“Asylum seekers”, “boat people” and “illegal immigrants”: Social categorisation in the media


  • Accepted under the previous Editorial Board

School of Psychology, University of Adelaide, North Terrace, Adelaide, SA, 5005, Australia


This paper is concerned with representations of people entering Australia to request asylum. The study critically analyses the role of social categorisation in descriptions about these people, drawn from texts available through the Australian print media. The aim is to examine constructions that constitute marginalising practices toward people who request asylum in Australia. It is argued that traditional approaches to social categorisation have a number of shortcomings, particularly in the context of an examination of potentially marginalising discourse. A discursive psychological approach is adopted for the purpose of analysing certain categorisations and identifying the social actions they constitute. Sample extracts are drawn from media articles and specific categories examined include “illegal immigrants”, “boat people”, and related category labels. It is argued that certain types of categorisation can support and encourage specific actions and, in particular, specific marginalising practices.