Journal Article

Detention of Asylum Seekers in the UK and USA: Deciphering Noisy and Quiet Constructions

Published 1 January 2005 / By Liza Schuster, Michael Welch

Back to Publications

Moral panic theory continues to be applied to a range of phenomena, allowing sociologists to refine our understanding of negative societal reaction aimed at people who are easy to identify and easy to dislike. Whereas the prevailing notion of moral panic rests on its noisy features, there are constructions that occur under the public radar. In such instances, government officials quietly institute policies and practices that adversely affect a targeted group. Moral panic over so-called bogus asylum seekers in the UK represents a noisy construction whereby claims making is loud and public. In the USA, however, that construction is remarkably quiet and does not resonate openly; still, much like their British counterparts, American officials have resorted to the use of confinement. This work explores the differences between the UK and the USA in the realm of moral panic over asylum seekers while remaining attentive to their shared consequences, the unjust detention of those fleeing persecution. Implications to social control and human rights in a post-11 September world are discussed throughout.