Journal Article

Making Refugees: A Historical Discourse Analysis of the Construction of the ‘Refugee’ in US Social Work, 1900–1957

Yoosun Park

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 38, issue 4, pages 771-787
Published in print June 2008 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online March 2008 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcn015
Making Refugees: A Historical Discourse Analysis of the Construction of the ‘Refugee’ in US Social Work, 1900–1957

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Summary

This paper traces the discursive constructions through which refugees were produced as particular kinds of subjects in US social work discourse in the first half of the twentieth century. Prior to the onset of the Second World War, the refugee ideal was valorized in social work discourse to both exhort and contest immigration restrictions. In the war years, actual refugees became framed, instead, as the most troublesome immigrants. The many anti-restrictionists among social work's leaders persistently and prolifically opposed problematized constructions of refugees. But through its uncritical uses of the same unstable measures of fitness through which the problematized identities were constructed, the liberal, anti-restrictionist discourse of social work re-inscribed the discourses it sought to counter. As a study of the disciplinary construction of a particularly vulnerable identity, and a methodological exemplar for examining key constructs, this analysis has broad implication for study of the many categories of identity (e.g. child, client, etc.) upon which social work builds its practice models and explanatory theories.

Keywords: refugees; immigrants; historical discourse analysis; poststructuralism; identity

Journal Article.  6858 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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