Representing the ‘Other’ – Boat People: Half Boat, Half People.

Katie Hopkin's article in the Sun, UK (Shoebat, 2015).

Katie Hopkin’s article in the Sun, UK (Shoebat, 2015).

Recently, the UK conservative columnist Katie Hopkins wrote an article in the Sun that asked Britain to ‘Get Australian’ when dealing with ‘cockroaches’, also known as Boat People. Her xenophobic statements received world-wide outrage, including from the Society of Black Lawyers chairman Peter Herbert, who compared Hopkins’ term ‘cockroaches’ as echoing “the use of the word to describe the Tutsi minority and Hutu moderates during the 1994 Rwanda genocide.” (Knott, 2015).

The notorious ‘Boat People’ are a percentage of refugees that have copped flak in the media so aggressively, it has become one of the hot topics of political debate during election periods since 2001. Bob Carr, former Minister for Foreign Affairs in 2013 wrote an opinion piece for the Daily Telegraph stating that ‘Boat People’ accounted for 20% of asylum seeking refugees (Carr, 2013). Unfortunately the true number is less than 2% (Taylor, 2013).

Prison-esque appearance of Manus Island (Stewert, 2012).

Prison-esque appearance of Manus Island (Stewert, 2012).

So why are Boat People represented so negatively in both media and politics? Unfortunately boat people have become subject to the concept of ‘othering’. The term ‘boat people’ differentiates these ‘type’ of people from other asylum seekers. As such, the repeated use of the term in the media and by politicians has resulted in the dehumanization of refugees that arrive via boat, whereby their image is comparable to ‘others’ (McDougall & Fletcher, 2002).

Prime Minister Rudd’s decision to send all asylum seekers by boat to Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island detention centre in 2013 has resulted in further forms of dehumanization. If we view images of Nauru, Christmas, or Manus Islands, or even mainland Australian detention centres, they perpetuate the imagery of prisons. And of course, as Youtuber FriendlyJordies  put it, “You don’t go to detention unless you’re naughty”. But at least prisoners are given a time with their sentence. Refugees that are detained are often undetermined periods of time to both maintain the security of Australia boarders, whilst also processing the Visa applications.

It’s saddening, however, that despite supposed measures by various governments since Keating, children occupy these detention centres. Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs claims that there are now more children than ever in immigration detention centres (Norman, 2013), even though various allegations of rape and abuse, as well as a rising number of mental illness cases are all occurring in said centres (Laughland, 2013; Doherty & Farrell 2015).

In fact, the UN this year found that various Australian Asylum Seeker policies violate the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Human Rights Law Centre, 2015).

So what can be done to combat the issue of dehumanization of asylum seekers?

Firstly, there is currently a petition by Get Up to raise awareness of children in detention centres.

Furthermore, the media and politicians alike need to refrain from dehumanizing asylum seekers as ‘boat people’. This, however, is difficult considering the controversial political climate, which, with Katie Hopkins as a key example, stretches far beyond our lonely borders.

Sources:

Carr, B 2013, ‘Why we’ll fight smugglers’, Sunday Telegraph, July 7, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/why-well-fight-smugglers/story-fni0cwl5-1226675268230&gt;.

Doherty, B & Farrell, P 2015, ‘Rapes and fears for safety on Nauru uncovered by independent Moss review’, The Guardian, March 20, viewed May 14 2015, <http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/mar/20/rapes-and-fears-for-safety-on-nauru-uncovered-by-independent-moss-review&gt;

Human Rights Law Centre 2015, ‘UN finds Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers violates the Convention Against Torture’, HRLC, 9 March, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://hrlc.org.au/un-finds-australias-treatment-of-asylum-seekers-violates-the-convention-against-torture/&gt;.

Knott, M 2015, ‘Conservative columnist Katie Hopkins reported to police over asylum seeker views’, Sunday Morning Herald, 21 April, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/conservative-columnist-katie-hopkins-reported-to-police-over-asylum-seeker-views-20150421-1mpjr7.html&gt;.

Laughland, O 2013, ‘Manus Island detainees ‘raped and abused’ with full knowledge of staff’, The Guardian, 24 July, 14 May 2015, <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/24/manus-island-rape-detainees&gt;.

McDougall, J & Fletcher, D 2002 ‘Dehumanising the boat people’, Social Alternatives, Vol. 21, No. 4, p. 33 – 36.

Norman, J 2013, ‘http://www.abc.net.au/news/federal-election-2013/policy/asylum-seekers/’ ABC, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/federal-election-2013/policy/asylum-seekers/&gt;.

