Relations between asylum seekers/refugees’ belonging & identity formations and perceptions of the importance of UK press
Khan, Amadu Wurie
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This thesis investigates asylum seekers/refugees’ orientations to belonging and identity. It is based on in-depth semi-structured interviews conducted among asylum seekers/refugees residing in Scotland between 2006 and 2008 and on a media monitoring of a number of UK newspapers. The interviews were analysed for interviewees’ orientations to feelings of belonging and identity with the UK, Scotland and homelands. They were also analysed for interviewees’ perceptions (beliefs and understandings) of newspapers’ reporting of asylum and importance to their sense of national belonging and national identity forming. The monitoring provided the context of newspapers’ reporting of asylum at the time of interviews. It enabled a small-scale examination of media content with reference to interviewees’ perceptions. The thesis explores two assumptions. Firstly, asylum seekers/refugees’ national belonging and national identity formations are complex and contingent upon their everyday ‘lived’ experiences. Secondly, asylum seekers/refugees’ belonging and identity formations, as social processes of citizenship, cannot be understood in isolation from the high visibility of the asylum issue in UK media. As an empirical study, therefore, its findings are deployed to critique policymaking, theoretical and media accounts of non-British citizens’ forms of belonging to, and identification with the British ‘nation’. It is suggested that, in addition to policymaking, there are other social circumstances that would facilitate ethnic minority migrants’ national belonging and national identity formations. These factors do not only account for the prioritising of Scottishness over Britishness, but also migrants’ ‘hyphenated’ identities. This thesis will therefore provide evidence suggesting that non-citizens (ethnic minorities), have their own meanings and agency of orientating to a feeling of national belonging and national identity that is nuanced and contingent on their experiences. The thesis does not aim to establish media causality. However, it highlights the fact that newspaper coverage can evoke responses from marginalised groups and provide the context from which identities are narrated and mobilised. The thesis will improve our understanding of the practices, meanings and contestations of belonging and identity that is grounded in the ‘lived’ experiences of noncitizens. This sociological dimension to ethnic minorities’ citizenship forming is not only poorly understood, but has been dominated by theoretical and policymaking accounts in the contemporary state.