Accounts as acts of identity: Justifying business closures on COVID-19 public signs in Athens and London

Spyridoula Bella and Eva Ogiermann
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens | King’s College London


This paper investigates accounts justifying the closures of businesses found on public signs in Athens and London during the COVID-19 pandemic. The data for the study was drawn from a corpus of COVID-19-related public signage collected in the two cities during the first lockdown. The accounts used on these signs are analysed as acts of identity and, specifically, as discursive means deployed by the authors of the signs to project themselves and their businesses favourably. It is shown that the accounts used at the micro-level of discourse align to various degrees with the dominant discourses surrounding the pandemic at the macro-level and with the values these discourses draw upon. It is also shown that the accounts are used to reframe the public’s understanding of the closures and to construct identities congruent with the interests of the business owners, ensuring post-pandemic continuity.

Publication history
Table of contents

On the 11th of March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a global pandemic. As the virus spread across the world, the countries concerned implemented measures to contain it, including the closures of non-essential businesses. The present study investigates the reactions of the business owners to the closures during this first lockdown by examining the messages appearing on the doors of closed businesses in Athens and London.

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