Deconstructing ‘Refugeeness’: A Critical Analysis of Mediated Discourses and Refugee (self)Representation in New Zealand

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Natalie SLADE, Massey University, New Zealand
A certain reality about who a refugee is has been produced and reproduced through political, humanitarian and media discourses, creating a stereotypical or universal sense of ‘refugeeness’ – an idea of what a genuine refugee should look like. In a Foucauldian sense, these discourses are deeply embedded within powerful relations of knowledge production and language, in which particular world-views and ‘truths’ are constructed. These discourses do not merely reflect reality but construct a reality, a form of knowledge and power that ignores the multiple experiences of those being represented. However, meaning is not infinitely fixed and dominant discourses can be deconstructed and challenged by individual actors, resulting in multiple contested realities. Refugees may be labelled and shaped by discursive practices, but they are also capable of restructuring those practices, using their power and agency to dispute and transform stereotypes. Drawing on media analysis and interviews with people from refugee backgrounds in New Zealand, this presentation reflects on the dominant discursive constructions of refugees in the New Zealand mainstream news media, and the various ways people from refugee backgrounds experience, contest, negotiate and transform these discourses, creating space for the construction of their own identities in the process.