A Critical Multimodal Discourse Analysis of identification documents in the Greek asylum context

By: Christina Fakalou and Roula Kitsiou


Volume: 08
Issue: 02:Winter 2022
ISSN: 2459-2943
DOI: 10.18680/hss.2022.0018
Pages: 101-118
Lic.: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Identification documents
Critical multimodal discourse analysis



Reading the asylum governance through its narratives (Bhabha 2013), this paper aims to theorize identification documents as part of the nation-state’s narrativity performed through multimodal bureaucratic materialities. The contemporary narration linked to identification documents in the institutional space of asylum integrates an increasingly sophisticated and multimodal range of resources into its media content (Page 2018). Yet, these multimodal narrative productions are contextually situated practices and semiotic aggregates mirroring power relations and hierarchical positions (Milani 2017). Drawing on a critical multimodal approach to discourse analysis (Kress and van Leeuwen 2021), we explore the multimodal composition of four identification documents provided in the Greek asylum context. This critical approach to their design unveils the dynamic interplay between the verbal and visual elements in performing bordering practices and constructing the specific identities/statuses of the ‘asylum seeker.’ Semiotically, this identity work entails the deployment of digital meaning-making elements such as color, emblems, images, writing, layout, typography, shape, and material. In this sense, third-country nationals seeking international protection are resemiotized within a national (i.e., Greek), regional (i.e., European), and global context. In this context, identification documents can be seen as small institutional stories that reproduce the biopolitics of the nation-state contributing to a banal national semiosis (Milani 2014) of social categorization along broader contexts of globalization and asylum.


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