‘Europeanity’, the ‘other’ and the discourse of fear: the centrality of the forced migrant as 'global alien' to an emerging European national identity

PhD Thesis

Cetti, Fran 2012. ‘Europeanity’, the ‘other’ and the discourse of fear: the centrality of the forced migrant as 'global alien' to an emerging European national identity. PhD Thesis University of East London School of Law and Social Sciences
AuthorsCetti, Fran
TypePhD Thesis

The forced migrant, driven into the global circuits of ‘survival migration’, and subject to
an increasingly securitised European asylum and immigration system, is fashioned at
the Europe Union’s distended and de-territorialised external borders as a figure of fear.
This thesis seeks to demonstrate how this operation goes far beyond the quotidian social
production of marginal and excluded figures: it argues that the forced migrant has
become a key ideological resource in the attempt to de-historicise, universalise and
naturalise the neoliberal system of global capitalism. Based on secondary literature, but
using primary sources where necessary to validate its arguments, the thesis investigates
the way Europe’s core nation-states attempt to displace their contradictions and
conflicts – inherent in their nature as centres of and conduits for global capitalism –
through the manipulation of deeply embedded nationalist narratives of
inclusion/exclusion. The national border is key to the discursive definition of the forced
migrant as a threatening ‘global illegal’. The thesis argues, however, that the concept of
the European border has expanded from its everyday construct into a normative global
instrument that not only assigns identity, but is summoned into being by the supposed
inherent qualities of the individual who attempts to cross it, wherever they may be. The
creation of racial stereotypes has become one of the foremost tools of this form of
identity management: the research reveals that the racialisation of the figure of the
‘absolute alien’ plays a fundamental role in the construction of an overarching sense of
‘European-ness’. The war on terror, by summoning up the racialised figure of the
‘global jihadi’, which is discursively linked to the image of the forced migrant as a
threatening global ‘illegal alien’, has enabled the creation of a European asylumsecurity
nexus. The way the figure of the forced migrant has been fashioned into the
natural subject of a politics of (in)security has become an essential component in the
construction of a hyper-national ‘European identity’. The thesis concludes that the
forced migrant, fashioned out of national materials as the ultimate ‘global alien’, is the
ideological pivot for the normalisation of a global system of exploitation as manifest in
its national form, and gains an even more exaggerated importance when economic and
political crisis presents an overwhelming need to promote the idea of ‘European-ness’.

KeywordsEurope; migrants
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.15123/PUB.1784
Publication dates
Publication process dates
Deposited20 Feb 2013
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