Narrative framing has a big impact on how we perceive migration, flight, and forced displacement as well as other forms of transnational mobility. Drawing on Erving Goffman’s (1986, 21) understanding of frames as “schemata of interpretation” that influence how we make sense of and come to terms with events and phenomena, Doris Bachmann-Medick and Jens Kugele (2018, 3) argue that “contemporary frames and framings of discourses on migration” not only “constitute methodologically and epistemologically self-reflexive approaches to the complex field of migration, but they are also effective in shaping the field of socio-political experience and behavior that directly impacts the lives of migrants.” Media coverage plays a crucial role in such processes of framing, for mass and mainstream media are constantly producing numerous migration narratives that have a major influence on public opinion and attitudes toward migration.
There are two main types of framing that mass media resort to when depicting migration and related phenomena: generic or ‘broad’ framing and issue-specific framing (Helbling 2014, 22-23; see also Bahtić-Kunrath and Gebauer 2023, 9). While the former focuses primarily on the overall context of migration discourses, dealing with abstract notions such as positivity and negativity, the latter thematizes clearly defined issues and concerns related to the topic such as security, terrorism, economy, politics, pragmatism, othering, deservingness, and humanitarianism (Bahtić-Kunrath and Gebauer 2023, 17). Previous research on representations of migration in European mass media suggests that generic or broad frames of migration with negative connotations tend to outweigh those with positive connotations (Eberl et al. 2018; Schrover and Schinkel 2013), which, in turn, has a negative impact on public discourses and attitudes toward migration (De Coninck et al. 2021; Eberl et al. 2018; Heidenreich et al. 2019; Gottlob and Boomgaarden 2020). Issue-specific framing of migration, on the other hand, can take both a negative and a positive stance on migration, often depending on context. An economic framing of migration, for example, can stress either the advantage of immigration as a means to address the lack of skilled workers or the disadvantage of immigration if the economic burden of refugee assistance is foregrounded. A humanitarian framing can either focus on the moral obligation to help refugees (positive framing) or contribute to discursive practices of presenting migrants as victims lacking individual agency (negative framing).
⇢ see also Content analysis and corpus linguistics, Discourse analysis, Frame analysis (aka framing analysis), Narratives on migration, Media bias, Othering, Positioning, Quantitative media studies, Refugee archetype
References and further reading:
Bachmann-Medick, Doris, and Jens Kugele. 2018. “Introduction: Migration – Frames, Regimes, Concepts.” In Migration: Changing Concepts, Critical Approaches, edited by Doris Bachmann-Medick and Jens Kugele, 1–18. Berlin and Boston, MA: De Gruyter.
Bahtić-Kunrath, Birgit, and Carolin Gebauer. 2023. “Narratives of Crisis vs. Narratives of Solidarity: Analyzing Discursive Shifts in Austrian Media Coverage of Refugee Movements from Middle Eastern Countries (2015) and Ukraine (2022) from an Interdisciplinary Perspective.” University of Wuppertal. [Working paper of the OPPORTUNITIES project 101004945 – H2020.]
De Coninck, David, Stefan Mertens, and Leen d’Haenens. 2021. “Cross-Country Comparison of Media Selection and Attitudes Towards Narratives of Migration.” KU Leuven. [Working paper of the OPPORTUNITIES project 101004945 – H2020.]
Eberl, Jakob-Moritz, Christine E. Meltzer, Tobias Heidenreich, Beatriz Herrero, Nora Theorin, Fabienne Lind, Rosa Berganza, Hajo G. Boomgaarden, Christian Schemer, and Jesper Strömbäck. 2018. “The European Media Discourse on Immigration and Its Effects: A Literature Review.” Annals of the International Communication Association 42.3: 207–223.
Gottlob, Anita, and Hajo Boomgaarden. 2020. “The 2015 Refugee Crisis, Uncertainty and the Media: Representations of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Immigrants in Austrian and French Media.” Communications 45.1: 841–863.
Heidenreich, Tobias, Fabienne Lind, Jakob-Morith Eberl, and Hajo G. Boomgaarden. 2019. “Media Framing Dynamics of the ‘European Refugee Crisis’: A Comparative Topic Modelling Approach.” Journal of Refugee Studies 32: 172–182.
Helbling, Marc. 2014. “Framing Immigration in Western Europe.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 40.1: 21–41.
Schrover, Marlou, and Willem Schinkel. 2013. “Introduction: the Language of Inclusion and Exclusion in the Context of Immigration and Integration.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 36.7: 1123–1141.
Work Package: 2, 4, 5
[BBK / CG]