Section: Seminar Series

History in the service of politics: Constructing narratives of history during the European refugee 'crisis' - Steve Kirkwood (University of Edinburgh)

Centre for Law and Society
Date and Time
25th Jan 2018 16:15 25th Jan 2018 18:00
Neil MacCormick Room (9.01), DHT



Politicians often claim that their countries have a 'proud' history of protecting refugees. However, historical accounts question the accuracy of these claims. Why then are such claims so prevalent in political discourse and what are their functions? This talk draws on the distinction between history and heritage, social representations of history and discursive psychology to analyse the functions of accounts of history during five United Kingdom parliamentary debates on the European refugee 'crisis'. The analysis demonstrates that politicians draw on notions of continuity, reciprocity, resonance and responsibility in developing accounts of history that mobilise social identities to support particular political projects in response to the refugee 'crisis'. Politicians appear to draw on the weight of history to legitimise political responses, including support for refugees, and yet these narratives obscure and distort past and ongoing prejudice, discrimination and poor treatment regarding refugees. The findings illustrate how notions of shame and pride are used to justify political responses to refugees based on common identities located within specific narratives of history and associated with particular moral evaluations. The discursive analysis of the functions of political talk demonstrates how accounts of history are best understood as action orientated. Moreover, it illustrates some of the psychological dimensions of national 'heritage', highlighting the consequences for understandings of history, and how these may impact, both positively and negatively, on the experiences of refugees.



This event is free and open to all, no registration required.

Accessibility menu