Sub-Saharan Migrants’ Masculinities: An Intersectional Analysis of Media Representations during the Libyan War 2011


DeVargas, Maria, and Stefania Donzelli. 2014. “Sub-Saharan Migrants’ Masculinities: An Intersectional Analysis of Media Representations during the Libyan War 2011.” In Migration, Gender and Social Justice, edited by Thanh-Dam Truong, Des Gasper, Jeff Handmaker, and Sylvia I. Bergh, 241–63. New York: Springer.

Authors: Maria DeVargas , Stefania Donzelli


Studies of the role of the media in conflict situations have brought to the fore the significance of representa- tions as an important part of the process of knowledge production about wars and the actors involved. The media can influence interpretations and framing of conflicts, moulding specific understandings of their causes and modalities of intervention. The Libyan war in 2011 is an interesting case to reflect on the United Nations (UN) principle of Responsibility to Protect (RtoP), and how conflict affects those populations who occupy a subordinate position in multiple stratification systems (gender, race, and class), whether they are locked in con- flict zones or are trying to join the flow of people fleeing across borders. In the context of humanitarian inter- vention, specific understandings of the migrants as social subjects become strongly correlated with correspond- ing support mechanisms. This chapter conducts an intersectional analysis to provide a perspective on the politics of the media representation of ‘migrants’ in Libya, discerning the key links between the constructions of their masculinities and the practices of protection for ‘people on the move’. We show how, being situated at the bottom of the social hierarchy in Libya, sub-Saharan black Africans were inappropriately presented in media coverage during the initial phase of the conflict as subjects of adequate protection. Their invisibilization and subordination by the media have been largely framed within international political and economic interests, which have also reinforced the idea of the international community as the legitimate protector of civilians. We argue that these representations reproduce migrants’ vulnerability and, by placing them in a situation of triple jeopardy (structural, political, and representational), undermine the possibility of conceiving and understanding security beyond their ‘naturalized’ victimization and subordination.

Keywords: masculinities, intersectionality, sub-Saharan migrants, Libya, human security, media representations

Topics: Class, Displacement & Migration, Migration, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Media, Humanitarian Assistance, International Organizations, Political Economies, Race, Security, Human Security Regions: Africa, MENA, North Africa Countries: Libya

Year: 2014

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