Working Paper

Unpacking the Figure of the "Foreign Criminal": Race, Gender and the Victim-Villain Binary

Published 16 March 2015 / By Luke de Noronha

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The UK’s Foreign National Prisoner (FNP) crisis’ of June 2006 provides a key moment to unpack the figure of the ‘foreign criminal’ through. Through an analysis of media articles, Commons debates and NGO documents, I discuss the racialised and gendered stereotypes that were invoked in the construction of ‘foreign criminals’, as they were positioned within the victim-villain binary that characterises migration debates. In explaining the specific kinds of migrantness and criminality made to represent the FNP ‘crisis’, I argue that race and gender matter, and that they work through one another. The FNP ‘crisis’ incensed the media and politicians who framed the issue in terms of dangerous foreign men whose hypermasculinist violence presented a severe and existential threat to the British people. These images relied upon race for their intelligibility. While NGOs and advocates sought to challenge the idea that all, or even most, ‘foreign criminals’ deserve to be deported, they still tended to frame their arguments in terms of victims and villains. In doing so, advocates failed to challenge the gendered and racialised stereotypes that distinguish good migrants from bad ones – victims from villains. In the end, advocates and academics should retain critical distance from state categories if they are to avoid reifying these deeply entrenched narratives surrounding race and gender.


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