Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 27 Issue 2 (March/April 2017), Pages 97-178

“It's just heart breaking”: Doing inclusive political solidarity or ambivalent paternalism through sympathetic discourse within the “refugee crisis” debate (pages 137-146)


This article explores how people do sympathetic talk in relation to the European “refugee crisis.” The analysis was grounded in critical discursive psychology and also drew on the concept of affective–discursive practice. Data was retrieved from a phone‐in program on Irish national radio over a 6‐month period when the refugee crisis debate was at its height. It is shown that speakers deployed elaborate sympathetic repertoires with ease that described their normative emotional response to the plight of the asylum seekers. But these same speakers found it problematic to present explicit, unambiguous, and unconditional calls of inclusive political solidarity with the asylum seekers, advocating increased asylum provision in Ireland. These findings are discussed in light of the hostile affective–discursive environment towards asylum and the common sense understanding that nation‐states have the moral right to exclude, which appears to constrain the talk to a position of ambivalent paternalism.

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