IFG 1 Public Lecture Series: ‘Europe’s war’: African migration and the politics of representation in European policy making; Speaker: Prof. Heaven Crawley (Coventry University)


27 February, 2019, Accra


In this lecture, Professor Heaven Crawley, Director of the new UKRI GCRF South-South Migration, Inequality and Development Hub draws on her research over more than 25 years to explore the politics of representation in European policy making in response to migration from Africa. She argues that it is impossible to understand the European policy response towards African migration, without first reflecting on the ways in which ‘Africa’ is constituted in the European imagination and the role of the media in this process. The media, in all its increasingly diverse forms, both reflects and reinforces unequal power relations through images and discourses which socially construct and categorise people and places. This, in turn, opens up possibilities and justifications for certain types of policy intervention - including in relation to the migration of Africans to Europe.

Drawing in particular on representations of migration before, during and after the so-called European ‘migration crisis’ of 2015-16, Professor Crawley suggests that the most significant metaphor utilised in the framing of contemporary Africa is that of ‘the Dark Continent’ (Jarosz 1992) through which  ‘Africa’ is ‘flattened out’  and homogenised, perceived as having certain innate (uniformly negative) characteristics. This process relies on dualities that reflect and reinforce (hierarchical) ideas of ‘Them’ and ‘Us’. Whilst the arrival of African ‘boat people’ has served as a ‘focusing event’ for European policy makers, politicians and the public (Ryan 2008) these representations are in fact nothing new. For at least three decades, media and dominant policy discourses have conveyed an apocalyptic image of an increasingly massive exodus of desperate Africans fleeing poverty and war and trying to enter Europe, threatening its resources, structure and identity as a ‘civilised’ continent. The language of ‘waves’, ‘Assault’ and even ‘war’ used by politicians when describing migration from Africa is simply another variation of this representational form which has been used to mobilise anti-immigrant sentiment in favour of political and policy agendas that often have little if anything to do with migration itself.

Date: Wednesday 27th February, 2019
Venue: University of Ghana, International House, Ground Floor Seminar Room
Time: 2:00 PM