The reproduction of the refugee and asylum-seeker identity within politically satirical cartoons

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Moloney, G 2007, 'The reproduction of the refugee and asylum-seeker identity within politically satirical cartoons', paper presented to Annual conference British Psychological Society, York, UK, 21-23 March.


Social identity theory (Tajfel, 1981) posits that an individual’s social identity is defined through their membership to social groups; emphasizing the processes involved in this categorization whilst Social Representations theory (Moscovici, 1984), as a theory of social knowledge, predominantly focuses on the construction of societal understandings about the issue. This paper draws from Duveen (2001) to argue that social identity is resourced from social knowledge, and thus the content of identity must be considered concomitantly with process. Research investigating the recent resettlement of refugees and asylum-seekers into regional towns in Australia contextualizes this argument; explicitly addressing the construction and reproduction of identity within the politically satirical cartoon. The research had three stages: a semantic analysis of the social representation of refugees and asylum-seekers held by 115 participants; a visual analysis of editorial cartoons (Van-Leuwan, 2000, 2001); and an evaluation of those cartoons by 115 participants (Voci & Hewstone, 2003; Wright, 1997). The results clearly demonstrate an interdependence between the viewer’s social knowledge about these groups and their interpretation of the cartoon, but revealed a dichotomy between the intent of the cartoon (Manning & Phiddian, 2004) and evaluation of the caricature portraying refugees and asylum-seekers. The implications for understanding the reproduction of identity within social knowledge are presented.