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The Mutually Constitutive Relationship between Place and Identity: The Role of Place-Identity in Discourse on Asylum Seekers and Refugees



Recent discursive research has shown that constructions of place may function to regulate social relations and reinforce particular notions of belonging. However, extant discursive research on place-identity has so far neglected the mutually constitutive relationships between constructions of place and identity in legitimising people's presence. To address this gap, this study, undertaken in Scotland, applies the notion of place-identity to the discursive analysis of interviews with asylum seekers and refugees, people who work in organisations that support asylum seekers and refugees and locals who live in areas where asylum seekers and refugees tend to be housed. The analysis suggests that constructions of asylum seekers’ and refugees’ countries of origin as dangerous, and the host society as relatively problem-free, function to constitute their identities as legitimate and to justify their presence in the host society. Moreover, constructions of place may work to portray refugees and asylum seekers as benefiting the local community and as belonging more than certain other locals. In contrast, constructing the host society as ‘full’ functions to oppose their presence through portraying them as not being able to belong. This demonstrates the mutually constitutive roles of place and identity in legitimising or resisting people's movement and belonging. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.