Representing the Windrush generation: metaphor in discourses then and now

Critical Discourse Studies 17 (1):1-21 (2020)
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Abstract

This paper examines the ways in which the group of people now known as the Windrush generation, who moved to the UK in the period 1948–1971, have been represented in public discourse. This group has been adversely affected by the current ‘hostile environment’ policy in the UK regarding immigration. As I show, in the ensuing and highly critical debate, the government repeatedly positioned them as ‘good’ migrants and placed them in a binary opposition with ‘undesirable’ migrants, who they cite as the intended target of their policy. Using diachronic corpora of parliamentary debates and national media, I compare this contemporary rhetoric with (a) Windrush representations in the 1940s and 1950s, and (b) contemporary representation of those the government constructs as unwanted migrants. Taking metaphor as a key for the comparison I show that there is very little continuity or overlap in how the Windrush migrants were discussed at the time of their arrival and in the current period. Instead, there is a much greater proximity in the past representations of the Windrush migrants and the current representations of ‘undesirable’ migrants. This mismatch in actual and perceived representation at the time of arrival indicates how nostalgia functions in migration discourses, even facilitating anti-immigration arguments.

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