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Discursive actor attribution analysis of the Eurozone crisis debate

Societal developments like the Eurozone crisis require interpretation: What is the cause of the crisis and who is to blame or to praise? Who should be in charge of reacting and what should be done? Not only individuals try to find their own answers to these questions. Politicians, protest groups, economic actors, and many others use their media presence to spread their respective crisis interpretation in the public sphere.

The research project The Greeks, the Germans, and the Crisis (GGCRISI) focuses on the media reporting in two countries prominently involved in the Eurozone crisis: Greece and Germany. The core question of the project is: Who is made responsible by whom on what issues and on what grounds in the debate on the Eurozone crisis?

We assume that public attribution of responsibility is not a matter of personal taste or idiosyncratic beliefs. Rather actors are motivated to present themselves positively in the public and propose actions to their favor. Also they are embedded in their culture and follow their respective general values. Accordingly, we want to explain the attribution patterns by the structural position of the actors, their cultural embeddedness and their values.

In particular, we are interested in the mutual references between the two countries, Greece and Germany. How do actors in one country relate to actors in the other country and how does this change over time? Both countries are closely linked by the crisis development, though with very different roles and perspectives. The interpretation of the respective other country, its actions and duties are of major importance for the handling of the crisis and the relation between the two countries and its peoples.

Core Questions

  • Which interpretations of the Eurozone crisis are presented in the media?
  • What are the patterns of attributing responsibility in the media reporting?
  • How can we understand the patterns of responsibility attribution?
  • How do actors in both countries attribute responsibility to each other?

How will these questions be investigated?

The project follows three steps:

  • The discursive actor attribution analysis is developed as a content analysis tool to analyze systematically the attributions of responsibility actors make in the public. Employing this innovative tool, the reporting on the Eurozone crisis in selected Greek and German newspapers, as well as the press agency Reuters, will be studied.
  • Core actors of the debate as found in step one get more detailed attention with a thorough analysis of conceptual papers on the Eurozone crisis published by these actors.
  • Interviews with journalists from the respective newspapers and the core actors allow us a more detailed understanding of background assumptions and possible strategies for public presentation.

To whom will this research be of interest?

  • decision makers involved in handling the crisis
  • decision makers involved in intercultural understanding in Europe, in particular with respect to the Greek-German relations
  • actors from civil society
  • Journalists
  • the scientific community

GGCRISIS: The Project

The research project The Greeks, the Germans, and the Crisis (GGCRISI) is jointly carried out by a German team at the Freie Universität Berlin, led by Prof. Dr. Jochen Roose, and a Greek team at the University of Crete, led by Prof. Maria Kousis PhD. Several project workshops and joint presentations of results guarantee a close cooperation. For the analysis we use the deep knowledge and understanding of each country.

The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) and the General Secretariat for Research and Technology (GSRT) of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports of Greece. The design and conducting of the project is at the sole responsibility of the project partners.