Katie Hopkin’s Article – The Sun, Shoebat 2015, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://shoebat.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/katie-hopkin-article1.jpg&gt;

Manus Island Detention Centre, Stewert, J 2012, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201210/r1018312_11528599.jpg&gt;

Taylor, S 2013, ‘FactCheck: are boat people now 20% of our immigration program?’,The Conversation, 22 July, viewed 14 May 2015 <http://theconversation.com/factcheck-are-boat-people-now-20-of-our-immigration-program-16006&gt;.

There’s No Mirages in this Desert of Broken TVs and Computers.

I remember the first time I arrived into Shanghai, China. I had never travelled overseas – let alone by myself, so imaginably I was equally anxious and nervous. It was about 2 am, I was jetlagged having travelled a 16 hour route, and all I wanted to do was get off this compact budget airline.

Finally. After several hours the pilot, in broken Malay-English, announced we were arriving into Pudong Airport, Shanghai. I was fortunate enough to have a window seat, so I desperately searched for the world’s largest, most innovative city below me through the thick cloud. Suddenly the familiar bumping and bouncing of the plane’s wheels landing disturbed my concentration.

Side-by-side image of the smog density in Shanghai. (Weisenthal, 2013).

Side-by-side image of the smog density in Shanghai. (Weisenthal, 2013).

I couldn’t see anything. The city’s hazy smog blanketed the sky like a giant snow globe. For the following month I yearned to see the blue sky again.

While I am on exchange in China this year, I’ll be a 4-hour drive from Guiyu, Guangdong. Guiyu has adopted the un-coveted title as one of the World’s most polluted towns. AMTA last year found that only 4% of the E-waste is correctly recycled (AMTA, 2015). Guiyu, housing about 150,000 people, is just one of many areas in China that have become home to mass landfills and illegal recycling plants. In fact, of Guiyu’s twenty-eight villages, twenty are involved in the informal recycling of E-waste (Wang et. al, 2013, p. 22).  This disastrous phenomena led to a UN Report released in December that determined Guiyu’s water and soil contained deadly levels of mercury, lead and other toxins (Baldé et. al, 2014). This is combined with the archaic methods local workers use of burning and acid baths to recover valuable metals such as gold, copper and silver that are worth €48 billion (Baldé et, al, 2014).

Guiyu, Guandong, China. Broken circuit boards bank up along water sources (Amirthalingam, 2015).

Guiyu, Guandong, China. Broken circuit boards bank up along water sources (Amirthalingam, 2015).

The issue of electronic waste is becoming exponentially worse each year. Considering both  first-world and developing nations purchase and consistently replace their electronic goods, it’s no surprise that in UN report, it was declared that 41.8 million tonnes of electronic waste was generated that year (Jozuka, 2015).

So how do we solve this devastating issue? It is possible that, considering the value of the wasted metals within the waste, various stake holders could be engaged and encouraged to uphold correct recycling methods and safety. Unfortunately for China, it has recognised that voluntary methods of electronic product recycling is not effective. As a result, China has implemented pilot methods of third-party e-waste recycling centres (Zhong & Schiller, 2014, p. 141). The process is in its early stages, but hopes to move to a national level soon. Unfortuantely, the millions of tonnes may keep building up. And when more than 90% of the world’s E-waste is not even recycled safely, detrimental damage to the environment not only in China but domestically will continue.

Sources:

AMTA 2015, ‘Toxic Australian e-waste dumped on China’, Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://www.amta.org.au/pages/About.AMTA&gt;.

Before and After – Shanghai, Weisenthal, J 2013, Business Insider, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://static.businessinsider.com/image/52a1aaddeab8ea056568f741/image.jpg&gt;.

E-Waste in Guiyu, Amirthalingam, V 2015, Slideshare, viewed 14 May <https://sometimesinteresting.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/guiyu-5.jpg&gt;

Baldé, C.P, Wang, F, Kuehr, R., Huisman, J 2015, ‘The global e-waste monitor – 2014’, United Nations University, IAS – SCYCLE, Bonn, Germany, <http://i.unu.edu/media/unu.edu/news/52624/UNU-1stGlobal-E-Waste-Monitor-2014-small.pdf&gt;

Jozuka, E 2015, ‘The World Produced a Staggering 41.8 Million Tonnes of E-Waste in 2014’, Vice: Motherboard, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-world-produced-a-staggering-418-million-tonnes-of-e-waste-in-2014&gt;.

