The Visual Othering of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in the British Newspaper Media: An Intersectional Analysis

  • Hannah Mary Ryan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores how the British newspaper media use images to other refugees. While much has been written on media language, little work has explored media othering through visual means. The research that has been conducted in this field focuses on a small number of photographs from particular time periods. While important, the current literature is unable to provide a full understanding of how the mass media others refugees and how this othering differs depending on the intersecting socio-demographic characteristics of these groups. Furthermore, there has been limited research on how media audiences read images. My thesis addresses these research gaps by conducting an intersectional visual data analysis of 377 photographs of refugees in four British newspapers over a period of three years, and fourteen interviews with newspaper readers.

I find that intersectionality is crucial in understanding the British newspaper media othering of refugees, and that this othering is a continuation of the othering that was produced during colonialism. I argue, therefore, that the British media reproduces the racialised hierarchy that was used to justify colonisation. In this hierarchy, racialised men are represented as dangerous threats while racialised women and children are represented as vulnerable but only as long as they are passive and distant. Postcolonial othering is used to justify the government’s restrictive border controls. Furthermore, I find that British newspaper readers broadly accepted the dominant framing of otherness in the media. Meanwhile, colonial amnesia also exists which shifts the responsibility for the refugees away from the West and towards the Middle East and Africa.

This research furthers knowledge in the field of media images of refugees. I have provided a full and in-depth understanding of how the media intersectionally others refugees. I have also added to the field by exploring how media audiences read these images.

Date of AwardSept 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorKatie Tonkiss (Supervisor), Graeme Hayes (Supervisor) & Gaja Maestri (Supervisor)


  • Asylum
  • postcolonial othering
  • refugees
  • newspaper media
  • intersectionality
  • visual analysis

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