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Type: Thesis
Title: The politics of representation : the discursive analysis of refugee advocacy in the Australian parliament
Author: Every, Danielle Simone
Issue Date: 2006
School/Discipline: School of Psychology
Abstract: In recent years an extensive body of discursive research has accumulated on race, immigration and asylum seeker debates in western liberal democracies. This work has primarily focussed on oppressive discourses that are employed to exclude and marginalise minority groups. Comparatively, however, there has been significantly less research on anti-racist and pro-asylum seeker accounts in these debates, despite the potential of such work to provide a greater understanding of contemporary race and immigration discourse, and to contribute to the development of anti-racism and refugee advocacy. The present thesis adds to the further analysis of exclusionary discourse and asylum seeking, and examines this in the as yet unexplored context of the Australian parliament, but its primary focus is on refugee advocates' accounts. Using critical discursive social psychology ( Wetherell, 1998 ), this thesis examines Hansard transcripts of speeches made in the Australian parliament on the new restrictions against asylum seekers introduced in 2001. Analysis focuses on the interpretative repertoires that proscribe and deny responsibility for asylum seekers, and those that are used to construct ' the nation ' and ' racism '. These repertoires are explored with a view to tracing their intellectual history, the subject positions for asylum seekers and Australia/ns they make possible, and the rhetorical tools and strategies used in building them. It was found that those supporting the new legislation positioned asylum seekers as having made a personal choice to come to Australia, and presented the legislation as : a rational, practical response to the emotionally-driven, unreasonable demands of humanitarianism ; as the necessary defence of sovereign rights, the national space and Australian citizens from the incursions of asylum seekers ; and as non-racist. These discourses reproduced the liberal valorisation of reasonableness and rationality, the liberal concepts of sovereign and citizens' rights and individualism, and utilised new racist strategies to present their position as ' not racist '. On the other side of the debate, advocates criticised the legislation as a violation of : the duty of care owed to those who have been persecuted ; human rights and the liberal principle to assist those in need ; and of Australia's national values. Advocates also worked up some aspects of the new laws and the debate on this issue as racist. These repertoires drew upon the liberal discourses of internationalism, human rights, humanitarianism, multiculturalism, equality and egalitarianism. Although these advocacy discourses have considerable cultural currency, they were constrained and marginalised by the hegemonic representations of asylum seekers as ' bogus ' and ' illegal ', of humanitarianism ( as refugee advocates understand it ) as dangerous, and of the new legislation as an assertion of threatened sovereign rights. In addition, some of these discourses, such as multiculturalism and a construction of racism as ' generated by politicians ', functioned to minimise and deny racism. On the basis of this analysis, I conclude that the study of anti-racist and pro-refugee discourse contributes to a broader understanding of the language of contemporary debates about race, ethnicity and immigration as a dynamic, argumentative dialogue, and to critical evaluations of the discourses used in these contexts. However, I also argue that discourse analysis may not offer the requisite tools for developing, as well as critiquing, anti-racist and refugee advocacy discourses. I also suggest that there may be sites of resistance other than political discourse where change to refugee policies may be better effected.
Advisor: Augoustinos, Martha
Le Couteur, Amanda Jane
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.)--School of Psychology, 2006.
Keywords: discourse analysis, refugees, racism in language, racism, race relations, communication in politics
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