From Villains to Victims and Back. the Oscillating Image of Migrants' Risks in Germany and Italy

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Maria Grazia GALANTINO, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Risk is a constitutive part of migration, both at individual level, in terms of biographical risks, and at collective level, in terms of risks for families, groups and societies. Due to the growing concern of European (and Western) societies over incoming migration flows, however, the framing of migration discourses has focused mainly on risk posed by migrants rather than on risks taken by migrants.

Using the sociological approach on risk and uncertainty, the author discusses the relation between migration and risk by examining the framing of migration in the major newspapers in Italy (2011-16) and Germany (2015-16). The analysis revealed a narrative centred on our societies as the main object at risk, particularly in the sphere of public security, thus confirming a tendency to securitising migration in the media discourse. However, evidence of continuous frame changes due to events unfolding at international level are also visible.

Ultimately, migrants’ image in the media seem to oscillate between two poles: from people generating risk to people at risk, from “villains” to “victims” and back to villains again. If the lifeless body of the three-year old Alan on the Turkish beach became the emblem of migrants’ tragedy, terrorist attacks in Europe impressed an opposite turn in political and media discourse, amplifying once again the potential threat posed by migrants. Today, as populistic leaders all over Europe engage in protection of internal borders from foreign invasion, through checkpoints, barbed wires, defensive walls, the we-centric discourse over migration risk appears still as the dominant one and, we argue, it is probably here to stay.