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Type: Journal article
Title: Complaining about humanitarian refugees: The role of sympathy talk in the design of complaints on talkback radio
Author: Hanson-Easey, S.
Augoustinos, M.
Citation: Discourse and Communiction, 2011; 5(3):247-271
Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd
Issue Date: 2011
ISSN: 1750-4813
Statement of
Scott Hanson-Easey and Martha Augoustinos
Abstract: Complaining about humanitarian refugees is rarely an unequivocal activity for society members. Their talk appears dilemmatic: ‘sympathy talk’, comprising rhetorical displays of ‘care’, tolerance and aesthetic evaluations, is woven together with more pejorative messages. In this article we investigate how ‘sympathy talk’ functions as a discursive resource in talk-in-interaction when people give accounts of minority group individuals. A ‘synthetic’ discursive psychological approach was employed to analyse a corpus of 12 talkback radio calls to an evening ‘shock jock’ radio personality in Adelaide, Australia, after the stabbing death of a Sudanese-Australian refugee. Analysis shows how host and callers dialogically negotiate and orientate to various sympathetic and humanitarian descriptions/evaluations. We contend that sympathetic talk advances the activity of conversation, softening complaints that could be made accountable as prejudiced. Sympathy talk also functions as a counter-argument to perceived punitive or ‘racist’ complaints. Moreover, this article proposes that such rhetoric shares an ideological thread that potentially undermines Sudanese refugees’ social positioning. Dialogue that deploys sympathetic formulations may be an element in the increasingly varied and subtle activity of ‘new racism’. We discuss how sympathetic accounts contain, within their semantic structure, their own antithesis for their deployment in anti-racist practice; for the development of counter discourses fundamental to the disruption of pervasive ideological representations and the construction of alternative refugee identities.
Keywords: Africa; anti-racism; critical discursive social psychology; humanitarianism; ideology; new racism; rhetoric; Sudanese refugees; sympathy; talkback radio; talk-in-interaction
Rights: © The Author(s) 2011
RMID: 0020113489
DOI: 10.1177/1750481311405588
Appears in Collections:Psychology publications

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