I spy on my way to #CADAAD2018… Integration support or gatekeeping?

The Times, 3rd July

Although The Times is not my first choice of newspaper, it does provide interesting news and pieces to examine linguistically.

Taking a free copy of The Times at Gatwick airport to read on the plane on my way to CADAAD (Conference on Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis across Disciplines)  (on which I report here) in Aalborg, Denmark, I come across this news report titled:

Danes set to force ‘ghetto children’ into nurseries 

(although interestingly, the title in the paper version is ‘Compulsory Danish’, a much less click-bait-y title).

Briefly, the article reports that a new law coming out into force later this year will require immigrant toddlers from the age of one years old to attend specific daycare centres in order to learn what the article calls ‘Danish values’ and Danish language. Specifically, the law applies to children from ‘ghettos’, but does not specify what areas of Denmark or parts of cities and neighborhoods the term refers to. Implied in this is what I see as ‘you know who you are’ and who ‘they’ are.

However, the article does acknowledge the problematic aspect for this term in the Danish political climate: “The term has entered mainstream political language, used without irony or much evidence of historical awareness, on the left as well as the right, as a country once considered a beacon of European liberalism”.

But I shouldn’t get too excited just yet, as just a few lines below, it reads, “of course [many other countries] are grappling urgently with […] the problem of how to integrate mainly Muslim minorities […] to prevent incubating extremism”. The metaphor incubating echoes a dormant disease about to erupt. The paper also makes sure to distance itself when it claims that critics (i.e., not The Times) of the new laws regard the new measures as “legalised racism” (my quotation marks). The article further supports the new laws when it concludes that Lars Lokke Rasmussen, the centre-right prime minister “seems right to make [integration] happen”.

Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) importantly challenges and raises awareness of such discourses in media. As Martin Reisigl said in his keynote, in order to engage in critical discussion, empathy or rules of taking-the-role-of-the-other is vital: if you participate in a dispute, try to empathize with your opponent and hypothetically take his or her role in an extended way of thinking as discussed by other prominent thinkers such as Kant, and Hannah Arendt. We must maximise compatibility and commonalities. Most of all, we need to practice compassion for all living beings and break down hierarchies from which the denial of both human and animal rights stem.

Fitting well with many strands of the conference such as the discourse of crisis, power and identity, media discourse and migration and mobility, this newspaper piece represents a symptom of not only migration and politics of austerity, and a world-wide crisis of discrimination of migrants and refugees we are witnessing, but also of climate change, a major driver of wars, hunger, environmental disasters and instability. Climate change is the topic of first keynote Ana Carvalho, which you can read here.

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