Sussex anthropologist’s project is helping to fight racism in Athens

A rise in racist attacks in Athens since the start of the Greek economic crisis has prompted a University of Sussex anthropologist and his colleagues to use crowdsourcing to help antiracist activity.

Dr Dimitris Dalakoglou's project involves the creation of an interactive map to show racist attacks in AthensDr Dimitris Dalakoglou's project involves the creation of an interactive map to show racist attacks in Athens.

Dr Dimitris Dalakoglou of Sussex Anthropology and the multimedia designer and researcher Jaya Klara Brekke have launched an online digital map showing areas of the city where racist attacks have happened. The information is updated by individual users, migrant communities and antiracist and antifascist organisations

The map is part of a wider research project, ‘The City at a Time of Crisis’, which focuses on transformations of public spaces in Athens during Greece’s economic troubles.

Dr Dalakoglou says: “One of the most shocking phenomena of the Greek crisis is the rise of neo-Nazism. Four years ago, racist attacks would be much rarer. It is since 2009-10 and particularly around the elections of 2012 that we have seen an increase in such attacks.”

The designer of the map, Jaya Klara Brekke, said: “A visual map can be an extremely useful way to see the extent of the attacks and violence that is happening and to be able to grasp it at a glance. It is a very different way of understanding information than reading a report for example. Each story is of course more than a dot on a map, so being able to see more details and add more information as a user is very important.”

Acting as a link between the research team and the migrant communities as well as the local antiracist and antifascist activists, the map is also intended to disseminate the information about attacks nationally and internationally. It will remain active after the end of the research project for the purposes of antiracist activities in the city. It was recently publicised and used by UNHCR, the Guardian and by several Greek media.

Dr Dalakoglou says: “Victims experience very little protection and are often discouraged by the police to submit a report. Even going to hospital may be impossible for some of them.”

He adds: “The rise in unofficial racist attacks came at the very same time with the police operation Xenios Zeus, which targets migrants without documents. In just under 12 months, more than 70,000 migrants have been detained simply because of their colour, without breaking any law, as part of this operation.

“This changes the entire experience of the city for a substantial part of its population. There are now people who are afraid to walk on the streets because they may be detained or beaten up due to the colour of their skin.”

The City at a Time of Crisis is funded by an ESRC Future Research Leaders grant awarded in 2012. The project also involves maintaining the webpage crisis-scape.net, which hosts weekly updates from the streets of the Greek capital. The project is carried out by Jaya Klara Brekke, Antonis Vradis, Christos Filippidis, Ross Domoney and Dimitris Dalakoglou.

As part of the project's research a mini-documentary, ‘Impossible Biographies’, was produced by researcher Christos Filippidis and film-maker Ross Domoney looking at the daily life of migrants in Athens. Earlier, other clips such as 'Landscapes of Emergency' or ‘Metronome’ which is produced by crisis-scape.net researcher Antonis Vradis and Ross Domoney were released in crisis-scape.net.