Visualising Securitisation and De-Securitisation of Migration in the Mediterranean: A Critical Iconologyof Migrant Images in the Media and on the Social Networks

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Daniela Lenčéš Chalániová, School of International Relations and Diplomacy, Anglo-American University, Prague


    Over the past few weeks, media have been filled with images of people of colour clinging for their dear lives to flotsam in the rough seas of the Mediterranean, of migrant traffickers’ boats overflowing with bodies, both in the context of a disaster that cost over 700 lives when one such boat capsized at the end of April, and in the context of a heated EU debate about (migrant) redistribution quotas across the member countries. What we are witnessing these days is an increased securitization of migration, with the latest catastrophe pushing the problem into the realm of “the exceptional” requiring introduction of new measures such as the quotas, boat sinking, perhaps even a military operation on Libyan soil. In my contribution, I want to trace the recent visual discourse surrounding (im)migration across the mainstream online media and across selected social networks to show, on the one hand, the continued social construction of a migrant as the Other/Threat/Plague, as Francesca Falk brilliantly shows in her book chapter explaining that the European stock photo agencies by depicting the European rescuers in hazmat suits and masks create a social reality in which the “territorial borders are superimposed on the boundaries of the body; migration appears at the same time as an assault upon the integrity of one’s own and Europe’s body” (Falk 2010: 183). On the other hand, I want to show also the counterdiscourse that delegitimizes the politics of “the exceptional” – ahumorous and politically incorrect discourse of the social media;for example by turning the logic of an image of migrants as a “swarm” (see Image 2) on its head by putting high-level EU representative themselves on a boat. Venturing into the realm of the visual is crucial for the mediatized world of the present day, as “in an increasingly media-saturated environment, ignoring visual imagery provides less and less satisfactory work” (Dauber 2001: 209 in Williams 2003: 526). In the referenced article Michael Williams argued that “any theory that is premised on the social impact of communicative action must assess the impact that different mediums of communication have on the [speech-] acts, their impacts, and their influence on the processes of securitization” (2003: 526).

    Williams, Michael C. (2003): ‘Words, Images, Enemies: Securitization and International Politics’, International Studies Quarterly 47(4): 511-531

    Falk, Francesca (2010): ‘Europe – A View from the Margins. Boat People and the Memory of Images’ in Drechsel, Benjamin and Claus Leggewie (eds.)United in Visual Diversity. Images and Counter-Images of Europe. Innsbruck: StudienVerlag: 180 – 185