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The humanisation of refugees: A discourse analysis of UK parliamentary debates on the European refugee ‘crisis’

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    Rights statement: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Kirkwood, S 2017, 'The humanisation of refugees: A discourse analysis of UK parliamentary debates on the European refugee ‘crisis’', Journal of community & applied social psychology, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 115-125, which has been published in final form at : https://doi.org/10.1002/casp.2298. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-125
JournalJournal of community & applied social psychology
Issue number2
Early online date10 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2017


Previous research has explored the 'othering' and dehumanisation of asylum seekers and refugees, yet comparatively little research has explored the opposite process: the humanisation of refugees. This article applies discursive psychological analysis to the transcripts of five UK Parliamentary debates on the European refugee ‘crisis’ from September 2015 to January 2016, examining an explicit form of humanisation: categorising refugees as ‘human beings’. The analysis focuses on the nature and function of such categorisations to explore the social functions of the discourse. It illustrates how politicians draw on the human qualities of both refugees and ‘us’ to make the government and nation morally accountable for protecting refugees. Moreover it shows how the humanisation or dehumanisation of others implicates or denies the self as morally responsible. This highlights how research on dehumanisation – and the opposite process of humanisation – needs to attend to the rhetorical, relational and dialogical aspects of discourse.

    Research areas

  • asylum seekers, refugees, discourse analysis, dehumanisation

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