Institut for Statskundskab

The role of photography in the production and problematization of online affective debates: Struggles over solidarity and identity during the 2015 refugee crisis in Denmark

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskrift/Konferencebidrag i tidsskrift /Bidrag til avisTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


The article analyses two contrasting photographs that powerfully shaped Danish debates about the refugee crisis in September 2015. In the first, a civilian man is seen spitting at a group of refugees from a highway bridge. In the other, a police officer sits on the highway as he plays with a young refugee girl. Politicized photographs such as these offer unique and rarely utilized sociological prisms to probe the narratives and binary codes that define national value complexes and categories of ‘inside–outside’, ‘us–them’ and ‘civil–uncivil’. The spitting man and gentle cop photographs are particularly forceful in this regard as they do not simply portray refugees/migrants in isolation, but rather the reactions they generate in the host country. The article explores why and how these photographs became so resonant in stimulating affective public debates about refugees, Danish identity, and solidarity with strangers. Methodologically, the article focuses on debates occurring on Facebook, Twitter and in newspaper commentary tracks. This choice reflects a wider trend where the media ecology of Web 2.0 is transforming the way photographs are being politicized in affective publics. Finally, interviews were conducted with the journalists behind the photographs.

TidsskriftThe Sociological Review
Antal sider17
StatusE-pub ahead of print - 2019

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