Contesting Greekness: Soviet Greek migrants and the Pontic identity
Abstract: This presentation will explore the reasons why and the processes through which the Greeks from the former Soviet Union altered their self-identification after immigration to their perceived national home. Responding to their labelling by the native-born Greeks and the doubts expressed by many of them about their Greekness, most Soviet Greeks choose to introduce themselves as ‘Pontic’. That was despite the fact that the area of Pontos was not a marker of identification for them in the Soviet Union. Building on the literature on everyday nationalism and the literature on ethnicity and categorization, the paper shows how migrant groups shape their identity by negating certain externally imposed ethnic labels and selectively adopting and redefining others in an attempt to strive for national recognition. Identities may be reconstructed in this process, yet there are limits in this. Ethnic labels are not empty vessels to which one can freely attribute any content at all. At a given point in time they carry particular meanings and legacies. It is those embedded meanings that make them appealing or foreign to different migrant categories but also define the discursive and performative limitations in their ability to claim them and gain national acceptance.
Manolis Pratsinakis is the Onassis Foundation Research Fellow at the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford. He was previously a Marie Curie postdoctoral fellow at the University of Macedonia (2015-2017), a visiting fellow at the University of Sussex (2016) and a lecturer at the University of Amsterdam (2013-2015). His academic interests broadly concern the study of migration and nationalism. He has done research and published on immigrant-native relations, ethnic boundaries and categorization, everyday nationhood, brain drain, and intra-EU mobility in the post 2008 period. Manolis has studied Geography and Sociology (with honors) and completed his PhD in 2013 in Anthropology. His MA studies were supported by a Huygens scholarship from Nuffic and his PhD research by a postgraduate IKY scholarship.