The discursive mobilization of stereotypes in conversations about intercultural encounters in Greece

31 May 2024
Room C1

The discursive mobilization of stereotypes in conversations about intercultural encounters in Greece

This study explores the discursive construction of ethnic, cultural, and national stereotypes by diasporic Greek return migrants in conversations about their experiences moving to Greece as adults. Drawing on discursive approaches to identity construction in narrative practice (De Fina, 2021), we examine how returnees linguistically mobilize stereotypes of nonmigrant Greeks, Americans, Britons, and other immigrant groups in Greece (e.g., Albanians) to position themselves as certain types of migrants and certain types of Greeks. Examining a corpus of 15 interviews we conducted primarily in English with ethnic Greeks from the US, Canada, England, and Australia, we analyze a variety of pragmatic strategies, including deictic markers, accent stylization, and constructed dialogue, through which participants position themselves in relation to specific ethnolinguistic groups and broader immigrant tropes, like the “peasant” and “cosmopolitan” (Creese & Blackledge, 2020). We find that participants’ deployment of stereotypes serves to construct three distinct migrant identities, which we characterize as (a) cosmopolitan, (b) relational transmigrant, and (c) assimilated returnee. We describe how each of these identities is constituted by the ways that participants differentiate themselves from various stereotypes. We also demonstrate that these stereotypes are grounded in distinct spacetime frames, or chronotopes (Bakhtin, 1981), that work to construct not only individual social identities of self and other, but also the complex social worlds they inhabit. This study contributes to our understanding of the pragmatics of intercultural communication by examining how stereotypes emerge in conversations about migration, and how they are leveraged to do social identity work. The analysis builds on Bucholtz & Hall’s (2005) theorization of relationality to incorporate chronotopic analysis, and it provides linguistic grounding to sociological work on return migration (e.g., King & Christou, 2011). By uncovering the social work that stereotypes do in concrete interaction, this work has also implications for improving intercultural awareness in ethnolinguistically diverse communities.



Bakhtin, M. M. (1981). The dialogic imagination. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Bucholtz, M., & Hall, K. (2005). Identity and interaction: A sociocultural linguistic approach. Discourse Studies, 7(4-5), 585-614.

Creese, A., & Blackledge, A. (2020). Stereotypes and chronotopes: The peasant and the cosmopolitan in narratives about migration. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 24, 419-440.

De Fina, A. (2021). Doing narrative analysis from a narratives-as-practices perspective. Narrative Inquiry, 31(1), 49-71.

King, R., & Christou, A. (2011). On counter-diaspora and reverse transnationalism: Return mobilities to and from the ancestral homeland. Mobilities, 6(4), 451-466.