How a photograph of a drowned refugee child turned a migrant crisis into a refugee crisis: A comparative discourse analysis

Samuel Parker, Anja Aaheim Naper, Simon Goodman


The ‘refugee crisis’ refers to the on-going movement of people crossing into Europe, in which over 3,692 migrants and refugees died in 2015. A key point in this ‘crisis’ was the publishing of photographs of one of the young children who died. Despite the death toll, representations and the resulting treatment of refugees in Europe remained ambivalent. This paper compares the representation of the ‘crisis’ across three countries (The UK, Norway and Australia) before and after the publishing of the photographs from one major broadcaster in each country using discourse analysis. It is shown that the photographs led to a more sympathetic portrayal of refugees resulting in the ‘crisis’ shifting from a ‘migrant’ to a ‘refugee crisis’. This analysis demonstrates the importance of the ways in which refugees are presented as well as the benefits of a comparative and interdisciplinary approach to discourse analysis.

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Copyright (c) 2018 Samuel Parker, Anja Aaheim Naper, Simon Goodman

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ISSN 2398-0532

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