Who/What is a “Good”/”Bad” Migrant?

What is a "Good / Bad" Migrant?

Series Convenors: Adrian Favell and Chris Paterson

Our proposed Sadler Seminar Series (2016-17) will bring together scholars from across the university and beyond to interrogate the contemporary conceptualisation and image of the “Migrant”. It has been developed by the School of Media and Communication and School of Sociology and Social Policy, in collaboration with the Leeds Migration Research Network (LMRN).

The perception of a recent refugee “crisis” has once again posed a stark semantic issue concerning international migration and mobilities, about the denomination and image of anomalous populations on the move across nation-state lines. Strikingly, the neutral, technical, geographical term for people who move residence spatially – i.e., “migrant” – has become freighted in media and policy debates with portentous negativity, even supplanting the politically/legally defined terms of “refugee” and “immigrant” as the most salient marker of “unwanted” populations. As always, the “bad” migrant – and its links with marginality, vagrancy, criminality or (even) terrorism – stands in contrast to the “wanted” mobility of “tourists”, “international students”, “business visitors” or “cross-border commuters”, as well as (in Europe) selected, variable categories of “free movers” and “guest workers”. Migrants are, alternately, “free” agents driving economies and/or escaping legal control; or hopeless residuals of political and social disintegration, “victims” to be pitied and saved or lumped together in carceral camps. Historically, the operation of the state at its “own” frontiers and over “own” citizen members, always implies the brutal articulation of borders via the legal and political categorisation of the spatially mobile (i.e., the “citizen”, the “immigrant”, the “foreigner”, the “state-less”). This grounding operation of nation-building via state population containment is ever more put into question by the contemporary volatility of peoples, states and territories.

Our seminar series proposes to put an emphasis on investigating the common methodologies available for the study of how distorting images are formed and how they become fixed in discourse, taking at once media and policy/legal discourses, and the contestatory “voices” of migrants themselves, as a dual focus. This is a vital question in understanding the formation of prejudice and exclusion motivating populist politics across the continent. Limited efforts within the news industry to reform such representational practices can be cited but show little evidence of efficacy, whether anecdotal or empirical. Notably, institutionalised and public terms efface the self-representation of so-classified “migrants” themselves, requiring critically aware, positional strategies of investigation.


All events are held at the Leeds Humanities Research Institute.

AUTUMN 2016  


Tuesday 20 September, 2-4pm

Introductory Session

Chris Paterson & Adrian Favell


Wednesday 2 November, 12-1.30pm

Methodologies (1) + LMRN Business meeting, 2-3pm

Chris Paterson: Media / Communications

Gabriella Alberti (with Chris Forde) :  Policy / Law

Roxana Barbulescu:  Politics/Sociology

Adrian Favell:  Chair / Introduction

An opening discussion canvassing state-of-the-art methodologies from across the social sciences for addressing the core questions of the group, about the categorisation, representation and stereotyping of migrants in the media, politics and law.


Wednesday 30th November, 2-4pm

Refugees, Austerity and Class Racism

Gholam Khiabany (Goldsmiths College, London)  



Wednesday 18th January, 12-1.30pm

Methodologies (2)  + LMRN Business meeting (Research Planning), 2-3pm

Samuel Durrant: Literature/Critical Theory

Gill Park: FAHACS

Adrian Favell: Chair

A second methodological discussion focusing now on critical and alternate (ie. discursive, visual) approaches to rethinking the question “Who/What is a “Good/Bad” Migrant?”.


Wednesday 15 February, 1-5pm

Challenging The Press

Migration jumped to the top of the news agenda in 2015 with journalists in Europe, the Middle East and Africa reporting the biggest mass movement of people around the world in recent history. But how well are media coping with this story and how is migration being reported in other parts of the world?  How can we influence unethical reporting?

Aidan White is the Director and Founder of the Ethical Journalism Network and former General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists.  


Thursday 2 March, 2-4pm, Social Sciences Building 12-21/25

LMRN Annual Lecture, co-sponsored with White Rose Consortium 'Europe, Migration and the New Politics of (In) Security'

Within and Beyond Citizenship: Borders, Belonging and Membership (Book Talk / Forthcoming Routledge March 2017)

Nando Sigona, University of Birmingham


Wednesday 22 March, 2-4pm

Migrants, Inequalities, Labour Markets

Gabriella Alberti & Albert Varela, LUBS/SSP (TBC)  


Wednesday 26 April, 2-4pm

Other Meanings: The Social Semiotic Multimodality of Self-Representations by Migrants and their Supporters

Giorgia Aiello & Elisabetta Adami, Media & Comms/LCS


Thursday 11 May, 4-6pm

On Hannah Arendt and Refugees

Lyndsey Stonebridge (University of East Anglia)

*Co-Sponsored with Quilting Points


TBC - End of Year / Discussion & Research Planning