Drowning the Greek economy: Injurious speech and sovereign debt

Faye Donnelly, William Vlcek
Finance and Society, 2017, 3(1): 51-71


Drawing on Judith Butler’s concept of injurious speech, this article conceptualises the ‘Grexit’ crisis as a series of performances. More specifically, we investigate how the Greek government framed the bailout plans tabled by the Troika as a form of torture. By adopting phrases such as ‘fiscal water-boarding’, ‘asphyxiation’, and ‘suicide’, the Syriza government sought to narrate the harm inflicted on Greece by its creditors. Paying attention to this language is important as it casts new light on how Greek sovereign debt has been framed, negotiated, and contested. In many ways, the overarching objective of this article is to tell a different story that takes discursive transitivity and restaging into account. By shifting the emphasis onto injurious speech, the article also brings the unintended effects of this language into focus. Despite the recurrent accusations made by Syriza as it attempted to resolve the Greek sovereign debt crisis, this article questions whether their bargaining strategy ‘misfired’. On closer consideration, we find that the injurious speech acts performed by the Syriza government compromised their ability to negotiate a third bailout deal in 2015. The observations remind us that words can wound in ambivalent ways.

Research articles