DSA2016: Politics in Development
This panel explores the diverse representations of the current movement of refugees into Europe. Through an examination of the politics of representations the panel explores the extent to which representations have the potential to create spaces of resistance and forge new forms of solidarity.
This panel explores the diverse public and popular representations of the current movement of refugees into Europe, the impact of these depictions and the potential for them to forge new kinds of global alliances and solidarity. Many dominant and mainstream depictions of refugees have reproduced negative discourses of migrants that have justified particular responses from European nations including the closure of borders and the creation of zones of exclusion as well as giving rise to xenophobic politics. Stereotypes have been created and embedded through familiar symbols, metaphors and narratives of illegality, aliens, waves, floods, invasions and swamping while geographic tropes and global imaginaries have together contributed to project a sense of crisis and instil fear amongst those who move and those in the places of arrival. Furthermore, they often conceal the historical and structural context of this current movement and the extent to which it is a response to wider global inequalities. Other representations have, however, demonstrated an outpouring of compassion among people all over Europe, with countless acts of kindness and voluntary engagement supporting refugees as they arrive in Europe following their traumatic and often dangerous journeys. Through an examination of the impact, power and politics of representations and a critique of whose narratives are privileged in the telling of the refugee story the panel explores the extent to which representations have the potential to create spaces of resistance and forge new forms of solidarity.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Public representations of refugees and the power of a warm welcome
This paper explores the media coverage of the current ‘crisis’ and how it shapes understandings of refugees through reinforcing negative stereotypes or challenging them to forge new kinds of global solidarity as evidenced through the politics and power of a warm welcome.
News bulletins, television documentaries, newspaper articles, radio programmes and forms of social media are debating the 'refugee crisis'. They depict the experiences of refugees, document their journeys and arrivals, inform us about the causes of migration, and examine the potential impact on the people and places they encounter. How does this unprecedented media coverage shape our understandings of refugees? How can we interpret and challenge the ideas and meanings that generate powerful, and often negative, connotations around terms such as 'migrant' and 'refugee'? This presentation begins by briefly examining the historical forms and the power of such representations before exploring how current images and texts of refugees reinforce global inequalities or alternatively, might forge new kinds of global alliances. I focus on how certain images can change our dispositions towards refugees, enabling us to recognise the power of a warm, face-to-face welcome in an overwhelmingly digital age. We are positioned at a critical moment, one replete with potential to shape future inter-generational and cross-cultural understanding. In this context, I conclude by foregrounding the politics and power of welcome, arguing that it can profoundly impact on a refugee's perception of place and people, forging longer lasting affiliations and promising the development of a future sense of belonging.
'The Infiltrator' versus 'the Refugee': exploring new forms of solidarity and their limitations within the Israeli asylum regime and beyond
Based on fieldwork in Tel Aviv and media reports in Germany, this paper interrogates whether new forms of sustained solidarity have emerged in reaction to the contemporary refugee crisis or whether we predominately experience a deepening of the white-saviour complex.
A number of years before the contemporary 'refugee crisis' in Europe, a country on the continent's imagined fringes, Israel, perceived by many then refugees as 'the Europe we can walk to', experienced an unprecedented movement of non-Jewish refugees from Eritrea and Sudan. In fact, in terms of media and public representations, and political responses, the whole scale of the contemporary European response, from Budapest to Berlin, could be observed in sharp focus in the reaction of different sections of Israeli society, from hostile rejection to warm welcome.
This paper interrogates both dynamics based on fieldwork in Tel Aviv and subsequent analysis of media representations in Germany. It argues that while indeed new forms of solidarity have emerged, the majority of responses across the whole spectrum has been shaped by similar perceptions of the 'stranger' as a projection of either people's hate and fear, or an urge to 'do good' that in essence represents a version of the white-saviour-complex. The latter easily turns to the former once the 'deserving stranger' acts in ways that contradict certain normative settings. New forms of sustained solidarity have emerged mainly in spaces where professional expertise guided engagement with refugees and migrants, or where people literally welcomed refugees into their homes and lives, and it is here that new conceptions of citizenship that transcend a global order that enforces divisions between 'them' and 'us' has come to the fore. These dynamics raise some important questions about volunteering and its impact on public perceptions and welcoming cultures.
Refugee video games: a persuasive procedural rhetoric?
This paper empirically and theoretically analyses the representational practices in ‘serious games’ that focus on the experiences, challenges and politics of refugees. These video games combine negative, positive and post-humanitarian representational practices.
This paper empirically and theoretically analyses the representational practices in 'serious games' that focus on the experiences, challenges and politics of refugees. 'Serious games' are designed to reach a mass-market audience and engage end-users to develop new knowledge and skills, raise awareness and encourage activism. Refugee related 'serious games' have been designed by a diversity of organisations such as the United Nations and MTV, and they have recently been launched by organisations such as BBC News, The Guardian newspaper, grassroots activist groups such as Border to Border, and private companies such as Blindflug following the European refugee crisis. Despite an increasing number of refugee related 'serious games', their representational practices remain under-researched. Significantly, the representations of refugees are not only found within the imagery and oratory of 'serious games', but also within the process of how the game is played. As such their representations of refugees and their experiences have visual and verbal rhetoric, as well as procedural rhetoric, because the 'gamer' is invited to enter, navigate and manipulate a virtual world, which can make their representations particularly persuasive. The paper argues that current refugee focused 'serious games' combine negative, positive and post-humanitarian representational practices. It also looks forward and argues that the 'possibility spaces' of video games allow 'gamers' to explore and question the rules that underpin development politics and society, which suggests they have the potential to address some of the criticisms directed at other popular culture mediums when representing refugees.
Media framing of Syrian refugee crisis in British national newspapers in 2015
This paper explores British national newspaper coverage of Syrian refugee crisis (2015). Our analysis of 100 articles from broadsheets and tabloids uses content and frame analysis to show changes in framing. They are explained within a wider system of overlapping discourses (stereotypes, xenophobia)
This paper explores British national newspaper coverage of Syrian refugee crisis in 2015. Our (ongoing) analysis of 100 articles from three tabloids and three broadsheets using content and frame analysis showed changes in framing. For instance, the term 'refugee' has been used more frequently than 'migrant' and 'asylum-seeker' indicating a shift in rhetoric and a general sense of 'crisis' has been instilled (a growing number of storied dealing with an open-door refugee policy overtaking stories of personal hardship, economic argument and military action). Contrary to previous research we found tabloid newspaper coverage to be more positive (e.g. calling for compassion especially after the three-year-old Syrian boy was found dead next to the beach). However, these changes should be seen and clarified in a wider context where the representations of refugees circulate within a system of overlapping discourses involving (negative) refugee stereotypes, politics of exclusion and grassroots xenophobia.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.