Guðmundur Jónsson

Guðmundur Jónsson, Professor of History at the University of Iceland

Narrating crisis: Icelanders’ experiences of the economic crisis of 2008-2009 and their perceptions of its impact on family, politics and society
The collapse of the financial system of Iceland 2008 and the subsequent economic crisis is a major turning point in modern Icelandic history. The aim of the research project is to examine two facets of the crisis: on the one hand how people have perceived the social and economic impact of the crisis on their everyday lives, on the other hand how the crisis is constructed as a political issue by different groups in society, reflecting on their perceptions about the nature of the preceding period of economic prosperity, the economic crisis and its impact on their ideological and political outlook. The extensive use of interviews will give a rare insight into the daily lives of Icelanders and how they have coped with rapid changes in their economic, political and social environment.

A major goal of the research project is to shed light on the degree to which the depression has impacted the daily economic decisions of families, and the ways in which people understand these decisions. What kinds of survival strategies and coping mechanisms have people adopted in the face of severe economic dislocation? Job losses, rising costs of living and soaring debt payments have all put household budgets under severe strain, requiring changes, often quite dramatic, in daily routines. Many people have been forced to fall back upon support networks, welfare and charities. To what degree have such decisions been construed as moral failure, and to what degree have they forced people to re-evaluate their understanding of these structures and economic security? In addition, it will be explored whether people have re-evaluated past consumption choices, and how these have been connected to questions of moral collapse as the cause of the crisis.

Project Partners: Icelandic Centre for Oral History.

Research Field and Areas:  Economic growth and development in the 19th and 20th centuries; Iceland and the international economy, history of the welfare state, consumption and consumer society
Keywords:  economic crisis, “Icelandic economic miracle”, survival strategies, responsibility, citizenship, democracy, economic justice, oral history.

Presentations and publications