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“Strangers in Europe”: A Discourse-Historical Approach to the Legitimation of Immigration Control 2015/16

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Publication date2017
Host publicationAdvancing Multimodal and Critical Discourse Studies: Interdisciplinary Research Inspired by Theo Van Leeuwen’s Social Semiotics
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9781315521008
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In 1999, Theo van Leeuwen and I co-authored a paper on ‘Legitimising immigration control’ in the first issue of the then new journal Discourse Studies. Not only has this paper been very well received and widely cited, the topic has remained just as relevant or become even more relevant. Indeed, since the summer of 2015, when thousands of refugees tried to enter the European Union countries because of the terrible wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and so forth, the topics of immigration and flight have gained more salience: governments, the EU institutions, NGOs, and the media are debating how to cope with the so-called ‘refugee problem’, ‘refugee crisis’, or ‘immigration problem’. Ever-new ways of legitimising measures to keep ‘strangers’ out of Europe (and elsewhere) dominate these debates. Slogans such as ‘Fortress Europe’ and “we have to protect our borders” have become hegemonic. Although first launched by right-wing populist parties and politicians (Carr, 2015, 5ff.), this rhetoric has influenced both centre-right and centre-left wing parties, and a much more general border-and-body politics has emerged in current political debates (Wodak, 2015, 2016).