Unmasking deviance: the visual construction of asylum seekers and refugees

BANKS, James (2012). Unmasking deviance: the visual construction of asylum seekers and refugees. Critical Criminology : International Journal, 20 (3), 293-310.

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Link to published version:: 10.1007/s10612-011-9144-x

Abstract

This paper explores the visual representation of asylum seekers and refugees delineating how English newspaper imagery constructs such groups as deviant and dangerous. A qualitative visual analysis of nine of the major national newspapers demonstrates how mediated images of asylum seekers focus upon three distinct ‘visual scenarios’ in the discovery of deviance, which collectively demonstrate how the social portrayal of the criminal immigrant fuses the otherness of the stranger with the otherness of the deviant. First, the faceless and de-identified stranger enables the construction of a panoply of feared subjects. Second, stigma is implicitly illustrated, deviance obliquely intimated and ‘spoiled identities’ constructed. Third, the mask is removed, the asylum seeker is identified and their deviant status confirmed. Such a process is reinvented, repeated and reworked in news stories, with deviance becoming increasingly engrained and entrenched in the image of the asylum seeker. This paper details how the repetition of specific visual scenarios in newspaper reporting contribute to the construction of ‘noisy’ panics about asylum seekers and asylum seeking. Moreover, it argues that such imagery is key to the construction of asylum as an issue of security, which necessitates a policy approach that is exclusionary in nature.

Item Type: Article
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Law and Criminology Research Group
Identification Number: 10.1007/s10612-011-9144-x
Depositing User: James Banks
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2013 15:40
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2015 20:43
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/6900

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