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Migrants and Natives - 'Them' and 'Us'

Migrants and Natives - 'Them' and 'Us'
Mainstream and Radical Right Political Rhetoric in Europe

December 2020 | 144 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

In light of the recent global resurgence of radical and populist right-wing parties, this book examines hostile and anti-immigration rhetoric in Europe. Topical and timely, it deftly guides the reader through the trajectories of radical right parties and contextualises discriminatory rhetoric in wider immigration and integration politics.

Grounded in a focussed, comparative critical discourse study that draws on methods from social science and linguistics, the book:

  • Presents a study of political rhetoric on migration in several European countries over the past thirty-five years, drawing out similarities and differences.
  • Explores anti-immigration rhetoric before and after the 2015 refugee/solidarity crisis.
  • Illuminates the role of so-called ‘mainstream’ parties in developing and legitimising discriminatory rhetoric.

Exposing the insidious nature of malevolent political rhetoric and its consequences, this book is a timely and essential read.

Introduction: Making natives 'us' and migrants 'them' in European politics
Why political rhetoric matters

Why current rhetoric on migration and migrants is a concern

Chapter 1: Anti-immigration and anti-migrant rhetoric as part of politics
Aims of the book


The rise of radical right parties in Western Europe

The corpora

On methods

Chapter 2: Who should be let in?
Four perspectives on immigration policy

Labour migrants - threats or assets?

Refugees - threats, rights-holders or objects of charity?

Chapter 3: How should we live together?
Two perspectives on integration

Natives as 'us' and migrants as 'them'

New inhabitants - rights-holders to what extent?

Chapter 4: Accumulating poison?
Rhetorical change since the 1980s in Austria, Denmark and Sweden

The refugee/solidarity crisis

Migration rhetoric before and after the crisis

Discrimination - fought or forgotten?

Chapter 5: Conclusions
Summary of the findings: cause for concern

Influence by the radical right parties?


A key contribution to understanding migration discourses of radical right and racist parties across Europe. This detailed analysis further points out a frightening development: the normalization of right-wing populist and racist discourses among mainstream parties. As such, it is a crucial book for scholars and students of political science, discourse studies and social sciences in general. 

Edma Ajanovic
Research fellow, Department for European Policy and the Study of Democracy at Danube University Krems

Kristina Boréus’ rich analysis of text and talk is firmly grounded in political histories, and her focus on the interplay of mainstream and radical right rhetoric and politics offers unsettling insights into the founding ideologies of European nation states. There is reason for concern – and it’s not only the radical right we need to worry about. 

Stefanie Mayer
Lecturer and researcher, Department for Public Management at FH Campus Wien (University of Applied Sciences), Vienna

Boréus uses a commanding knowledge of migration policy and an in-depth database on policy discourses to provide a forensic account of how these policies are discussed and shaped, both from the mainstream and fringes, in six key European country cases.

William Allchorn
School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds

This book delves into radical right and mainstream rhetoric and discourse about migrants, showing the influence on politics in Sweden, Denmark and Austria, all affluent welfare-state countries. Boréus shows in an accessible and methodologically accurate way that the rhetoric and the discourses that target migrants in a negative way contribute to naturalize discrimination and patterns of poisoning racialization.

The author contextualizes the construction of identities of belonging and exclusion within the different political landscapes and she comparatively examines and dissects discourses and policies over a four decades’ period. Her results reveal the role played over time by the radical and populist right in disseminating and influencing discourses about migrants based on threat and on native-first perspectives. Yet, the book also tells us that the mainstream parties are not to be held unaccountable of these developments, albeit there are variations in the rhetoric and politics.

This book is a very useful companion for scholars and students with an interest in comparative politics, migration issues and history. 

Susi Meret

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