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Title: A qualitative exploration of the social construction of the asylum-seeker category in UK policy, media discourse and practitioner work
Author: Hussain, R.
ISNI:       0000 0004 9347 4300
Awarding Body: Canterbury Christ Church University
Current Institution: Canterbury Christ Church University
Date of Award: 2019
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This research investigates the complex relationship between the official categorization of asylum and the social construction of the asylum-seeker in the UK. I assess the role of categories, the process by which they are constructed and the purpose which they serve. Adopting an eclectic theoretical framework which focused on; social construction, the relationship between categorization and power and liquid modernity, the thesis consists of a series of three studies which aim to advance the discursive research on ‘asylum-seekers’ and ‘refugees’. The thesis addresses how the figure of the ‘asylum-seeker’ has become problematized. The three actors examined in the study play a combined role in the social construction of an asylum-seeker. Asylum policy, media reporting and practitioners collectively contribute to how asylum is defined and managed. The official categorization of asylum is consumed, produced and reproduced in society through a range of processes, all which shape and provide the changing meanings attached to the label ‘asylum-seeker’. Furthermore, I explore the relationship between the categories ‘asylum-seeker’ and related categories such as ‘refugee’ and ‘forced migrant’. Research has paid little attention to the connections and areas of intersectionality between these terms. This research addresses this gap in literature to provide new insights. The study integrates multiple perspectives that are rarely examined together, through qualitative multi-method research. Study one is a documentary thematic analysis of asylum policy which demonstrates both normative and evolving social constructions of ‘asylum-seekers’, ‘refugees’ and ‘migrants’ in policy discourse. Study two examines the social construction of ‘forced migrants’ in news reporting, employing summative content analysis, supplemented with two journalist interviews. It demonstrates the significance of the conflation of different migrant categories in framing our understandings of forced migration. Study three presents the interview data conducted with twenty-one practitioners employing theoretical thematic analysis. The analysis draws attention to both official and unofficial representations of asylum-seekers. In addition, the study sheds light on the relationship between the categories ‘asylum-seeker’ and ‘refugee’. This research adds to existing scholarship which maintains that a ‘new asylum paradigm’ is emerging, which has shifted the language of refugee protection. The thesis provides new empirical support to conceptualise the status of ‘refugees’ and ‘asylum-seekers’ as fluid rather than fixed and highlights the grey area of labelling in the field.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Ayslum-seekers ; Category ; Social construction ; UK policy ; Media discourse ; Practioner work