“Language is for conveying information, starting debates, trying to make things, build solutions. That is not what is going on here. What these people are speaking in is, instead, “langrage”. Crude fistfuls of iron, intended solely to destroy.”Caitlin Moran, Hate Speak Is All the Rage
In August of 2015, a migration debate exploded in the news media. Catalyzed by the shocking photo of a drowned boy washed ashore in Turkey, the migration ‘crisis’, was at the forefront of the news for a month, and is still simmering away in the background. Every now and again a populist leader will invoke the ‘migrant crisis’ and the issue will return to the forefront of the news cycle. The language of migration, immigration, and refuge is jam packed with opportunities to discuss Global Issues in relation to how language is being used.
One of the most terrible things about a national security crisis, real or imagined, is that xenophobic leaders instil fear and terror about people who are different from the majority. It is shockingly easy to do, and is part and parcel of human linguistic cultures. In this section you’ll see how language has been used to wound, hurt, divide, oppress and dehumanize groups of people, with a particular focus on the way migrant peoples are described by people in power (be it journalists, radio hosts or politicians). This kind of language enables people – often even good people – to view others as less than human.
Find out about language which dehumanises and divides people in this section by reading a few of the following articles; while they focus on the language used to discuss migrants – people who move from one country to another – one or two pieces here widen the scope of the debate to include other groups of people as well:
- Hate Speak (Figures of Speech article by Caitlin Moran)
- The Press and Immigration (sub-scribe article)
- The Dehumanizing History of Immigration Words (thinkprogress article by Esther Yu-Hsi Lee)
- We Deride Them as ‘Migrants’ (Guardian article)
- Swarm or Plague? (article by Frankie Boyle)
- The Ugly History of the Word ‘Infest’ (article at Forward by Aviya Kushner)
- The Toxic Metaphors of the Migration Debate (Guardian article)
- Stop Funding Hate (online campaign)
Class Activity: Rescue Boats
Caution is recommended when reading this particularly distasteful article. Written by controversial right-wing columnist Katie Hopkins, the article achieved a certain notoriety when it was first published. Amongst all the vitriol, can you identify the ways in which Hopkins constructs her argument against migrants? Look out for the following techniques:
- Particular noun phrases
- Use of institutional voices
Write a letter of complaint to the editor of The Sun, the newspaper who published Katie Hopkins’ article. Lay out your reasons for disagreeing with her point of view and explain how she is trying to paint a particular picture of a marginalised group of people in the minds of others. You might want to read this insightful article by Chris Macdonagh who founded Travellers Against Racism; here he dismantles the way a television documentary presents the traveller community. You could try to mimic the style of this article in your own writing.
Paper 1 Text Type Focus: tbc
At the end of your course you will be asked to analyze unseen texts (1 at Standard Level and 2 at Higher Level) in an examination. You will be given a guiding question that will focus your attention on formal or stylistic elements of the text(s), and help you decode the text(s)’ purpose(s). Below are resources ***. Add the texts to your Learner Portfolio; you will want to revise text types thoroughly before your Paper 1 exam:
Body of Work: Drop the I-Word Campaign
Colorlines is a daily news site where race matters, featuring award-winning in-depth reporting, news analysis, opinion and curation. It is published by Race Forward, a national American organization that advances racial justice through research, media and practice.
In 2010, Colorlines launched a Drop the I-Word campaign to help eliminate the use of the word “illegal” when referring to undocumented immigrants. The efforts of the 2010 campaign focused on specifically targeting news outlets & journalist associations, putting pressure on them to ‘Drop the I-Word.’ As a result, major news outlets like Associated Press, USAToday, and the Los Angeles Times pledged to drop the word from their reporting.
Here you can find a small collection of stories from the Colourlines blog ‘I am…’ which was a part of the Drop the I – Word campaign in 2011. Throughout the year, the words and stories of undocumented migrants were published on the site as part of the campaign to eradicate the dehumanising use of the word ‘illegal’ in the debate around immigration in the US. You can find more stories like this by visiting the I Am… blog. The I am… stories, promotional videos, website and other materials from this campaign can be considered a Body of Work.
Associated materials can be found here:
- Colorlines Website (Immigration News)
- Why Drop Now? (campaign mission statement)
- Journalist style guide
- Campaign Update (released in 2017)
Towards Assessment: Individual Oral
“Supported by an extract from one non-literary text and one from a literary work, students will offer a prepared response of 10 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of questions by the teacher, to the following prompt: Examine the ways in which the global issue of your choice is presented through the content and form of two of the texts that you have studied. (40 marks)“IB Language and Literature Guide
Please find suggestions here; but always be mindful of your own ideas and class discussions and follow the direction of your own programme of study when devising your assessment tasks.
Details from this campaign would be a good choice to bring to your assessed oral activity. The named author would be ‘Race Forward’, the activist organisation who launched the campaign. You could explore the Field of Inquiry of Culture, Identity and Community and a Global Issue such as ‘Migration’ or ‘Suspicion of Outsiders’. The Drop the I-Word campaign centers around dehumanisation, a central issue in the way migrants are represented in the media, and also opens up the debate in order to discuss other issues concerning immigration and the impact of ‘outsiders’ on a community. Many literary works also explore this theme. You may have ideas about how to pair the articles with the literary texts you are studying; if not, don’t worry; speak to your teacher or use the following suggestions as a starting point:
- Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice – think Act 1 Scene 3 in which Shylock describes his treatment at the hands of Antonio and the Christian gang; or Act 4 Scene 1, the courtroom scene, in which Shylock is subject to a torrent of abuse from the gallery – and is even subject to prejudice from the Duke himself.
- Ismail Kadare’s Broken April – a more tricky pairing might be with Kadare’s work, but you could certainly delve into the unpleasant thoughts of Mark Ukacierra and his prejudices against women and intellectuals (Diana and Bessian are visitors to the High Plateau, therefore ‘outsiders’) in chapter 4.
- J.G. Ballard’s Empire of the Sun – Shanghai is an immigrant city and you’ll find plenty of characters from all over the world in the early pages of Ballard’s novel – Jim’s nanny is Russian, his parents’ friends are all European, he himself is British, the city is full of refugees from the countryside – and the Japanese are about to invade.
- J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians – this novel reveals how the consolidation of power in an empire relies upon fear of invasion by outsiders and how, fueled by rumour, paranoia and suspicion grow until they are too powerful to contain.
Wider Reading and Research
If you are interested in the topics and articles on this page, you might like to conduct some wider reading and research. Here are some recommendations to get you started: