Logics of Protection and the Discursive Construction of Refugee Fathers

Gendered images of refugees contribute to how we understand who is deserving of protection and who is not.

Research Findings

In this chapter I turn my feminist curiosity towards a shift in media coverage of the migration, or refugee ‘crisis’ away from ‘womenandchildren’ (Enloe 1992) and towards ‘refugee fathers’. Through an intersectional approach I explore images of refugee fathers. This chapter contributes to existing work that has linked responsible parenting to deserving refugee-ness.

Based on my analysis my findings suggest that ‘Middle Eastern’ men can only be rendered intelligible as deserving of protection in relation to their children and families. This construction reinforces not only essentialist hierarchies of masculinity and femininity, but hierarchical constructions of masculinities, organised by and through logics of race and sexuality. Linked to the logic of ‘deserving’ and ‘authentic’ refugee fathers is the construction of single, refugee men as dangerous and/or lacking courage and therefore not deserving of protection.

In other words, the construction of refugee fathers also leaves undisturbed the logics that inform the construction of single refugee men as threatening and/or cowardly. Non paternal refugee men are then rendered underserving of refugee protection. The consequence of this is that authentic refugee-ness can only be read onto the bodies of refugee men through the logic of paternal protection and responsibility. In other words, fatherhood constructs genuine refugee men through logics of paternity, responsibility and bravery. 

Key Recommendations

* Reflect on the images used for advocacy campaigns
* Critically think about gender in relation to refugee protection
* Contribute to challenging assumptions around gender, race and class

Implementation Examples

Very relevant for refugee protection in the EU and Australia

Methodology

My approach does not distinguish between discourse as purely linguistic and discourse as image. In the analysis I treat the images and their attendant linguistic texts as discursive formations.

Core Concepts

Intersectional logics

Limitations

Attention needs to be paid to local context and nuance, however there are similar patterns of gender, race and class that interact with how refugee protection policy and practice is carried out.