07 SES 17 A, Reading Images of Educational Fields: Representations of Inclusive Education, Refugee Education and Family Literacy.
The media has been significant in informing Europeans about refugees and has shaped attitudes towards displaced people and forced migration. Common tropes have been of the ‘swarm’ of refugees, a migrant ‘crisis’ and a threat to national identity and security. This paper explores the representation of refugee children and their education with a focus on images available in various search engines and repositories. This analysis is framed by critical visual literacy, with the assumption that visual images are embedded within processes and possibilities of production and interpretation, which in turn are embedded in wider sociocultural practices (Fairclough, 2001; Janks, 2005). Thus, images of refugees are ‘positioned and positioning’ (Janks, 2010, 61). This positioning has an effect on readers. Our critical reading of these images uncovers the social processes encoded in the images and answers the following questions: - What do the available images portray about refugees, refugee children, and refugee education? - How does toggling search terms affect the representation? - How do these representations either challenge or reinforce dominant visual discourses of refugees and why does this matter? The first stage of the research process was to compile a data set comprising images derived from different combinations of search terms in a Google Image search and then replicate this in a search of a curated set of free-to-use images. We used Kress and van Leeuwen’s (2006) representational, interpersonal and compositional metafunctions to analyse each image. We then sought patterns of repetition within each search term and compared these with the patterns prevalent in other search terms. The images reflect dominant discourses of refugees as ’othered’, ‘problems’ and ‘requiring assistance at a cost to the receiving society’. Toggling search terms by adding words (like education), using different nomenclature (like new arrivals instead of refugees), and specifying location (like Europe) shifts representation in significant ways. This paper’s contribution is a focus on the mediating role played by search term and the source. Gatrell (2016) poses the question, what will future analysts write about forced migration in Europe during 2015-2018? If those in the field now do not critically engage with and challenge the representations, then tropes around ‘crisis’ will continue to dominate policy-makers’ responses and public perceptions. Opportunities to debate what inclusive and quality education could mean for refugee children will be lost, and only future historians of education will be able to judge what this means for societies across Europe.
Gatrell, P. (2016). Refugees- What’s Wrong with History? Journal of Refugee Studies Vol. 30:2, 170-189. Fairclough, N. (2001). Language and power. 2nd ed. Harlow: Pearson. Janks, H. (2010). Literacy and power. New York: Routledge. Janks, H. (2005). Language and the design of texts. English Teaching: Practice and Critique 4(3): 97–100. Kress, G. & van Leeuwen, T. (2006). Reading images: The grammar of visual design 2nd ed. London: Routledge.
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