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Differentiating National Identities: Cultures of Immigration in Europe's Peripheries

posted on 2012-04-19, 00:00 authored by Harry Karahalios

Migration has become a complex phenomenon in the Mediterranean region and poses a challenge to the way we conceptualize the relationship between the West and East, North and South, Christianity and Islam. Since Spain and Greece are located on the geographical edges of Europe, they have become the default territorial gatekeepers of the European Union responsible for policing the south and southeastern periphery of Europe against migrant populations seeking entry. As a result, the new role of Spain and Greece as Europe's bulwarks against illegal migration has produced a series of internal cultural crises in both countries centered around the anxiety of Muslim infiltration and its impact on the European cultural make-up.

Spain and Greece are unique case studies for the study of migration into Europe because not only do they have rich and complex multi-cultural pasts, but also because they are countries that exported immigrants for a greater part of the twentieth century. Furthermore, both countries overemphasize their affiliation with Europe, and downplay their cultural connections with non-Western nations like Morocco and Turkey.

Because of this, my dissertation argues that Spanish and Greek novels and films that deal with immigration reveal less about the lives of immigrants and more about the national anxiety that immigrant presence causes. Spain and Greece, in constructing their national identity as Christian nations, have had to exorcise their multi-religious and multi-ethnic pasts, particularly with regard to Islam. However, this very exorcism is beginning to unravel thanks to the new European realities of international labor movements, migration flows, and border permeability. Ultimately, these texts complicate the position of each country in relation to Europe and, as a result, reveal how their cultural and political coordinates position them in a state of differential periphery, which explicitly affects the way that national identity is imagined.

It is the ultimate goal of my dissertation to reconsider the peripheral status of both countries and their (always) provisional relationship to Europe – for Spain, the relationship between Latin America, North Africa and Europe, and for Greece, the triangular relationship between Europe, the Ottoman World and the Balkans.


Date Modified


Defense Date


Research Director(s)

Joseph A. Buttigieg

Committee Members

Vassilis Lambropoulos Jim Collins


  • Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Level

  • Doctoral Dissertation


  • English

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University of Notre Dame

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  • Literature

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