discrimination

(Late) CfP: Public opinion and (media) representations of “the other”, for 12th Annual IMISCOE Conference (25-27/06/15 Geneva, Switzerland); DL: 14/01/15

Part of the 12th Annual IMISCOE Conference Rights, Democracy and Migration (25-27 June 2015, Geneva, Switzerland), the workshop titled Public opinion and (media) representations of “the other” is organized by Anders Hellström (MIM, Malmö University); anders.hellstrom[at]mah.se and Ov Cristian Norocel (CEREN, University of Helsinki); cristian.norocel[at]helsinki.fi. We are very glad to announce that Gregg Bucken-Knapp will act as discussant again.

There are terrorist attacks against e.g. cartoonists in Paris, mass demonstrations against Islam in several German cities and almost a re-election in Sweden due to the behavior of the anti-immigration party, the Sweden Democrats (SD), something which was abandoned in the last minute. “The other” is in our face. And the population is divided.

While ethnic and demographic diversification are welcomed by some, there is a growing concern about the effects of immigration on the economy and on welfare, beside a preoccupation that relates to what is seen as the cultural impact of migration on national identity. These positions often translate into a demand for political response and action targeting asylum-seeker and refugees and in general the number of migrants entering the country.

Within this context, popular xenophobic sentiments show different and more dangerous faces. In this workshop we will further develop on the crucial dynamic of representations of “the other” in relation to the natives – in the media, the public sphere and/or the field of party politics – and public attitudes of “the other” in a similar set of spheres.

Different kind of outbursts against people of non-native background (or members of minority groups) are part of the everyday experiences of many minorities in Europe today, e.g. Jews, Muslims and Roma; these groups are subject to various forms of discrimination, exclusionary practices, deprivation and unfair treatment as a result. It is by appealing to anti-immigrant attitudes and to general concerns about immigration among the population that anti-immigration parties across Europe endeavor to mobilize those voters who are more ‘receptive’ to these issues.

But increasingly harsh immigration restrictions, regulations and exclusionary practices are not only advocated by extreme and populist radical right wing parties. Outside the party political sphere, there are a multitude of movements in civil society who mobilize (and counter mobilize) on these issues. On a top down level, European governments and elites have tried to limit both the access to the nation-states and to the welfare benefits by introducing or strengthening hierarchies of stratifications between groups deemed to be entitled/deserving in opposition to those not-entitled and undeserving.

The ongoing economic recession and the steadily growing levels of unemployment have triggered social mobilization of anti-immigration movements, as well as anti-austerity and Euroskeptical activities despite the governments’ attempt to control the situation.

The panel welcomes papers that deal with the consequences of ever-changing socio-economic circumstances and recent dramatic events in Europe in e.g. terms of changing patterns of party-political preferences and/or people´s attitudes towards immigration and the welfare state. We encourage comparative analyses of commonalities and differences between reactions and mobilizations in particular regions, but also in a wider European perspective. We welcome papers that deal with for instance representations of “the other” in terms of voting behavior, with analyses of anti-immigration policies and public discourses and representations and also large-N studies in terms of e.g. popular attitudes towards immigration and the welfare state.

Please, send your abstract (approximately 250 words) to the organizers at anders.hellstrom[at]mah.se and cristian.norocel[at]helsinki.fi by January 14 2015. The participants will get to know if their papers have been accepted soon after the IMISCOE board has made their decision.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 Research No Comments

Reality Check in Romania: A True (Orthodox) Romanian Man Explains Why ‘an Arab’ Cannot Be the Catalyst of the Disenchanted People Marching Against State Abuse.

A bit over a year ago, the people took to the streets in several countries across the ‘Arab world’ in what was later on called the ‘Arab Spring’. The Western medias have rushed to praise the people’s ‘democratic aspirations’ and their courage to speak against a brutified state apparatus. In contrast to that, in the UK the 2010 protests against the massive increase of the tuition fees and the 2011 anti-austerity protests were not met with the same sympathy. Demands for transparent and accountable democratic processes that have people at the center – instead of profit – were dismissed as ‘rioting’, ‘extremist’, ‘thuggish’ and ‘outright criminal’. In a similar vein, unfortunately, the massive protests witnessed these days in Romania, not only in the capital Bucharest but across the whole country, are derided in a similar manner. Reports mainly discuss the ‘football hooligans’, ‘mindless rioting’, ‘extremism’ or even ‘street warfare’ (in Romanian, aici).

