Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

International Affairs

First Advisor

Michaele Ferguson

Second Advisor

Victoria Ash Hunter

Third Advisor

Caroline Conzelman

Abstract

This thesis is examining the question: what causes changes in the definition of the concept of “refugee” over time? The refugee is often considered a humanitarian concept that creates an exception to traditional, security-oriented forms of managing irregular migration. However, by analyzing the evolving definition of the refugee, this discourse analysis shows how it is a political concept in that it has no single, universally accepted definition and therefore, it can be politically manipulated. This is what W. B. Gallie identifies as an “essentially contested concept” – a concept that is internally complex and has a variety of contrasting definitions that might seem neither absurd nor contradictory until conscious consideration. As such, state actors will have an interest in contesting the concept of “refugee” to find a definition that best suits their state interests, and, if any one frame becomes dominant in the political discourse on refugees, this results in significant framing effects – the ability for political discourse to shape our worldview and the policies that reflect it. This thesis argues that the refugee is best understood as a political concept that is manipulated by state actors for the purpose of fulfilling particular state interests at particular times. By exposing the refugee’s politicized nature through an analysis of the refugee’s history and an in-depth case-study of EU-Turkish cooperation in the present “refugee crisis,” we can see in what ways the refugee is contested, how states attempt to decontest it, and who has the power to form the dominant frame on the refugee.

Share

COinS