Bursting out of place : island life on Samothraki after the deluge

  • Eleni Kotsira

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis is the result of the first ethnographic research in Social Anthropology taking place on Samothraki, the northernmost island of Greece. Remote by location, Samothraki is populated by less than 3,000 residents in a surface area of 180km² and a remarkable – for its circumference – altitude of 1,611m.

The thesis is preoccupied with a catastrophic rainfall that flooded extensive parts of the island overnight on 26 September 2017 and follows the recovery process until 31 December 2018, when my fieldwork was concluded. The extremity as well as the unprecedentedness of this natural disaster, made the recovery from it an emotional, environmental and administrative challenge, while it also exposed pre-existing perceptions of the islanders about their surrounding environment and their interaction with it. Through a comparative analysis of qualitative and quantitative data I collected, I relate these perceptions to the magnitude of the disaster and, furthermore, to the actions that were taken in its aftermath for both reconstruction and prevention of future such incidents. Yet, raising consensus among the islanders and paving the way forward, was subjected to the limitations of state administration and the inefficiencies of disaster management in Greece, as this can be also evidenced by natural disasters that hit other parts of the country during that period and which are brought into the discussion. Simultaneously, plans for the expansion of the tourist sector and further capitalisation on the island’s natural resources, pose as an imminent threat to a landscape that is already suffering from environmental degradation.

The deluge on Samothraki, then, becomes a case study about how island communities in Greece and, more broadly, in Europe can cope with extreme weather phenomena, occurring with increased frequency in the era of climate crisis, and how the subsequent states of emergency can be a potential advantage to restoring environmental balance.
Date of Award28 Jun 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorNigel Julian Rapport (Supervisor) & Daniel Martyn Knight (Supervisor)


  • Natural disasters
  • Anthropology of disasters
  • Environmental anthropology
  • Climate change
  • Literary anthropology
  • Island studies
  • Autoethnography

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 16th February 2026

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