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This paper studies the South African media’s representation of undocumented migrants from 1998 to 2005. Recent literature that deals with media discourse on migration has focused on concepts of ‘nation-building’ and the emergence of a ‘risk society’. This work builds on these themes by examining the relationship between the media’s legitimation of state immigration control and South Africa’s unique historical tradition of struggle. Contemporary journalists often encounter evidence of similarities between citizens’ experiences of segregation during the Apartheid era and the government’s recent treatment of undocumented migrants. However, reports tend to deny the moral and practical relevance of this uncomfortable likeness by representing contemporary undocumented migration as a new and subversive threat. The paper suggests that anti-Apartheid sentiments constitute a vital, albeit hidden, discursive resource for critics of contemporary immigration controls.

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Working paper


Refugee Studies Centre

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