Convenors: Anna Triandafyllidou (EUI), Michał Krzyżanowski (Örebro University), and Ruth Wodak (Lancaster University/EUI)
In the beginning of 2016, much has been said about yet another European crisis caused by the sudden massive asylum seeker flow. There have been divergent interpretations mobilising concepts of solidarity towards people fleeing war, or ideas of control and urgency to manage the European borders more tightly. There have been also comments about a presumed ‘Eastern’ vs ‘Western’ way of dealing with refugees where Central Eastern European countries are seen to fail to stand up to their asylum obligations while Central Western and Northern ones, do. Various interpretations have been put forward discussing income levels, democracy, past migration and asylum experiences, current politics, among others, and lines have been drawn again between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ Europe. This workshop questionned such schematic readings of the situation and delved into a systematic empirical analysis of the mediatisation and politicisation of this crisis. This workshop brought together leading scholars working on migration-related discourses and practices in European politics and the media with the aim of critically analysing how the current refugee “crisis” has been interpreted in media with a view of guiding political action. We focused in particular on the processes of politicisation and mediatisation of the “crisis”. Analysing discursive practices in first arrival countries such as Turkey and Greece, countries further along the Balkan route (Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia) and further into Central Eastern Europe (Austria, Germany, Poland) and final destinations such as Sweden and the UK, we aimed at highlighting the discursive patterns of representing, interpreting, and instrumentalising this recent phenomenon in the European public sphere. We also looked into how these discursive practices are intertwined with past discourses on migration, asylum, nation and alterity – thus connecting this current crisis public and political discourse dynamics with those more generally about migration and asylum (panics) in Europe. While the issues of politicisation and mediatisation have traditionally been approached separately in political as well as media & communication research, contributions to the symposium aimed to show that recent developments related to the wars in the Middle East and Africa and the subsequent fleeing of hundreds of thousands of people have triggered a significant discursive change/shift: Different political and social actors, whether mainstream or to the radical right or indeed radical left, have used manifold modes of top-down mediatisation (through traditional media) and bottom-up (self) mediation (in social/online media) to generate subtle and also explicit (mediated) interpretation of what is happening, what is at stake and what should we do. Tackling the discursive politics/media interface in an in-depth, empirical and systematic way, papers presented at the workshop targeted the specific and context-dependent interplay between political and /media discourses. They explored how former East vs West or South vs North divisions in Europe are re-surfacing and how such discourses reflected national traditions (of national self-conceptions and conceptions of the Other) or a common European discourse of solidarity or indeed of migration/asylum control.