How right-wing versus cosmopolitan political actors mobilize and translate images of immigrants in transnational contexts

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This article examines visual posters and symbols constructed and circulated transnationally by various political actors to mobilize contentious politics on the issues of immigration and citizenship. Following right-wing mobilizations focusing on the Syrian refugee crisis, immigration has become one of the most contentious political issues in Western Europe. Right-wing populist political parties have used provocative visual posters depicting immigrants or refugees as ‘criminal foreigners’ or a ‘threat to the nation’, in some countries and contexts conflating the image of the immigrant with that of the Islamist terrorist. This article explores the transnational dynamics of visual mobilization by comparing the translation of right-wing nationalist with left-wing, cosmopolitan visual campaigns on the issue of immigration in Western Europe. The author first traces the crosscultural translation and sharing of an anti-immigrant poster created by the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), a right-wing political party, inspiring different extremist as well as populist right-wing parties and grassroots activists in several other European countries. She then explores how left-libertarian social movements try to break racist stereotypes of immigrants. While right-wing political activists create a shared stereotypical image of immigrants as foes of an imaginary ethnonationalist citizenship, left-wing counter-images construct a more complex and nuanced imagery of citizenship and cultural diversity in Europe. The findings show the challenges of progressive activists’ attempts to translate cosmopolitan images of citizenship across different national and linguistic contexts in contrast to the right wing’s rapid and effective instrumentalizing and translating of denigrating images of minorities in different contexts.

Original languageEnglish
JournalVisual Communication
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)315-336
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017

    Research areas

  • comparison left- and right-wing groups, immigrants’, rights, social movements, transnational mobilization, visuals of immigrants

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