2009). I employed ethnographic methods: a six-month stay on site as a marginal native in 2013, gathering data via participation, observation, in-depth interviews (unstructured, go-along, casual individual and group conversations) and local media. In addition, I spent two weeks on the island in 2017, for a follow-up, to add a temporal aspect to my research. My field experiences were also a vital part of my research, hence I incorporated them in my thesis. Data analysis unveiled three groups of social representations that feed into landscape perceptions and meanings: attachment, production and relations. Attachment included topophília, connection to the land and local identity; production consisted of self-sufficiency, entrepreneurship and short-termism; kinship, collectivity and conflict were under relations. Common among all groups was the crisis representation in 2013: the island’s immunity to it as no effect had endured. This narrative was reversed in 2017 among the farming and tourism stakeholders, but not the administrative ones. The umbilical cord to their tópos, as home, roots and identity, was broken by escapism. Self-sufficiency as a recipe for entrepreneurship and success was mutated into a survival path. So did short-termism, by converting from a representation of otherness to an open life strategy. Relation dynamics exhibited tension too, predominantly the representation of conflict. In contrast, kinship and collectivity remained as significant as in 2013. A distinct outcome that emerged from my analysis above was the discrepancies between people’s verbal accounts and habitual practices, which I discussed through Vaisey’s heuristic. The social representations that I identified as informative to the meaning the Naxiótes assign to their landscape, were forced into a transformative process by the crisis. People’s discursive consciousness (justification) had adapted to the new reality, however, their practical consciousness (motivation) was yet to attune. Their landscape perception has been changing, but not their landscape practice; yet.
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