Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Schools and Centres

Arts & Sciences

First Supervisor

Dr Angeline O'Neill


The central concern of this dissertation is to examine representation and selfrepresentation as they pertain to this nation’s response to asylum seekers between the Tampa affair in August 2001 and the defeat of the Coalition government in the 2007 federal election. The first half of the dissertation examines the representation of refugees in two of the nation’s prominent newspapers, The West Australian and The Australian. Drawing upon the work of Stuart Hall, Edward Said, Michel Foucault and others it is contended that in the Australian government and media’s representation of asylum seekers Manichean-based ideologies can be traced, which serve to propagate the Orientalist’s project. Furthermore, a close analysis of From Nothing to Zero: Letters from Refugees in Australia’s Detention Centres and Asylum: Voices behind the razor wire, shows that it is only through selfrepresentation that the damaging effects of Orientalism can be challenged. As such the writings of Mikhail Bakhtin are central to this analysis of refugees’ selfrepresentations. In the final chapter the work of Emmanuel Levinas is also used, of particular interest is his concept of ‘face’. Combined with some of the ideas of the aforementioned theorists this demonstrates the centrality of oral discourse and selfrepresentation as sites of life, death and most crucially, hope for those refugees seeking to be accepted into the Australian community.

The analysis of The West Australian and The Australian conducted in the first two chapters of this dissertation should be read in this context. While there are many factors that contribute to newspaper production such as audience, editorial influences and advertising demands to name but a few, these are not treated by this dissertation. My approach is entirely focussed on the politics of language in terms of its conception, use and effect. Similarly, in my analysis of refugees’ selfrepresentations, conducted in the final two chapters of the dissertation, these same concerns are fore-grounded. Furthermore, as the representations and selfrepresentations surrounding refugees considered in this dissertation were produced within specific historical and social conditions these also play an important role in informing my analysis.

This Masters by Research (English Literature) was written by John Martin Cartner for the School of Arts and Sciences of the University of Notre Dame (Fremantle) and submitted in the year 2009.

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