Exploring ‘justice’ in parliamentary debates on migration
GLOBUS researcher Cinzia Bevitori presented a paper at the ICAME38 conference Corpus et Orbis: Interpreting the World through Corpora in Prague.
Faculty of Law, Charles University, Prague
Bevitori's paper is entitled 'Exploring ‘justice’ in parliamentary debates on Im/migration through the lens of corpora'.
The paper is a by-product of a new interdisciplinary research project aiming at critically assessing the European Union’s impact on global justice by looking at different areas and bringing together various disciplines and methodologies. One of such areas is ‚migration‘ (broadly including asylum and refugees), an issue which has been raising a number of dilemmas for the EU and its member states concerning justice as it hints at fundamental and possibly conflicting principles within the Union. Although a number of corpus-based studies, from critical discursive analytical perspectives, have focused on representations of migrants and asylum seekers, they have mostly concentrated on newspaper discourse (e.g. Baker et al 2008, Taylor 2014), as well as on discourses of discrimination in different institutional contexts (e.g. Wodak and van Dijk eds. 2000, Kryzanowski and Wodak 2008). Moving from the assumption that justice is a ‘human construction’ (Waltzer 1986), and that different theoretical conceptions of justice are at stake (Eriksen 2016), the paper will attempt to examine discourses surrounding the issue of migration in a wider context of ‘global justice’ looking at data from a corpus of UK parliamentary debates consisting of the complete transcriptions of all the debates held in the House of Commons on the subject of ‘im/migration’ in 2015 - a key year for the migration and refugees crisis in Europe. The analysis combines quantitative and qualitative dimensions of investigation, by drawing on the tools and techniques of corpus-assisted discourse analysis (inter alia, Baker 2006, Baker et al 2008, Baker and McEnery 2015, Morley and Bayley eds 2009, Partington, Morley and Haarman eds 2004, Thompson and Hunston eds 2006). The aim of the study is two-fold. In the first place, it will discuss what (and how) understandings of justice emerge from the discourses regarding ‘im/migrants’ in this particular institutional and political sub-domain of political discourse. Parliamentary discourse is, in fact, a very distinctive and composite type of political discourse regulated by longstanding conventions (Bayley ed. 2004), which may be rightly considered as a privileged site of analysis of the ‘struggle over meanings’ (Miller 1997; see also Bevitori 2005, 2006, 2007). In the second place, it will also reflect on the methodological challenge of analysing complex discursive issues through a corpus-assisted approach.