Dissertation Abstracts

Migrant Representation, Discourses, and Determination. The Case of the UK at the Height of the European ‘Refugee Crisis’

Author: Helidah RA Ogude-Chambert, ogudh539@newschool.edu
Department: The Graduate Center, CUNY
University: The New School, United States
Supervisor: Miriam Ticktin
Year of completion: 2022
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: race , affect , masculinity , migration
Areas of Research: Migration , Language and Society , Racism, Nationalism and Ethnic Relations


The European ‘refugee crisis’ has been the site upon which recent mainstream news discourse and policy towards asylum-seekers wishing to enter Europe via ‘illegalized’ means has been articulated and scrutinized. Most of these asylum-seekers are from Africa and the Middle East. The ‘refugee crisis,’ therefore, serves as a critical flashpoint; a betraying historical juncture through which we can understand vexed questions about race, racism, and the pernicious colonial vestiges that ‘Europe’ has vehemently refused to grapple with. This now manifests in Europe’s border regime and the countless known and unknown Black and Brown bodies at sea. This research focuses on the woefully under-researched complex and mutually constitutive relationship between media, public attitudes, and immigration policymaking. It explores this relationship during the height (2013-2016) of what is considered a regime-orchestrated racial crisis. This work analyzes discursive and affective representations of migrant subjects in three of the most widely read U.K. print news publications and immigration policies of the U.K. government, showing that they mutually generated a distinct politics of affect. It visualizes ‘affective-racialized networks’ using a newly developed methodology built on corpus-assisted discourse studies. These formations – which constitute nested webs of words repeatedly used by news media to describe migrant subjects – are ubiquitous and reveal manufactured affective, racialized, and gendered knowledge. In trying to generate public consent to legitimize immigration policies, the thesis contends that the state and media depicted Black African, Middle Eastern/Muslim, and Eastern European male migrants as objects of panic, disgust, anger, resentment, fear, and contempt. These affective-racialized networks functioned like economies. They circulated and accumulated spatially and temporally. As such, this thesis advances that the networks contributed to the justification of policy actions by the U.K. government that led to the industrialization of death: the militarization of maritime space, which resulted in the countless unnoticed deaths of predominantly men from the Global South. The applied methodology opens up new research avenues for migration, media semiotics, gender, critical race, visuality, and affects scholars that wish to better understand how racialized and affective knowledge is forged, fostered, and enacted by political elites.