Wang, F, Ruediger, K, Alquist, D & Li, J 2013, ‘E-Waste In China: A Country Report’, StEP, United Nations University, April 5, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://collections.unu.edu/eserv/UNU:1624/ewaste-in-china.pdf&gt;.

Zhong, H & Schiller, S 2013, ‘Exploring a third-party e-waste recycling system under the extended producer responsibility framework in China’ in Solving the e-waste problem: An interdisciplinary compilation of international e-waste research, StEP, United Nations University, viewed 14 May 2015, <http://www.step-initiative.org/files/step/_documents/edited%20Volume.pdf&gt;.

How Africa by Toto taught me that the ‘Dark Continent’ was full of drums echoing through the night

This past weekend I was lucky enough to enjoy the electrifying sounds of some of Australia’s top artists at Groovin’ in the Moo in Maitland. Somewhere in between the classic-rocking style of The Preatures and the harder-rocking style of You Me at Six, the song ‘Africa’ by Toto thundered excitingly over the crowd of thousands.

I am not, of course, a music plebeian. I screamed, shouted and insanely cheered every lyric of that 80s hit. And, of course, so did the thousands of Australians present in the crowd. It was interesting, however, how even more than 30 years since the song’s release that opening line resonates so clearly with such a crowd.

“I hear the drums echoing tonight”. It perpetuates the imagery of tribal drums beating loudly; echoing throughout the unspecific, yet dangerously adventurous ‘Africa’. Toto’s love ballad isn’t particularly negative in connotation, but it perpetuates how representations of Africa in the media are often generalised, and rather Orientalist.

30 years ago we associate Africa with archaic tribes, both uncivilized and barbarous. More recently Africa is associated with sensationalised news reports about Ebola, music festivals promoting awareness of famine and HIV AIDS, or Hollywood films and social media campaigns depicting child soldiers, genocide and blood diamonds. And although these are realistic issues, as addressed by Njogu, our knowledge of Africa is predominately from Western interpretation and context, whereby we perceive Africa as the ‘dark continent’ (2009, p. 77). This is reaffirmed by Tsikata, as even though the 55 nation states within Africa vary differently in “customs, traditions and daily practices”, in global media flows these states are “often treated as one under the continental appellation of ‘Africa” (Tsikata, 2014, p. 34).

'Living in Bonadage, 1992, The Nollywood straight-to-video that changed the industry,

‘Living in Bonadage’, 1992, The Nollywood straight-to-video that changed the industry.

So how is Africa combating hundreds of years of falsified representation? One avenue has been the wildly successful Nollywood industry. Nollywood, being the film industry of Nigeria, is currently the third-largest film industry in the world. As Adesokan claims, Nollywood is evidence of how African countries are individualising themselves and rejecting previous Western interpretations of ‘otherness’ by projecting self-representation (2012, p. 81). Nollywood currently employs upwards of half a million to a million people, and their straight to video releases are favoured not only in neighbouring African countries, but worldwide (Chamley, 2012).

What is most interesting about the development of Nollywood films is that they are distinctively Nigerian, not just ‘African’, and as such have promoted an individualised culture and identity. Similar trends can be seen in African nations with developing media industries such as Ghana, which boasts 170 radio station and over 50 television stations (Tsikata, 2014, p.41); or Uganda which has a growing ultra-violent local film industry.

It appears that we have much more to look forward to from Africa other than the killer synth-solo performed by Toto’s David Paich.

Sources:

Adesokan, A 2012, ‘Nollywood and the idea of the Nigerian cinema’ Journal of African Cinemas vol. 4, no.1, p. 81–98.

Chamley, S 2012, ‘New Nollywood cinema: From home-video productions back to the big screen’, Cineaste: America’s Leading Magazine on the Art and Politics of the Cinema vol. 37, no. 3, p. 21–27.

Tsikata, PY 2014, ‘The historical and contemporary representation of Africa in global media flows: Can the continent speak back for itself on its own terms?’, South African Journal for Communication Theory and Research, vol. 40, no. 1, p. 34 – 48.

Njogu, Kimani, and Middleton, John F.M., eds. Media and Identity in Africa. Edinburgh, GBR: Edinburgh University Press, 2009. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 12 May 2015.

Living In Bondage Film Poster 1992, Nollywood Week Paris, Nigeria, viewed 13 May 2015, <http://static.theculturetrip.com/images/56-194044-livingposter.jpg&gt;.