29. Narratives and counter-narratives in the migration battlefield

Marcello Maneri (University of Milano-Bicocca) & Andrea Pogliano (University of
Piemonte Orientale)
Contact: marcello.maneri@unimib.it

In its most basic sense, the concept of narrative refers to a sequence of chronologically and logically related events from which humans can learn (Toolan 2001). Narratives involve a prescriptive and diagnostic dimension, identifying the issue at stake and how to resolve it (Rein and Schon 1996), and they also contain information about the setting, characters and their motivation (Braddock and Dillard 2016, 446). Scholars have shown how narratives can influence policy change (Crow and Jones 2018).
In conveying social classifications and collective representations, narratives also function as boundary markers (Wimmer 2008). In this sense, narratives may serve to create, maintain, contest or even dissolve institutionalised social differences, influencing and legitimising social boundaries of inclusion and exclusion, thus determining differential access to civil, social and political rights. With the advent of social media, the infrastructure used for the production, dissemination, and reception of narratives has changed. Networked publics are connected by stories that inflect events with sentiment (Papacharissi 2016). These stories, however, can hardly be seen as monolithic and closed contents that travel from one venue to the other. On the contrary, fragments of stories are generated, shared and recomposed in a transmedia storytelling enabled by triggers and touch points through which different narrative universes are intertwined (Jenkins 2006).
The shift from static monodisciplinary accounts of narratives in the direction of more processual, multi-disciplinary, multi-actor and multi-level approaches can shed light on how narratives are assembled, recombined, negotiated, and opposed – and with which consequences and power effects.
Counter-narratives, for example, are often produced in relation and reaction to dominant ones. They can trigger a dramatic shift in the conversation, but are not always able to bring a lasting new perspective onto the public stage.
This panel aims at opening a space for reflection around narratives as a crucial element in the fight over cultural hegemony, in the creation of alliances and coalitions, as a bridge between cognition and decision-making, as a tool for the politicisation of individual and collective identities, and as a strategic resource to obliterate or to highlight connections among different social problems.

Open Questions

  • What are the key features of (visual) narratives on migration in the media, political discourse, among activists, NGOs, experts, street-level bureaucrats and migrants themselves and their power effects?
  • What are the main ingredients and conditions that make a (visual) narrative hegemonic, both regarding its qualities and the position and strategies of narrators?
  • What are the paths and assemblages of narratives across media, domains and narrators?
  • What are the characteristics of typical (visual) counter-narratives on migration?
  • What are the most effective strategies for non-dominant actors to advance their narratives?
  • How to investigate the influence of narratives on discourse, practice and policies concerning migration?
  • Which methods and techniques are most promising in unravelling the hidden narratives inscribed in discourses and what problems may arise in their application?
    Keywords Migration, racism, discourse, narratives, visualization.
    Fields of Study Communication, Sociology, Political science, Semiotics, Visual studies, Migration studies, History, Social psychology.

Braddock, Kurt, and James Price Dillard. 2016. “Meta-Analytic Evidence for the Persuasive Effect of Narratives on Beliefs, Attitudes, Intentions, and Behaviors.” Communication Monographs 83 (4): 446–467.
Crow, Deserai, and Michael Jones. 2018. “Narratives as Tools for Influencing Policy Change”. Policy & Politics 46(2): 217–34.
Jenkins, H. 2006. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press.
Papacharissi, Zizi. 2016. “Affective Publics and Structures of Storytelling: Sentiment, Events and Mediality”. Information, Communication & Society 19, 3: 307–24.
Rein, Martin, and Donald Schön. 1996. “Frame-Critical Policy Analysis and Frame-Reflective Policy Practice.” Knowledge and Policy 9 (1): 85–104.
Toolan, Michael. 2001. Narrative: A Critical Linguistic Introduction. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
Wimmer, Andreas. 2013. Ethnic Boundary Making: Institutions, Power, Networks. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lascia un commento

Il tuo indirizzo email non sarà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *