Publication details

‘What do we see when we look at people on the move’? A visual intervention into civil sphere and symbolic boundary theory

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JAWORSKY Bernadette Nadya

Year of publication 2021
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Description Photographs of migrants can evoke powerful reactions. Since the ‘migration crisis’ of 2015-16, politicians, media, and the public have all expressed strong opinions about people who cross borders. Within the civil spheres of Western democracies, debates about who belongs as a ‘good citizen’, and who should be excluded as an ‘anticivil’ outsider, result in consequences for migrants and locals alike. In this article, we engage in a visual intervention into theories of the civil sphere and symbolic boundaries. Through a cultural sociological analysis of 70 interviews conducted amongst the Czech public, we examine the boundary work surrounding two photographs of people crossing borders. The Czech context represents a compelling case through which to do so; Czechia is neither a primary transit or destination country, yet migration issues figure prominently in its civil sphere. Our findings are based on thematic and reflexive questions that organise the different grounds for boundary work amongst the RPs: ‘What are we looking at’? ‘Who are they?’ and ‘Should “we” help “them”’? The broader implications of our findings concern the role of visuality in conceptions of democratic civil spheres and the presence of boundary work that delineates who belongs and who does not.
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