A week ago, an apparently inconspicuous law triggering the profound reform of the healthcare system was uncovered to be a naked demonstration of political will on behalf of the acting center-right conservative government. Instead of being yet another law coming into force through the back door of a confidence vote in the Romanian Parliament, it was publicly condemned in a TV debate by Raed Arafat, the then Undersecretary of State for Health. Arafat, a Syrian Arab that has become a Romanian citizen, has distinguished himself by successfully founding the only professional emergency rescue service in Romania (SMURD/ Serviciul Mobil de Urgenţǎ, Reanimare şi Descarcerare), thereby embodying professionalism and moral standing in a healthcare system that is mostly regarded as book-example of corruption and oftentimes considered an expressway to the grave. Arafat’s opposition to the coming law was vehemently criticized and quickly dismissed by an angered President Băsescu, who called and demanded to intervene in the live TV debate. President Băsescu labeled Arafat’s criticism to the privatization of the healthcare system as mere ‘leftist views’ and decreed the necessity of opening the system to ‘the market forces’ (in Romanian, aici). The consequence of such a forceful televised intervention on behalf of President Băsescu was that Arafat presented his resignation shortly afterwards.

His resignation was met with popular indignation and triggered a series of demonstrations across the whole of Romania, from Târgu Mureș/ Marosvásárhely where Arafat founded SMURD and Cluj-Napoca/ Kolozsvár in Transylvania, to Constanța on the Romanian seaside and the capital Bucharest. The protests were initiated on January 12th 2012 in Târgu Mureș/Marosvásárhely as a non-violent demonstration in support of Arafat, and transformed in full fledged popular protests across the country in the coming days, continuing throughout the week and eventually gained the support of 5 trade union organizations. The riot police and the gendarmerie have been called to intervene in Bucharest and elsewhere under the pretext of ‘maintaining order’ and combating ‘the extremism’ of ‘paid football hooligans’ (in Romanian ‘ultras‘) and other such ‘elements’ (in English, here; here; and here; in Romanian, aici and aici).

Perhaps it is worthwhile to take a step back, and have a closer look at what does such a label of ‘extremism’ conceal. ‘Extremism’ is not represented by the tens of thousands of peaceful protesters that have had enough of a corrupt and idle political system that does not offer so much of a political alternative, but an alternation of the same unreformed political forces. Arguably, it is rather to be found impeccably dressed and allegedly representing Romania in the European Parliament.

Indeed, commenting on the ongoing demonstrations, George (Gigi) Becali, Romanian MEP on behalf of the radical right populist Greater Romania Party (PRM/ Partidul România Mare) and football club owner, defended President Băsescu. MEP Becali expressed his ‘disgust’ that thousand of Romanians have taken the streets in support of ‘an Arab’ against President Băsescu. MEP Becali added, in the same vein, that Romanians are not allowed to take the ‘Arab’s side’ on this matter and that the TV images with the demonstrators were ‘sickening’. He then concluded that ‘Arafat should go back to his country, among his Arabs! How can I take the side of an Arab against the President of my country?’ (in Romanian, aici).

In this context, the question that comes to the fore is why someone who has become a Romanian citizen is dismissed as a simple Other and recommended to return to his (or her) ‘home country’? What does it take for an Other to be accepted as a full-fledged Romanian citizen? Even more so, why ‘the Arab’ Arafat is refused the ability to coalesce popular dissatisfaction against a corrupt political system? The irony of history perhaps, but Arafat simply represents a continuation of the line of Others that triggered the coagulation of the people’s discontent in Romania.  Here it suffices to mention another key figure in Romanian recent history:  Pastor László Tőkés – a Romanian of Hungarian ethnicity and a Reformed Pastor. Pastor Tőkés played a major role in the initiation in Timișoara/ Temesvár of the December 1989 manifestations that led to the overthrown of Ceausescu dictatorship. In the manly confrontation that Romanian politics have turned into in the post-revolutionary period, why is Arafat deemed less than a man that President Băsescu? Since when the protection of a corrupt political system and taking the side of a Romanian President that has oftentimes stepped over the powers of his mandate is a clear marker of devotion for the country? MEP Becali defied the Romanian National Council for Fighting Discrimination (CNCD/ Consiliul Naţional pentru Combaterea Discriminării) and argued more recently that no possible fine would deter him from taking the side of ‘Romanians’ (in Romanian, aici). The immediate question that comes to mind is why is then President Băsescu more Romanian than the tens of thousands of Romanians (be them ethnic Romanian, Hungarian, Rroma, or even Arab) that have peacefully demonstrated against a state apparatus and a political elite that appears to have become just as brutish as the ones that ruled so ruthlessly in the ‘Arab world’?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012 Research No Comments