This article explores the politics of belonging in Iceland in the context of an ethico-political project focused around increased transparency following the country’s 2008 banking collapse. By employing literature on autochthony (i.e., a return to, and interpretation of, “the local”), it examines the tensions that are reignited within and between nation-states during economic crisis. Through ethnography with ordinary Icelanders and the members of two protest movements, this research shows how Icelanders are cultivating a public voice to navigate the political constraints of crisis and reshaping Icelanders’ international identity from below in the wake of the collapse. To this end, the article accounts for the role of populist politics in re-embedding Iceland into the European social imaginary as an economically responsible and egalitarian nation. It then turns to highlight the push for meaningful democratic reform through collaborative, legislative exchange between the government and the people that resulted in a new—if not actually implemented—constitution. By exploring protest culture in Iceland, the article highlights the importance of public witnessing and empathic solidarity in building intercultural relations in an era of globalized finance and politics.
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