Being Greek: using photographs as a means of exploring cultural identity

Skiftou, Vicky. 2009. Being Greek: using photographs as a means of exploring cultural identity. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis addresses the relations between social memory, family photographs and the contemporary construction of Greekness. The empirical focus of the thesis is how Greek participants remember and experience particular social and cultural practices such as national commemorations, ritual ceremonies and lifecycle events through the photographs contained in their family albums. I use the approach that photographs can stand as a means of exploring the merging of the personal and the familial with the public, in order to describe the ways in which people create and construct their sense of Greekness. My research further explores the ways in which memory works in relation to the prompts elicited by a photographic image, and illustrates how memory contributes to a cultural identity that is grounded in the habits, details and performances that emerge in mundane social interaction. Furthermore, I investigate how such experiences are reproduced at the very moment that my informants remember and recreate their sense of Greekness. The argument I develop suggests that the notion of experience does not necessarily have an 'anchor'; rather, it is reproduced through spontaneous, momentary flashes that appear in participants' embodied memories.

The concept of 'cultural nationalism' is developed in my research in terms of a historical message that can emerge from the traditions, rituals, folksongs and cultural practices. Symbols, myths, geographies and histories act as inseparable pieces of what Greek participants themselves termed the cultural dimensions of their national identity. The way people perform, celebrate and use such dimensions - and generally their culture – forms and helps to create and sustain the nation itself. I chose to investigate how this kind of national iconography - especially that which forms a part of national commemorations, ritual ceremonies and lifecycle events - forms a sense of belonging and Greekness, produced not only through the normative cultural conventions that construct part of the nation, but also through a complex mixture of cultural ingredients that involve the experiential, the mundane and the everyday. This is what I call the 'mythistorical' narration of cultural identity: where myths, symbols and signs of social and cultural practices come to embody particular styles of national belonging in Greek participants' memories.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Greece, photography, cultural identity, national identity, Greekness

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



December 2009

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

09 Jul 2020 14:57

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 15:46


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