Muted masses, strong-willed survivors or just like us? A quantitative and qualitative study of refugee representation by contemporary Dutch ‘radical and progressive’ media platforms
Weduwen, N.H. der
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The purpose of this research is to discover new developments in representation of refugees in Dutch media, in the context of the ongoing ‘refugee crisis’. This aim was derived from previous MA ICC research detecting a shift from large faceless masses to individual victims in the Dutch media narration (Huisman, 2016, Looije, 2017 and Schüller, 2017). This study bases itself on studies of (media) representation, discourse and ideologies (Stuart Hall, 1997, Fürsich 2010, Van Dijk, 1991) and framing (Entmann, 2007). It also considers Chouliaraki’s study (2012) that theorizes about a reflective discourse, which argues for dialogue with refugees that are represented as non-victimized individuals with their own agency. This reflective discourse is interpreted as predecessor to Foucault’s counter-discourse, which sees marginalized groups creating their own discourse (Moussa & Scapp, 1996). Considering this theoretical framework, the sub- and research questions are oriented towards finding traces of reflective and counter-discourse within Dutch media discourse. A corpus is selected of three radical/progressive media platforms (OneWorld, De Correspondent, and De Groene Amsterdammer) with a total 51 articles that were published in the period 2018-2019. According to Atton (2002), these media are most likely to employ less biased ways of reporting and include refugees in shaping their stories. A quantitative study that counted the number of words given to refugees, determines that refugees are increasingly allowed to tell their own stories as a source. A qualitative study based on the discourse-historical approach (Reisigl & Wodak, 2017, Wodak, 2015, 2001) reveals three categories of refugees that are constructed and qualified through discursive strategies: the refugee as victim; as integrated young professionals and families; and as activists, writers and journalists. The category of victim being the most frequently used is in line with previous research (Greussing and Boomgaarden, 2017, Looije, 2017, Van Dijk, 1991, and Daalmans et al., 2019), but the detection of the other two is a new development. Still, this thesis concludes that while a reflective discourse is somewhat present on the radical/ progressive platforms as refugees, a counter-discourse is not, as journalists are still using refugee sources to push their own stories and arguments. They are not speaking for themselves. This study is limited due to the DHA being applied in an adapted form, which suggests that a different form of analysis might have been more suitable. Recommendations for future research include comparing the results with a corpus consisting of traditional Dutch media in a few years for now, to see if the new categories are part of a larger trend. Visual analysis of photos and illustrations of the used articles is also recommended.