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Positions of opposition:Using the subject of immigration as a tool for identity construction for self and other

By Jussi Altonen


The public debate in Finland around the subject of immigration ever since the start of the “immigrant crisis” in 2015 has often been polarized in nature, seemingly unable to create any increase in mutual understanding between those who are more opposed and those who are for it. According to some our whole society has been divided in relation to this issue, leading to many refusing to take part in the discussion at all. The hypothesis of this study is that part of the reason for the failure of the debate is a result of modernity and it ́s individualizing effects as outlined by Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. This thesis is an attempt to analyze the debate about immigration in order to find instances of identity construction. The material consists of two separate TV-shows produced by the public broadcasting company YLE, titled “A2: Insecurity-night” and “A2: Immigration night”. The analysis is done by utilizing the analytical tools provided by positioning theory, an analytical tool not yet used in this context. It ́s strength lies in its provision of discursive tools that allow for the analysis of dialogue in which identities for self and other are created within social situations. In addition positioning theory offers a particular tool, ‘the positioning triad’, which allows for the analysis of the effects that individual moral systems have on discursive conflict. It ́s main implication being that the difference in morality systems explains many of those conflicts. The analysis shows that identities are often evoked for self and other in the televised discussion around immigration. Those more opposed to immigration often created “surrogate identities” of women, children and elders as a means to argue against its development, while those who saw the provision of asylum for immigrants as a positive development, evoked highly moral or amoral characterizations for self and other as a means to argue for it. In accordance with earlier research of discursive conflicts, the difference in understanding of morality seems to explain the difficult nature of the debate about immigration

Topics: identity, positioning theory, immigration, discourse, Viestintä, Media and Communication Studies, Medier och kommunikation, identity, positioning theory, immigration, discourse
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Year: 2017
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