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Welcome to the 2019 New Zealand Political Studies Association Annual Conference

"Security, Community, Humanity"

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Friday, November 29 • 1:30pm - 3:00pm
Before March 15: Drivers of the Christchurch terror attack

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Geoffrey Ford, Kevin Watson 
"They are us” too: a corpus-assisted analysis of discourse about immigrants on New Zealand talk radio before March 15, 2019

In the immediate aftermath of the March 15 terror attack, PM Jacinda Ardern acknowledged the migrants who were targets of the attack and emphasised their inclusion in the national community with the words “They are us”. In this paper we take the opportunity to focus on another “they”, talk radio hosts and callers, and the kinds of things “they” were saying about immigrants prior to the attack. Despite sizeable talk radio audiences and its significance as a platform for political commentary and discussion, there is surprisingly little academic study of talk radio in the New Zealand context (by political scientists or other scholars). We applied corpus-assisted discourse analysis and analysed the use of the words immigrant, immigrants, and immigration in a large audio corpus of 1788 hours of talk radio broadcasts from early 2016. The findings, in light of March 15, are troubling. Negative discourse about immigrants appears to transcend national settings: we observed people on talk radio invoking the same problematic metaphors identified by Baker et al. (2008) in their study of the UK press. In addition, statements about immigration that were framed in economic terms often included and appeared to initiate anti-immigrant statements.

Rachel Billington
The Affective Networking of Fringe Narratives

The Christchurch Call has drawn attention to the threat of extremism and radicalisation in online spaces, and our collective security depends on mitigating the spread of violent extremist ideologies. This research establishes a theoretical framework by which to understand the interweaving mechanisms that allow fringe ideologies to proliferate. Three theories are drawn from to account for different phenomena that occur simultaneously: Actor Network Theory explores how information - and often disinformation - travels online, between human and non-human actors; Affect Theory explains how sensational and highly-emotive content stirs more engagement and more expansive dissemination; while Framing Theory demonstrates how particular narratives can be deployed strategically, to recruit and mobilise susceptible actors. It emerges that information and disinformation can be strategically deployed to sow distrust and confusion, stoke hatred and prejudice, and establish new collective identity frames, thereby demarcating ingroups from new collective enemies. The commitment to collective security against the threat of violent extremist ideologies requires a holistic understanding of the mechanisms at play.

Wael Al-Soukkary
Inadvertent Support: how conceptualizing Islamophobia is growing the appeal of white nationalism 
The tide of anti-Muslim sentiments has been alarmingly growing in many countries around the globe. The so-called war on terror launched by the US 18 years ago in Afghanistan and Iraq has directly killed hundreds of thousands of people. The death toll is exponentially higher if the power vacuum seized by ISIS, population displacement, disease, hunger and the destruction of infrastructure are taken into account. In the meantime, and on western soil, another concurrent "war on terror" is taking place against Muslims with the Christchurch massacre being only but the latest in a string of dire consequences for the ongoing vilification of Muslims. In response, Islamophobia has been adopted by many voices into the academic, social and political lexicon a descriptor of prejudice towards and dislike of Muslims and Islam. The widespread acceptance and deployment of the term has been successful in raising awareness about the vulnerability of Muslim communities and Muslim individuals in non-Muslim majority countries. However, I will argue that the conceptual problems of Islamophobia as a meaningful descriptor is also impeding the efforts to curtail and address the othering of Muslims and, more precariously, is substantially enabling appeal of white nationalism to a wider audience.


Kate McMillan

Associate Professor, Victoria University of Wellington

avatar for Rachel Billington

Rachel Billington

Master of Politics student, University of Otago
avatar for Geoff Ford

Geoff Ford

Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Canterbury
I'm a postdoctoral fellow (UC Arts Digital Lab) applying digital methods to study politics. From 2020 I will also be working on the Marsden "Issue Mapping and Analysing the Lethal Autonomous Weapons Debate".

Kevin Watson

University of Canterbury

Wael Al-Soukkary

University of Canterbury

Friday November 29, 2019 1:30pm - 3:00pm NZDT
E16 Engineering Core