#10 Migration Discourse, Extreme Speech and the Other

Parallel sessions on Saturday 26.11. at 9.00-10.15
Location: Room 7, Metsätalo

Szilvia Horváth (Eötvös Loránd University, Institute of Political Science, Budapest) – The Other as enemy and interlocutor: Interpreting the condition of stasis and politics

The starting point for this theoretical reflection is the experience of the over-politicization – or polarization – of society, alongside the authoritarian turn when positions not belonging to the camp of power are suppressed. This condition helps us to understand the ambivalent nature of the Other: What happens when the Other is not just a friendly interlocutor, but an enemy who wants to destroy one’s position - and vice versa, what happens when the Other is not just an enemy, but someone who is morally and politically equivalent, who can have a voice and be right. These are two different conditions: the first is a civil-war-like condition, or stasis (a divided society), and the second is a post-stasis condition, where people seek reconciliation with the other and reconstitute the divided city.

The paper addresses the ambivalent nature of the Other; the Other necessary for democracy: the other as interlocutor; and the other who threatens our existence, politically, socially, or even physically. Perhaps the most important theoretical starting point is that the ambivalence of the Other is only possible in stasis; that is, in a state in which the non-wanted other and the wanted other also can appear. Civil war-like conditions are those in which different points of view collide at a site of politics, thus defining the polis. In this idea-exploring presentation, my main concern is political ontological, and the ambivalence problem is placed into the context of how the political and the polis can be defined. What does ontological otherness look like in agonism? And what does politics – and the polis – look like when the other acts like an enemy threatening our existence, but we are closely connected to it?

Jorge Disseldorp (Ghent University) – The Political Power of Right-Wing Narratives on Migration: A Case Study on Migration Discourse in the Remain-Leaning Press during Brexit

As right-wing populist movements have increased their political power over much of the European continent in the recent decades, migration has increasingly become a focal point in political and media discourses on a national and international level. Discourse-based studies on migration have traditionally given prominence to the analysis of more explicit forms of right-wing anti-migration discourses, while comparatively little attention has been given to potential left-wing counter narratives.

To explore whether such narratives exists and how they are constructed, this contribution takes the case study of the 2016 UK-held EU referendum, in which migration played a defining role. Our focus is on the construction of migration as a news topic in four left-leaning progressive and liberal news outlets. To furthermore acknowledge the increased importance of online news consumption, new media, and social media, our corpus consists of 570 Facebook news posts together with the news articles they link to as published between 20 February and 19 July 2016 by BuzzFeed UK, Huffington Post UK, Guardian, and Independent. The principal research questions are: (i) how are migrants discursively constructed in the migration-related posts and articles of these news outlet, and (ii) which topics are used to frame their migration output? To answer this, the presentation combines i) a frequency analysis to identify through who the incredibly heterogenous group of migrants is represented, and (ii) a Manual Content Analysis to establish the topics through which migration is constructed. The initial finding is that discrimination and xenophobia are the most dominant topic through which migration is discussed. The four news outlets present a discourse of indignation which predominantly functions on condemning claims from pro-Leave actors rather than constructing a counter narrative on its own terms.

Matti Pohjonen (University of Helsinki) – Sideshadows of violence: a comparative approach to global platform power

How social media platforms should tackle hateful or misleading content is one of the most contentious issues of the contemporary world. Such debates on so-called platform accountability have usually been driven by high-profile events in the EU and the USA such as the firebrand Twitter rants of President Donald Trump. Other countries across the world, however, also share similar concerns about the dangers of unbridled digital communication. Outside the Western context, social media platforms, and especially Facebook, have also been  routinely criticised for their complicity from various social ills from ethnic violence to religious riots and even genocide. Social media now increasingly functions both as a space of power where contentious content is produced and disseminated globally but, as importantly, the question of platform accountability has also become a source of political contention itself, raising fundamental questions about freedom of speech and the role of governments in controlling online activity through measures such as internet shutdowns.

This paper builds on the theory of extreme speech to highlight an understudied perspective to this question of platform power: how are such narratives and perspectives to  digital platform accountability discussed and contested in the countries outside the West that have been often sideshadowed from the debates? Through a comparative analysis of high-profile controversies related to platform accountability in the Global South – the 2018 anti-muslim riots in Sri Lanka (see Taub and Fisher 2018) and the mass violence following the 2019 assasination of Hachalu Hundessa in Ethiopia  (see Gilbert 2020) – the paper traces the many entanglements through which popular global narratives of platform power intersected, and sometimes clashed, with longer-term local discourses, idiosyncratic media environments and political projects and conflicts in these two countries.


Gilbert, D. (2020). "Hate Speech on Facebook Is Pushing Ethiopia Dangerously Close to a Genocide."

Vice News, 14 September, 2020. https://www.vice.com/en/article/xg897a/hate-speech-on-facebook-is-pushing-ethio…

Taub, A. and Fisher, M. (2020). "Where Countries Are Tinderboxes and Facebook Is a Match." The New York Times, April 21, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/21/world/asia/facebook-sri-lanka-riots.html