Portrayals of Romanian Migrants in Ethnic Media from Italy

By Bratu, Roxana | Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology, Winter 2014 | Go to article overview

Portrayals of Romanian Migrants in Ethnic Media from Italy


Bratu, Roxana, Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology


Introduction

Ethnic media is usually defined in contrast to mainstream media. In general, the host country media promotes a negative image of migrants associated with criminality, integration problems and clandestinity. Immigration is presented not only as a social problem and a threat to national security, but also as a threat to the values and norms of the host society. As a consequence, migrants are often portrayed as being the Others, the strangers who are different from the society that host them (Chan, 2013; Van Dijk, 2000).

As a reaction to the predominantly negative and stereotyping image of migrants found in mainstream media, the ethnic media can provide an alternative discourse (Van Dijk, 2000). This kind of media offers migrants the possibility of self-(re)presentation in the new country and provides a space for negotiating their position within the society of settlement. By developing their own media, migrant communities gain a voice within the host society.

Also, because this media takes a stand towards the various public statements and policy decisions concerning the migrant community, it represents a point of collision between various competing or divergent discourses about migration. Therefore, the engagement in the debate about the (negative) image of migrants at destination is a salient feature of ethnic journalism. Through the characters and narratives brought to the audience's attention, these publications can provide a version of self-presentation that can be conceived as an effort of "saving face" (Goffman, 1967) in the context of migration.

The Romanian language publications from the destination countries have received little attention. Previous studies on the topic of the media representations of Romanian migrants have focused either on the national mainstream media of the country of origin (Beciu, 2012; Marinescu, 2010) or that of the various host countries (Madroane, 2012; Pletea, 2010). All these studies pointed to the negative stereotyping of the Romanian migrants, by presenting them in relation to criminality, abuse of the benefits system, bad work conditions and poor housing.

What this paper will try to do is to analyze the way Romanian migrants are portrayed in their own media in Italy. Looking at what kind of characters, narratives and migration experiences are brought to the public's attention, I seek to examine the images of Romanian migrants that these publications construct and provide for their audience. Therefore, the paper aims to answer the following questions: How are Romanian migrants from Italy portrayed in Romanian media from Italy? What are the main types of characters? What are the main script structures or narratives used to support the portrayals of these characters? How is migration embedded in these stories? What kind of experiences associated with migration and the condition of being a migrant are presented?

Ethnic media

The media addressed to migrants is commonly known as ethnic, diaspora or immigrant media. Although these terms are generally used as equivalent categories, there are some subtle differences between them. Ethnic media is the broadest concept, referring to "media that are produced by and for (a) immigrants, (b) racial, ethnic, and linguistic minorities, as well as (c) indigenous populations living across different countries" (Matsaganis, Katz, & Ball-Rokeach, 2010, p. 10).

Diasporic media and immigrant media are included in ethnic media. Diasporic media refers to media addressed to particular ethnic communities that constitute diasporas. Matsaganis, Katz & Ball-Rokeach (2010) underline that not any migrant community is a diaspora. In their opinion, diasporas share some characteristics such as: a common history of a traumatic event, the homeland as the center of the common consciousness and a process of consolidation that takes a long period of time (p. 11). Other authors argue for a broader meaning of the notion of diaspora as comprising transnational labour migrant communities (Georgiou, 2005). …

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