Dissertation Abstracts

Constructing 'refugeeness': Exploring mediated discourses of hospitality, welcome and refugee (self)representations in New Zealand

Author: Natalie Slade, n.slade@massey.ac.nz
Department: Institute of Development Studies
University: Massey University, New Zealand
Supervisor: Dr Maria Borovnik and A/Prof Juliana Mansvelt
Year of completion: 2017
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: media representation , refugees , humanitarianism , hospitality
Areas of Research: Migration , Visual Sociology , Human Rights and Global Justice


My thesis seeks to understand the relationship between refugee representation and discourses of hospitality in the New Zealand media, and the construction of refugee identity. To date, there has been much research on media representations of refugees in other parts of the world. However, little is known about how refugees are portrayed in the New Zealand mainstream news media, and how people from refugee backgrounds choose to identify within and outside these discourses. The mainstream media plays an important role in shaping public perceptions and understanding of refugees and refugee issues. Over the last few decades, media representations of refugees have sat within complex discursive constructions of security and hospitality, with refugees predominantly framed as either helpless victims or objects of fear. These mediated discourses have created a generic or stereotypical notion of ‘refugeeness’ – what a ‘real’ refugee should look like. Therefore, the way refugees are portrayed in the media is an important issue, and one which can seriously affect how refugees are received and welcomed in host countries. However, meaning is not infinitely fixed and people will use their agency to contest and transform dominant discourses. Located within a post-development paradigm and an actor-oriented approach, this thesis aims to critically analyse the discursive construction of refugees in the media, and to explore the various ways in which people from refugee backgrounds experience, negotiate and transform these discourses, creating space for the construction of their own identities in the process.

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