PhD student Alyssa Maraj Grahame (political science) has received a 2014-2015 Fulbright Scholarship to continue her dissertation research in Iceland. Grahame, who has spent the spring semester in Iceland through the National Science Foundation-funded Culture and Heritage in European Societies and Spaces (CHESS) Program, will use the Fulbright funding to investigate Iceland’s Pots and Pans Revolution in light of the ongoing European economic crises.
“The collapse of Iceland’s main banks destabilized the livelihoods of many citizens and posed a serious threat to the Icelandic welfare state,” she says. “The crash also exposed the unsustainability of the policies and practices that had facilitated Iceland’s rapid economic ascent in the late 20th century.”
How the government chose to handle the crisis resulted in citizen protests – many of which featured citizens banging pots and pans in the streets, thereby giving the Revolution its name – and a call for government resignations. What is unique about this reaction, according to Grahame, is that Icelanders chose to channel their frustrations through the same institution that they were protesting: the government.
“Despite widespread distrust in the government in the wake of the banking collapse, Icelanders formed new political parties, forced early elections, and attempted broad constitutional reform,” says Grahame. “By using representative institutions to address the perceived failings of those very institutions, participants in the Pots and Pans Revolution pursued strategies and avenues of political action that differ markedly from other uprisings that followed just a few years later in Spain, Greece, the United States and elsewhere.”
Grahame will interview Icelandic activists, protesters, and government officials to better understand why Icelanders reacted to their economic crisis in such vastly different ways than their counterparts in other countries.