Numbers > Number 19 > The social construction of fear and the media representation of migrants
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ISSN: 1885-365X
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The social construction of fear and the media representation of migrants

21 de septiembre de 2022
28 de septiembre de 2022


The purpose of this paper is to analyse the theoretical framework of the social construction of fear in modern society. From the early twentieth century, fear has been an object of analysis by classical sociological thought: the spread of border, and the rise of the nation-state has brought the need to reshape the national identity. In this context, new form of exclusion has begun to spread, and refugees and migrants have started to be considered «other» apart from the national majority.
The representation of migrants in media narrative is often accompanied by feelings of disappointment and fear. The media narrative in contemporary society, contributes to create stereotypical imagine about the stranger, enforcing a circuit of fear around the presence of the stranger.
The author is going to explain the sociological analysis enriched by different point of view: the interactions dimension and the deterministic dimension of differences, considering an analysis of what fear is as a feeling toward migrants. In the contemporary era, on the one hand, fear and anxiety has spread in relation to migration phenomena; on the other, an intercultural process and superdiverse context have started to emerge. The rise of globalisation has led to the birth of globalised communities in which a kind of hybrid identity stands out from the dichotomy national/foreigner identity; a new kind of identity, symbolic and fluid, has started to spread, an identity that goes beyond the physical and social borders of the nation-state.

1. Introduction

In the first part of the following article, the author is going to analyse the social dimension of fear related to the building of the modern nation-state in the European context. The author will explore a few sociological concepts central to the discussion about the political and social framework in which the modern nation-state was established; the author would explore the birth of the national identity in its modern attribution from the late 19th century onwards. Along with the need of a homogeneous culture, the nation-state has started to deal with the emerging claim of ethnic minorities who ask to be legally recognised. That social phenomenon has moved sociological studies to better understand the reality around us; process of social and cultural identification, internalisation, and externalisation of cultural paradigms, along with the figure of the «stranger» and the «foreigner» have been studied by classical sociological theories.

In the second part of the article, the author will explore sociological thought from Schütz to Simmel, the pioneering sociologists whose work has been at the core of modern social studies about the meaning of interaction in social groups, in relation to the figure of the «stranger». The author will explore some theoretical aspects of the symbolic interactionism together with some features of the approach made by the sociologists of the Chicago School, amongst others, R.E Park.

The author will focus the last part of the article on the impact of media narratives, and on the construction of social representation of migrants in contemporary times; the media narratives continue to shape different truth about the reality around us, especially when addressing global issues such as migration phenomena. On the one hand, media narratives communicate different kinds of emotions, often fear or disappointment, contributing to the creation of a stereotypical imagine of the other/foreigner; on the other hand, the rise of globalised communities and that of new urban space cd. ethnoscapes contribute to shaping new forms of identity, giving birth to a counter-narrative about the foreigner-national dichotomy; a new form of social groups has started to be shaped out of the physical-geographical border of the nation state.


2. Metodología

The methodological approach is intended to be theoretical and analytical. The author will explain the social dimensions of fear and that of representation, following the interactionist and symbolic point of view, widespread in the micro sociological analysis. The convergence of a sociological multi-perspective is also taken into consideration: from the historical background that lies at the core of sociological studies about the figure of the stranger, the interactionist paradigm is one of the critical paradigms that emerges from the need to justify the evolution of social groups dynamics in relation to identitarian challenges.

Methodologically, it is worth considering that the author will also argue that symbolic interactionism is the main theoretical approach that supports the following discussion, whereas structuralism is widely recognised in its assumption for the analysis of individual response/ behaviours to institutional power.

The interest of the author regarding critical sociology, such as the study of urban spaces and that of social marginality, would be considered to better understand the process of interaction within social groups. Along with the spread of new social demands, contemporary sociologists have tried to depict global dimensions: on this point, the author would mention the diasporic communities and ethnoscapes.

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