Greek welfare futuresRemaking sociopolitical worlds in Thessaloniki

This project explores struggles over the Greek sociopolitical future. Following a decade of crisis, the conservative, right-wing government promises a more efficient Greek state. Some citizens find comfort in these promises. Others oppose the government for its use of violence and xenophobia. How do struggles over the role of the state, citizens’ responsibilities, and who is included in Greek society play out in the field of social provision?

After a decade of crisis, austerity, and state withdrawal, the conservative, right-wing New Democracy party came to power in 2019, promising a stronger, more efficient Greek state. The prominence of the conservative Right in Greece is coupled with the rise of ethnonationalism. Mainstream media singles out refugees and migrants as threats to “Greekness”, while the government is engaged in anti-migrant rhetoric and tough border control policies. Some citizens find comfort in the government’s promises, rhetoric and policies, because they want a state that works. Others oppose the government for its generalized use of violence and xenophobia. So, they challenge the government through political mobilization and protesting. 

In this project, I explore struggles over the Greek sociopolitical future by focusing on social provision in Thessaloniki, where these struggles play out. Since the previous decade, NGOs and citizens have assumed a central role in social provision, alongside municipal authorities, organizing initiatives that offer social services and basic goods.  However different these actors’ visions and approaches to social provision, they are all faced with a central contradiction between scarce resources and increasing demands for help.  In navigating this contradiction, how do they negotiate and reconfigure the role of the state, citizens’ responsibilities, whose needs are addressed and how? 

To address these questions, I follow municipal, NGO and citizen-led welfare initiatives, following around the employees and volunteers that administer them. To trace how these actors “do” social provision in practice, I explore how they understand and embody their roles as well as how they service and relate to their clients. I also investigate how they encounter, work with and challenge each other in Thessaloniki’s field of social provision, as they struggle to bring their visions of welfare to life. Ultimately, I hope to trace the broader welfare arrangements and sociopolitical orders emerging in Thessaloniki.