Volume 26, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0155-0640
  • E-ISSN: 1833-7139
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This paper tackles some analytical challenges of multimodal texts as they contribute to production of racial anxiety about asylum seekers. Building on a recent article in the Australian Review of Applied Linguistics in which Michael Clyne discusses the lexical manifestations of increasing racial hatred towards refugees, the paper focuses on the ‘children overboard’ affair in Australian news. This affair was generated out of a false claim by Liberal Party ministers that asylum seekers threw their children overboard in an effort to coerce the Navy to offer them sanctuary. The story was front page news in October, 2001 and became a defining feature of the successful Coalition campaign for re-election in 2001 with long term effects on public discourse about refugees and border protection. The paper argues that applied linguists need ways of analysing the symbiosis of visual and verbal stories in media treatment of such issues. It presents key strategies of representation of boat people and their critics in in one exemplary news text in 2001 and the ways in which photograph and story helped to co-create the fiction. The paper investigates the complementary contribution of strategies of homogenisation, indetermination, essentialisation and negative role allocation in both image and verbiage and their combined effect on our interpretation of asylum seekers. Implications for applied linguistics of multimodal analysis of racist discourse are briefly canvassed.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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